Today’s Discoveries

"I Am The Highway"

Maybe if I’d read less about this band.  Maybe if the Ragers involved hadn’t abandoned their cherished political stance.  Maybe if they didn’t have such a dumb fucking name.  I would have PAID ATTENTION!

What if you bludgeoned a public and nobody cared?  When done right, music is as fulfilling as food.  Why do those purveying it have to sell it like it’s irrelevant crap?  Forcing it down our throats?

There will come a day when you can’t market anything.  When everybody alive has been street-teamed and product-placemented to death.  When everybody TiVos past the commercials.  When the only people listened to will be those without a financial stake.

Used to be you couldn’t ignore the efforts of the major media companies.  There were only a few TV networks.  Movies had to be attended to be able to participate in discussions at parties.  But that was before people finally got choice, and abandoned the mainstream in droves.  Before the movies went so lowest common denominator that even teenage boys wouldn’t go.  The media companies believe they’ve got a God-given right to their dominance over the populace, that they own the eyeballs.  But those days are done.

There’s a vitality to MySpace.  To YouTube.  That makes you WANT to pay attention.  Because those posting there are beholden to no one other than themselves.  They’re naked.  And their humanity is appealing.

As is the humanity of this track.

There was a day when heavy rock had a place.  But those days ended a decade ago.  No wonder hard rock has been marginalized.  When there are so many tempos, so many changes, it’s like the music is only relevant, understandable, as the expressed rage of the young people who make it.  Not wanting to have ANYTHING to do with styles that came before.  I appreciate their anger, but not their work.

Coming back from the car stereo place today, I was flipping the channels on XM and found myself at Lucy.  Listening to "Black Coffee In Bed".  This Squeeze song is not as good as "Tempted", still it intrigues, especially when one hasn’t heard it in the better part of a decade.  And, like any dedicated radio listener I waited to see what came up next.  I heard this quiet organ-type sound, which felt like a sunrise, off on the distant horizon.  And then one of those circular guitar riffs that worked for everybody from the Allman Brothers to the Doobie Brothers.  And then such a SOULFUL voice.  The unmistakable Chris Cornell.

I don’t know what broke up Soundgarden.  But I like this better than anything that band did.  Because it’s less different, more roots-like.  And Tom Morello isn’t showing off, he’s servicing the song.

Ever drive cross-country?  Through Colorado?  New Mexico?  Arizona?  There’s nothing in sight.  The sun is staring down on you.  The only thing that keeps you going is your tunes.  On such a long drive, you need something with balls.  Not that it can’t be sensitive.  But like a coach, like a cowboy driving cattle, you need something to PROD YOU!  Into making it through.

This track came out three years ago.  Yet I’ve never heard it.  Because nobody I was listening to was PLAYING IT!

Who can stand those Active Rock stations?  With their constant bleat?  I mean does it always have to be so in-your-face?

And the good tracks from that format rarely show up anywhere else.

Yes, despite all the hype, "I Am The Highway" eluded my net.  And it’s pretty broad.

The system is broken.  The mainstream is only for bland pap.  It’s about endless niches today.  Yet, terrestrial radio thinks we live in a nation of one mind, when nothing could be further from the truth.  That’s the story of the twenty first century.  How the mainstream evaporated and it was replaced by countless niches.  Instead of shotgun marketing, start small.  Just target a core.  Depend on THEM to spread the word.  Then again, what you’re purveying must be good.

XM is the twenty first century.  Scores of music channels.  Almost all in extreme depth.  Serving the fans of those niches, not a theoretical everyman.  And that’s why I love it and hope it never changes, but fear it will.

"Calling Me"
Kenny Rogers

I LOVED "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)".  But I was stunned Kenny Rogers reemerged as a cornball country singer with "Lucille".

But I’ve been trying to download this track for a week.  Because, you see, it’s a duet with Don Henley.

I haven’t forgiven Don for his participation in Mitzvahpalooza.  But his voice touches me in a way no emo singer can.  Oh, the emo boy is expressing his pain.  But there’s no world-weariness, no depth.  He’s just an open wound.  Whereas when you hear Don Henley sing you see a vista of his whole life, how he got to here.

I’d like to tell you "Calling Me" is a great track.  But it’s a truly mediocre song.  But when Don does his verses, sings along with Kenny in the choruses, I forget that it’s 2006.  That 1990 was over fifteen years ago.  That the twentieth century is becoming a distant memory.  I’ve thought it was a new age, that I’ve been idling, and it’s been okay, but really, the years have been slipping by, my life is passing between my fingers, everything I loved, everything I did, it’s fading like an old photograph.  The links are breaking.  Yet, when I hear Don Henley’s voice, a thread is pulled tight.  From 1969 to today.  He’s been paying attention, not sleeping.  He hasn’t given up, he’s still trying.  The reason he gets such shit is because he’s serious about his work in a country based on not taking things seriously, or faking it.  If you’re a true believer, you’re a joke.

Don’s been a believer in many things.  From the party life to family life.  He’s evolved, in an era when entertainers aren’t allowed to grow old, when they’re stuck in the past.  I decry his rumored plastic surgery, but no doctor can take a scalpel and freshen up your insides.  You’ve got to acknowledge your history, the fact that you’re on a journey, that’s eventually gonna end.  Don does this.

