That’s Enough Already, Dave Grohl
By Jaime Lees
Thu., Feb. 13 2014
Dave Grohl is one of my favorite dudes in the world but he needs to hop off my radar for a minute. I’m a mega Nirvana fan and I’ve always admired Dave for his talent and humor, but lately I can’t seem to get him out of my face. His mug is everywhere.
It all seemed to start almost a decade ago when Grohl became a talking head on VH1-type shows, providing expert commentary on some of his favorite bands. He was loose, informed, entertaining. Everybody loved him. Once his skills were exposed, he quickly became the go-to guy for a good sound bite as a talking head, a special guest or a drop-in drummer. He seems to be able to do everything (and do it well), so he’s useful in many situations. Producers have decided that he’s their No. 1 man — his presence is clearly seen as an improvement to any event. He slowly moved from his long-held role of rock & roll everyman into professional event attendee.
And now, oh now, the man is everywhere. I barely even watch television, and he still manages to make it on any screen near me with the frequency of the rising sun. Grohl is like a freakin’ jack-in-the-box — you know he’s going to pop up, you just don’t know when. One of my favorite games is to try to spot him during major televised events. I don’t know dick about football, so I spent the majority of the last Superbowl game scanning the crowd shots for his floppy hair — like a post-grunge version of Where’s Waldo. I didn’t see him during my Superbowl party, but I saw a photograph of him later after the game and felt validated. He was there. Of course he was there. I knew it.
Award show? Grohl is there. Major festival? Grohl is playing it. High-profile collaboration? Grohl designed it. Supergroup? Grohl is up in it. Featured drummer? Grohl can do that. Receiving honors? Grohl is good at it. Star-studded tributes? Grohl jumps in. Music documentary? Grohl makes them. Rock the vote? Grohl rocks it all night. Photobombs? Grohl kills. Film festival? Grohl can hang. One-off performances? Grohl makes it happen. Television cameo? Grohl picks the X-Files. Country music? Grohl loves it. Foo Fighters videos? Grohl does them perfectly. Charity events? Grohl participates. Led Zeppelin? Grohl digs ’em. Internet memes? Grohl makes a fresh one. Protesting? Grohl does it in costume. iPhone party? Grohl wants in on that action. Lemmy time? Grohl steals the show. Punk legends? Grohl knows them. Video-game conventions? Grohl is the wizard. Late-night talk shows? Grohl does Letterman. Roling Stones concerts? Grohl makes them better. Producing sitcoms? Grohl thinks it’s easy. Birthday celebration? Grohl works those. Saturday Night Live? Grohl is the most frequent musical guest. Video guest star? Grohl wiggles on in. Surprise gigs? Grohl is all over it. South by Southwest? Grohl gives the keynote address.
Forget about Kurt Cobain: Grohl is clearly the voice of our generation — if only because he never lets anyone else speak.
There’s a reason that his number is always called: He’s smart, he’s funny, he speaks well, he’s good-looking and he always seems to be in on the joke. He’s an affable dude, and his laid-back nature and casual cursing makes him seem like cool big brother. Grohl is nearly universally loved. He just gets it. And he seems to genuinely enjoy making fun, collaborative things happen during otherwise boring events. There are very few people who most of us would like to kick it with, and Grohl just seems like the kind of guy who would never have to buy his own shot in any bar on the planet.
Last year, Grohl released his Sound City documentary. It’s pretty excellent, though it did sort of seem like 108 minutes of justifying Grohl’s eventual purchase of the Sound City Neve board. (Apparently the most holy console since the Megasound 8000 in Josie and the Pussycats.) This documentary served as his official entrance into the film world, so expect him to expand his appearance résumé to include events that aren’t musical at all. In this and other mediums, Grohl seems to be the opposite of everything that his generation is usually accused of (unambitious, lazy, directionless). Homeboy is going to get it all done, no matter what.
Lately, Grohl seems to be fixated on sucking at the teat of Paul McCartney. But if you’re going to cling like a baby rhesus monkey to somebody, it might as well be the only living Beatle. (Shut up; nobody counts Ringo.) Still, Grohl seems to have been a barnacle on Sir Paul’s nards ever since they got together to make a Sound City song. They’ve played together many times since then and just a few days ago, Grohl performed “Hey Bulldog” in that Grammys tribute to the Beatles. (Shit, Grohl could even pass for George Harrison at this point.)
