Nirvana: In Bloom [unmixed]

Was doing some web-sleuthing this afternoon and ran across this video excerpt from the Classic Albums documentary series episode about Nirvana’s Nevermind. The short clip features producer Butch Vig demonstrating the individual mixing tracks from In Bloom, commenting on its various parts and pieces, from the awesome groove of the isolated drums and bass (which they got on the first take), to Dave’s harmonizing on the chorus.

I was actually quite surprised to learn about Dave’s singing contributions. I’ve been listening to In Bloom for 17 years now and I had no idea that Dave Grohl had performed any vocals for the song. I can clearly hear it now that its been pointed out, but for nearly two decades I thought it was just studio effects. Amazingly, after all this time, I’m still learning Nevermind’s tricks.

In Bloom has always been a favorite of mine, so I particularly enjoyed this fascinating look at its skeleton.

In Bloom deconstructed:

Here’s a Google Video of what appears to be the entire documentary. It starts with a similar deconstruction of Drain You, perhaps the most complex song on Nevermind (squeaky toys and five overlayed guitar tracks!), then continues with anecdotes by Dave, Krist and Butch recounting how the record was made.

hat tip to

Foo Fighters – The Pretender: Best in a Decade

The Pretender:

I think I’m in love with Foo Fighters again.

I’ve watched as the band kinda coasted down hill, or at least plateauing after achieving breakout success and emerging from the long shadow of Nirvana after There’s Nothing Left to Lose. After that the band just seemed to be going through motions.

I still liked Foo Fighters during that time and some of their songs from that time are good, but the band’s zeitgeist felt like it missing the playful spark that made the early era so much fun. Since then, I’ve treated each release with increasing skepticism and when I learned of a new record, skeptical I remained.

But all it took was one viewing of the premier video from the forthcoming Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, The Pretender, and I was hooked.

The Pretender is the Foos’ hardest rocking song since Monkey Wrench and is some of their best material since The Colour and The Shape was released ten years ago. And that video is effing fantastic. Way to go Foo Fighters, I eagerly await next weeks release of your new album.

Ethan Winer, one-man Cello section: 37 parts to a song played by one man

Ethan Winer plays all 37 separate parts on A Cello Rondo, including the percussion, on his cello. He also composed the song. The music is about 6 minutes long and the end of the video shows his digital music editing and some of his film setup. Not only is the production quite smooth, showcasing the power of modern technology to allow a single person to (relatively) easily create complex and intricate music, the song is a really good pop tune.

And I thought it was impressive when Dave Grohl recorded the first Foo Fighters record all by himself.

A Cello Rondo at Ethan Winer’s homepage. Multiple links to sites hosting the video as well as a free mp3 download of the song. There’s also as much background information on the project as you could want and some downloadable sheet music if you want to give it your own try.

Do you know who Prince is? Good.

prince rocks our socks at the superbowl. best show ever?

OK. I like Prince; let’s just set that on the record. But after the recent Superbowl Halftime show, my respect for the man just tripled. I swear that was the best halftime show in recent memory, and possibly ever. Certainly much better than anything offered in the past few years, especially 2004’s infamous profligacy.

Prince’s performance was showy, but tasteful, spectacular, but not gaudy or opulent. But most importantly, his show reminded me of just how well he can handle an axe. Prince, as a celebrity and iconoclast, is notorious for many things, but one fundamental attribute that often gets overlooked is his mad skill on the guitar. Despite being noteworthy for it, few people when asked about the musician, would say “Oh yeah, he’s that great guitar player.” I’ll be sure to bring that little tidbit up in future conversations about him.

The show had everything: his trademark showmanship, an enthusiast crowd, excellent production values awesome stage and pyrotechnics, and a top-shelf marching band adding copious amounts of soul. But it was the eclectic and quite surprising set list that made the show: a medley of cover songs and a to-die-for rendition of Purple Rain.

And really, it was the out-of-character selection of cover songs that truly made the show unique. We will Rock You, and All Along the Watchtower I can understand; those are classic standards these days. But watching Prince play Proud Mary, well, that was pretty much mind-blowing. But of course, the biggest surprise of the night was hearing a song that is far too new to be considered a classic, and not new enough to be considered a recent hit: Foo Fighters’ Best of You from 2005’s In Your Honour. A high honor, indeed, for Dave Grohl and the Foos, but it kinda validates some of my past criticism of the band.

Then there was the grand finale: Purple Rain in the pouring rain, a more perfect setting could not have been found. And that silhouette pretty much sums up The Artist himself, projecting himself larger than life.

If you missed the show or just want to relive the experience, check out this video. Do it quick before the NFL has it pulled off the site.