I found out about this track in a horrible review of Kenny’s new album in "Entertainment Weekly".  Don’t tell me print doesn’t sell records.

"I Should Get Up"
Teddy Thompson

I was going to do this whole essay on Teddy’s album, "Separate Ways", but answering e-mail while listening to it, I was directed to the following movie trailer: Keeping Up With The Steins (there’s a glitch…to view it let it play a bit, then stop it and reload the page so you get video and not just audio), and it changed my mood.  And music is all about mood.  I went from deep thought on a rainy day to lightheartedness, and Teddy Thompson’s album is not for the frivolous.

Don’t you hate the records of the next generation?  Their parents found their own way.  Based on skill and inspiration.  The next generation is lacking this last element, and the hunger.  Great art is not a family business, but something that comes up inside, like a volcano, a desire to express oneself, to MAKE IT!  And I wasn’t that big a fan of Richard, never mind Linda, Thompson to begin with.

People are fearful that the Net will destroy the album.  That it will only be about individual tracks.  But that’s if you’re in the hit business.  If only one track is any good, if you’re not saying anything, if you don’t STAND for anything, then people won’t want more of your work.  But if you have an identity, if you reveal yourself to your audience like a friend, people will want ALL your material.

Teddy Thompson is ignorant.  He should not be on a major label.  To the degree one can even call Verve Forecast a major label (then again, it’s part of the Universal group).  I’m sure Verve Forecast coughed up some dough, so Teddy could make this record, it legitimized Teddy’s career, but it hasn’t done him much good.  Verve Forecast can’t break a band.  There’s nowhere for them to EXPLOIT artists like Teddy Thompson.  And, major labels, RECORD LABELS, are all about exploitation.

But now you exploit yourself.  You start small.  Try to create a buzz.

This requires that you be good.

But I’m not writing about what’s in the rest of the endless pile of CDs in my house.  Because, although oftentimes professional, they’ve got no heart.  Teddy Thompson has heart.  And vision.

Why do people insist on sending me CDs?  If I have to have a CD to listen to your music, then you’re REALLY behind the curve.  If I can’t listen to your wares on your Website or MySpace, how do you plan to make it?  You think if your disc is in my house, you’ve done your job, you’ve legitimized yourself.  But that’s not the point, the key is to get into my HEAD!

I heard this song "Altered State" on XM’s Loft.  At first I didn’t love it.  But you know how something doesn’t bug you that much and you let it play and by the end you’re digging it?  That’s how I felt about "Altered State".  And figuring that Teddy Thompson was a minor artist, I went to his Website to download it for free, but there were no free downloads, since he’s on a major label.  So I went to P2P, and found it IMMEDIATELY!  But it was a loop, even though the company that serviced the major labels with this technology has ceased purveying it.  This FRUSTRATED ME!  I mean hold back Mary J. Blige, but TEDDY THOMPSON?  Give the guy a fighting chance.

That’s why I believe Teddy shouldn’t be on a major label.  Because they’re holding him BACK!  Making him fight with one arm behind his back.

But thank god this label finally sent me a CD when I requested one.  But, before I could spin it, today on the Loft Mike Marrone spun "I Should Get Up", which is even BETTER than "Altered State".

Teddy Thompson is the kind of act MTV and Top Forty radio don’t like.  He doesn’t have a perfect voice.  His records don’t have synths that elevate your libido.  Rather, Teddy Thompson is positively old school.  It’s about feel, and message, all wrapped up in a palatable, engaging sound.  Cross his father with Jackson Browne and you’ve got Teddy.

The problem with music is that talking about it doesn’t sound like it.  I’m just trying to hook you, if you like this kind of music.  I’m just trying to soft-sell you, I’m just trying to intrigue you.  So you’ll go on a journey of discovery, not pissed off if you don’t ultimately dig it, but thrilled and wanting to tell everybody you know if you do.

Teddy Thompson’s album is not for the club.  It’s not for house parties.  It’s for reading the newspaper, cleaning the house.  It’s like a loved one next to you in bed while you’re reading a novel.  It comforts you, makes you feel like you’re not alone.

Now you could go to Teddy’s site,, and fuck with the insane player streaming the music, only three tracks that you can only get to play when you realize you’ve got to press play to hear the music, and then, after fast-forwarding to the next track, you’ve got to press play AGAIN!  But, of course, none of these tracks is the one I’m in love with, "I Should Get Up".

Or, you could go to his lame MySpace page.  Where you CAN hear "I Should Get Up".  But it’s a lame one minute sample!

Talk about fear.  Don’t these companies realize the best way to sell music is to let people HEAR IT!

Then again, a record label only makes money FROM the music.  So, they’re afraid to give it away, building the act’s core.  Which is why I lament that Teddy Thompson is involved with Universal Music.  Because I’d like MORE people to be exposed to his talent.  And the Web is the way to do it.  Since he’s got no chance at a terrestrial radio station anybody listens to, and the Loft is only one of over a hundred channels on six million subscriber XM.

Imagine Richard Thompson’s haunting guitar with only half the darkness.  Imagine a voice in a higher register, that is warmer, more inviting.  Then you’ve got an idea of what Teddy Thompson sounds like.

I’d like to tell you I’m just raving.  But I know it when I hear it.  There’s something HERE!!

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