Despite his many ass-kissing obligations, Grohl always seems to find a way to give back, too. His counterprotests of Westboro Baptist Church, participation in charity/awareness events and the small ways that he always seems to try to give back to fans do not go entirely unnoticed — but sometimes it’s hard to see these beautiful little gestures through the absolute blizzard of Grohl appearances.
So is Dave Grohl good? Yeah, he’s fucking great. And if he is our new cultural king, then we should welcome him — we could do much worse. But right now he’s like the ex that won’t stop texting you. You feel smothered. You wanna be like, “Dude, if you would just get up out of my business, like, ever, I would like you so much more.” So go away, Dave Grohl. But don’t stay gone forever, just enough to make us miss you. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and we’ll be ready to love you again later, but for right now you just need to get up out of my face for a while, OK?
Rewind: Nirvana’s In Utero, 20 Years Later
By Jaime Lees
Tue., Sep. 24 2013
Today marks the re-release of Nirvana’s In Utero. The album recently turned twenty years old and this milestone is being celebrated with the release of a “Super Deluxe Edition.” The new edition offers remixes, demos, compilation tracks and rare, previously unreleased tracks, but we wanted to take a look back at the original twelve songs recorded by core Nirvana members Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl in 1993.
In Utero was a polarizing album. After gaining sudden world-wide popularity with the release of Nevermind in 1991, it would be an understatement to say that Nirvana’s second major label release was highly anticipated. The whole planet seemed to be paying attention and expectations were not entirely positive. People were waiting for Nirvana to flop, or to deliver Nevermind Version 2.0, but what came from the band was unexpected and brazen.
Because of sheer exposure, Nevermind was for everybody. But the songs on In Utero were a sharp departure from the pop tinged anthems that made the band popular. In Utero was louder, weirder, an artistic statement. To release an album with a combination of beautiful dirges mixed in with such a heavily corrosive rock sound was, well, ballsy.
From the off-kilter, screeching beginning of the first song, “Serve the Servants,” it is clear that the band was doing something different. And while Nevermind was written and recorded in relative obscurity, most these new songs were put together under while under the intense focus of an international microscope.
Main songwriter Cobain was keenly aware that his every word would be dissected and examined with medical precision, and many of his lyrics here are preemptive rebuttals to criticism, almost post-modern in their self-awareness. (The opening line of the album is “Teenage angst has paid off well / Now I’m bored and old” and “Tourettes” begins with the spoken phrase “moderate rock.”)
Many of the classic Nirvana lyrical themes like personal dissatisfaction and family trouble continued to pop up on this album. But after a few years in the spotlight, Cobain also seemed eager to explore the topic of his own public persecution, real or imagined. His words felt more aggressive at times (“You can’t fire me because I quit”) but he also seemed to ask for mercy, expressing his own vulnerability and fragility (“Cut myself on angel hair and baby’s breath”) throughout the album.
Cobain always claimed that with Nirvana the music came first and the lyrics were secondary– that they were almost an afterthought. Not buying it, Mr. Cobain. The lyrics here that might at first read as obtuse or purposefully nonsensical eventually morph into brain poetry, exposing the deeper meanings hidden in the phrasing. (“Bi-polar opposites attract / All of a sudden my water broke”)
Because Cobain committed suicide less than a year after this albums release, it’s tempting to go back and read all of his lyrics as deep and autobiographical, but to do that is to discount Cobain’s storytelling skills. His words are clever (“If you ever need anything please don’t hesitate / To ask someone else first”) and he was adept at using cultural references as a jumping off point or metaphor for another topic. (“Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle”).
As far as history is concerned, Nirvana is Cobain’s band. And that’s not just because he’s the idolized dead guy, he’s considered the driving force behind the music. Nirvana was shaping Cobain’s public reputation, and he knew it. And though he claimed to be deeply uncomfortable with his newly appointed “Voice of the Generation” title, Cobain still used his powers for good– pushing pro-woman, pro-choice and pro-gay values in interviews and liner notes. He was also acutely aware that he was perceived as a sell-out, another title that was offensive to his punk rock heart.