Mudhoney – My Brother the Cow: mmm mmmm angst

my brother the cow

Mudhoney’s My Brother the Cow, I think, is a fitting bookend to the “grunge” era. And though I didn’t get into Mudhoney until the waning days of the movement, in retrospect it seems as though it was the most quintessentially grunge of all the big bands to come out of Seattle during that time. Nirvana was more pop friendly; Pearl Jam leaned toward hard rock; Alice in Chains and Soundgarden were imbued with a metal sensibility; but Mudhoney was the band the best encapsilated the grunge ethos.

My Brother the Cow was released at a time when the music world was leaving grunge behind. It was spring of 1995 and Cobain had been dead for a year. Post-grunge acts such as Better Than Ezra and Live were bringing a kinder, gentle form of rock to the masses.

But Mudhoney continued doing its own thing and produced this great album. I remember waiting especially eagerly for this record to come out.

In January of that year, I obtained a recording of "self pollution radio," a sprawling 4 hour radio show hosted by Eddie Vedder and friends. They had gotten together to spin some records and engage in intelligent conversation.

Those tapes three ninety minute maxells became my musical divining rod for nearly 2 years. The first song played was Sonic Youth’s Teenage Riot and I was instantly transformed from casually interested in the band to hardcore fan. As the set progressed, I was introduced to forms of music both new and strange.

I heard songs months, and in some cases, years before they were officially released, including some Dave Grohl demo songs that would eventually be released as Foo Fighters.

The best part of the tapes, however, were the live sessions. Besides all the vinyl spinning, Eddie and company had arranged for a bunch of their friends to play a handful of songs in a make-shift studio.

  • Pearl Jam itself put in 2 sets with mostly material from Vitalogy.
  • Soundgarden put in a set, delivering Kyle Petty, Son of Richard and No Attention, both of which sound better on this performance than the studio versions released 2 years later.
  • Mad Season was there too and their performance inspired me buy their album when it was released a couple months later.

Which brings me back to Mudhoney, whose performance really kinda blew me away. I hadn’t given the band much attention beyond their song on the seminal Singles soundtrack. but by the time the strutting bass line of What Moves the Heart had finished, I knew that I had to add this band to my collection.

I picked up Piece of Cake shortly thereafter and waited a couple months for My Brother the Cow. When I finally received it, I deemed it awesome and it quickly made its way into my frequent rotation. The music was great, but the thing that made it characteristically Mudhoney was the prankish sense of humor. My favorite part of the record was waiting for the last song to drain away to nothing, then come roaring back as the album started to play itself backward.

But just as this record seems to be the last defiant gasp of grunge, it was also Mudhoney’s last hurrah for me. I listened to them vigorously for a couple years, but by the time the group’s next album, Tomorrow Hit Today, was released in 1998 I had largely forgotten about them. But listening to My Brother the Cow again reminds me why I liked them so much in the first place.

Foo Fighters descent into wuss rock?

I’m currently listening to Foo Fighters 2005 double-album, In Your Honor, and for some reason, it feels like a chore. Foo Fighters has been a perennial-favorite band around these parts, but, starting with There’s Nothing Left to Lose, each album gets increasingly more disappointing. and that’s ironic, because the band’s popularity and mainstream success seems to be inversely proportional to its slide toward mediocrity.

I don’t know if Dave and company are simply having a shortage of ideas or if it’s a matter of production values. My general feeling is that it’s the latter. The songwriting is generally on the up-and-up though there’s nothing like everlong or oh, george or even stacked actors, but In Your Honor, much like One by One before it, gives off the strong impression of being over-produced. Not so much on the acoustic second disc, but the first “hard rock” disc reeks of it. The mixing just plain smells bad and dave’s vocals are lost in the mud.

The first few Foo Fighters albums benefited from the rough edges provided by Dave Grohl doing all the work himself. Those records have an caution-to-the-wind, do-it-yourself spirit, and were even released on Dave’s own label (Roswell records). but most importantly, they were a little bit quirky and a lot of fun.

Somewhere during the There’s Nothing Left to Lose era, however, it seems that the band somehow earned corporate credibility. It even won a Grammy for Best Rock Album. I’m not the kind of person who cries "sellout!" when someone finds success, but it’s around this time that Foo Fighters’ sound and attitude changed, becoming more polished and increasingly likely to be the "go to" band for "mainstream media" rock events. In 2006, it’s really not that hard to imagine Foo Fighters splitting the bill with Aerosmith to headline a Superbowl halftime show. Oooo, I know that’s cold, but think about it, would you be surprised by that?

If i were a meaner person, I might suggest that the band has intentionally watered-down its sound in order to court commercial success (c’mon, a duet with norah jones??). But I’m not that guy. I’d rather just listen to the music and hope that the band turns it around.