With this in mind, Cobain hired Steve Albini, the legendarily difficult no-bullshit engineer, to record In Utero. For a band concerned with its street credit, Albini was a step in the right direction. Albini is not only is the guitarist for original alt-rock heroes Shellac and Big Black, in his studio he uses ancient machines and records to tape. He is known for recording not just cheaply and efficiently, but also for imparting a certain nebulous honesty to his products. (Some of the songs on the album were also mixed by long-time R.E.M. producer, Scott Litt, but Litt’s contribution was downplayed in favor of highlighting Albini’s involvement.)
The album introduced unsuspecting Nirvana listeners to a whole new sonic palette. In the damp, dark sludge-fest that was the Seattle scene, Nevermind was a cute-sounding, almost child-like release. It was an album full of rhymes and hooks and sing-alongs, really. With In Utero, Nirvana seemed determined to prove that it could out-grunge the grunge-sters. The sound is abrasive. The drums are relentless, the guitar frequently feeds back and Cobain howls like an injured animal, all bitterness and bile.
At the time of its release, In Utero seemed to be a dare to the listeners. Songs like “Scentless Apprentice” and “Tourettes” tested their endurance for chaotic, grinding expression. It was as if the popular band was saying, “Oh yeah? You liked Nevermind? Well, here’s In Utero. Do you still like us?” As a whole, the album sounds like a defiantly bold statement for a band that was so well-known. Even now, 20 years later, In Utero still stands as a piece of art and a proud, defining bookend for a troubled, yet brilliant band.
About twenty years ago, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore asked his friend, filmmaker Dave Markey, to document the band’s short European tour, including its performance at the massive Reading Festival.
Markey (best known for his underground classic Desperate Teenage Lovedolls) left with his passport, a camera and a suitcase full of Super 8 film. When he returned he had nine hours of raw footage and the makings of the best visual documentary of 1990s indie rock before the grunge explosion. The film features many indie bands in their prime, including Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr and Babes in Toyland. It’s sort of the video companion to Michael Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life.
1991: The Year Punk Broke existed for years as an out-of-print VHS with a cult following, but it was finally released on DVD last week. The DVD release contains the original documentary and a shit-load of extra features, including more than an hour of interviews, bonus footage and rough edits.
Lovingly described by Moore as a “home movie,” TYPB is gritty, shaky and absolutely perfect. Live concert footage is spliced with scenes of the bands shopping, eating, exploring various cities and just kind of hanging out. Sonic Youth serves as the main subject of the documentary, with Moore emerging as particularly hammy and entertaining. (See: Thurstonitis)
To truly understand TYPB, viewers must first watch Madonna’s Truth or Dare. Madge’s classic black and white tour doc had just been released at the time and it was a major moment in pop culture. There are many skits and inside jokes included in TYPB that reference Truth or Dare. (Including a brilliant scene where Kurt Cobain plays the role of Kevin Costner.)
In the two decades that have passed since 1991, grunge took over and indie stopped meaning anything. But what has all this change wrought on the specific bands featured in 1991: The Year Punk Broke? We check in on some of the featured personalities below:
The doc was filmed one year after the release of Goo, but still before the release of Dirty. In the film, the members of Sonic Youth come off as just a little bit older, cooler and more harder-working than their peers. This has never changed. Sonic Youth will forever be populated with people that seem like cool older brother/sister-types. And they’ve become even more prolific: the band has released nine studio albums since the documentary, and the members have embarked on countless solo projects ranging from music to books to photography to art to fashion. Sonic Youth has always been a band that stood on a well-earned mountain of cred, and this has only become more true over time. Still, it is totally shocking that the band is still as well-respected and, well, as good as it was twenty years ago.
Babes in Toyland
The Babes were fresh off of a tour with Sonic Youth and seemed to be extra feisty. The band only had one song featured on the video, but it was the tribal and violent “Dustcake Boy.” This song is one of the better examples of singer Kat Bjelland’s trademark angry leopard-like yelps. Babes released its biggest album, Fontanelle, in 1992 and had a couple more albums after that before calling it quits. There have been a few reunion shows, but the most interesting story to come out of the demise of Babes in Toyland is what happened to Kat Bjelland. Anyone familiar with Bjelland’s work would should not be surprised to find out that she began to suffer from multiple personalities and was diagnosed as schizophrenic in 2007. She spent a year under medical mental care and came out just as stubborn and creative and badass, releasing albums with her new band, Katastrophy Wife.
Mr. Cole was not in a band included in TYPB, but it is fitting that he was included in the film. Cole was known as a roadie for Black Flag, the best friend of Henry Rollins and was a cheerleader for seemingly every band on the SST roster. He can be seen in the background many times, and there is one long shot of his face, watching a band from the side of the stage, radiantly happy with his arms around his girlfriend, Michelle Leon of Babes in Toyland. Tragically, Cole was shot and killed just a few months after this summer in a random act of violence in Los Angeles. Sonic Youth, Henry Rollins and Hole all dedicated future works to his memory.
We all know what happened with Nirvana. Mere milliseconds after Markey wrapped filming, the whole world fell into Nirvanamania. The little band would soon eclipse its heroes, becoming the biggest thing that happened to popular music that decade. Amazingly, Markey manages to capture a side of Nirvana that the general public would never know: the happy side. In TYPB, the band members are still relatively unknown. They are wide-eyed and playful, with frequent smiles and passionate stage show. But that levity was lost when the fame came along. The band would only release one more studio album, In Utero, before singer Kurt Cobain committed suicide. Drummer Dave Grohl went on to form the ultra-successful Foo Fighters and bassist Krist Novoselic expanded his interests from music to politics, even running for office in his home state of Washington.
Miss Love can be seen in the original doc (and in the extra footage) trying to get the attention of cameraman Markey. Her role in the video is very small- she wasn’t performing, she was in England to hang out with Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins. Of course, she went on to marry Cobain of Nirvana and the two became the Sid & Nancy of the ’90s. Love’s band Hole was also on the verge of fame, having released its debut album, Pretty on the Inside, in August of ’91. Hole went on to release a few more albums, including the highly successful Live Through This in 1994. Love went on to become a famous disaster and the topic of much tabloid speculation.
Dinosaur Jr was always bigger in Europe, due to constant touring of the Continent. This is most apparent during on of the most beautiful, chill-inducing moments of the film. The band is playing “Freak Scene” and at the very end of the song, the whole dang audience sings along to the all-important line “Cause when I need a friend it’s still you.” Dino went on to release five more studio albums and the band is still active today (with years of breaks in between). The members have also put out solo albums and they remain some of the mostly highly respected individuals in indie rock.
Though his band, Mudhoney, wasn’t featured in the film, Mark Arm can be seen in several scenes in TYPB. His little blond mop is always bopping around, accenting a goofy smile. Mudhoney was kind of Nirvana before Nirvana was Nirvana, and it certainly had a longer career. The band has put out ten studio albums in its career and is still active (and awesome) today, mostly playing large international festivals.
The Ramones were included in The Year Punk Broke, but the band’s time in the film was so short and so stiff that it seemed like the Ramones were more included as a tribute to punk elders than as a viable band. Still, the Ramones had one of the most interesting careers in music history. In 1991 the band was already 27 years into its career and it would be another five years before it officially disbanded. After TYPB the band put out three more studio albums, but it didn’t much matter. The Ramones were already considered the greatest American punk band.
Gumball is the only band included in TYPB that never quite achieved any level of mainstream success. Despite releasing 1991’s Special Kiss (featuring both Thurston Moore and members of Teenage Fanclub), Gumball never really caught on with indie audiences and was dropped from its label in 1994 due to disappointing sales. Gumball disbanded shortly after that, but the band members went on to have very successful individual careers. For example, frontman Don Fleming is a noted producer and participated in many other musical indie ventures, including Half Japanese, Dim Stars and The Backbeat Band.
Nobody really hates the Foo Fighters. That might seem like an odd distinction, but this is a rarity for a modern rock band. For how highly anticipated a Dave Grohl project was in the wake of Nirvana-cide, the Foos has really been a sleeper of a band. Though it has always been high profile, the FFs went from being those dudes who made funny music videos to one of the most solid rock bands in the States. The bands reputation has been building, along with its fan base, for over fifteen years, making the Foo Fighters genuine stadium rockers at this point. Sometimes good guys win.
After The Show: Expect a near-religious conversion into full fandom. You’ll be telling your friends to call upon the name Foo and ye shall be saved.
- Riverfront Times – link
Frances Bean Cobain And The Other Nine Hottest Offspring Of Musicians
By Jaime Lees
Thu., Aug. 18 2011
Today is Frances Bean Cobain’s 19th birthday. Time flies, right? In celebration of Miss Frannie, we’ve compiled a list of hot rock ‘n’ roll spawn. These people have at least one rock star parent and their moms are frequently models. (Figures.) They are all totally bangable, and many of them have their own interesting careers. Who do you think should be added to the list?
Frances Bean Cobain
Daughter of musicians Kurt Cobain of Nirvana and Courtney Love of Hole
Frances was on the “countdown to legal” list for many grunge fans. Now, at age 19 FBC has just posed for a collection of photographs that show that she’s all grown up. Eyes! Lips! Midriff! Décolletage! Tattoos! It’s all there, in this frequently topless but never outright scandalous set of photographs. Captured in dramatic black and white, “The Bean” looks absolutely smokin’. She’s sultry, she’s sassy and she looks like she’s either going to scream at you or make out with you or both. HOT.
Daughter of musician Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and scenester / groupie Bebe Buell
The quintessential foxy rock ‘n’ roll daughter, Liv first came to attention starring in Aerosmith’s video for “Crazy.” In the video, she played a pouty-lipped Catholic school girl who skipped school do naughty pseudo-sapphic stuff with co-star Alicia Silverstone. She’s since put her big lips on the big screen, with major roles in films like Empire Records, Armageddon and Lord of the Rings.
Son of Beatle John Lennon and artist / musician Yoko Ono
Sean is probably the most famous son of rock. Lookin’ like exactly half of each of his parents, the bespectacled musician doesn’t have to push his pedigree, it is already obvious in his pretty eyes and cute little mouth. Bonus: Sean seems nice, his music is good and he doesn’t disrespect his father’s legacy (unlike Lennon’s other son, jerk-ass Julian). And like a proper second generation famous kid, he has dated Mick Jagger’s daughter Elizabeth and also…
Daughter of John Phillips of the Mamas & the Papas and model Geneviève Waïte
Young Bijou is a looker, but not really in a classic way. Her teeth are kinda weird and her vibe is kinda dirty, but these things somehow just make her damn sexy. She famously lost her virginity to Evan Dando and the hot little hippie has been banging famous dudes ever since. She was with Elijah Wood, then she dated Sean Lennon for years and now she’s engaged to Danny Masterson (aka “Hyde” from That ’70s show).
Daughter of musician Lenny Kravitz and actress Lisa Bonet
It’s absolutely shocking that Zoë Kravitz is good looking. Both of her parents are so. damn. hot. that it only makes sense that their individual hot qualities would get canceled out in war for gene dominance, leaving just a sad little unremarkable, unhot blob baby. Instead, the biology lottery resulted in Zoë becoming mega hot broad with a tight little body, her dad’s sense of style and her mom’s creamy skin. Yowza.
Son of musicians Patti Smith and Fred “Sonic” Smith of the MC5
Jackson looks sweetly disheveled in that slightly scruffy post-hipster way. He plays guitar for his mom on tour and his good looks are a little distracting on stage- he has bright eyes and the same kind of quiet intensity that both of his parents pulled off in photographs. Also, he was cool enough to score Meg White of the White Stripes as his wife, which means the world might get a third generation of Detroit hotties.
Daughter of musician Lionel Richie and Brenda Harvey
Nicole was adopted, so she can’t claim her good looks from Lionel or Brenda. But she was adopted from the famous musical Escovedo family, and can count Sheila E. and Alejandro Escovedo as some of her close biological relatives. The doe-eyed former party girl has had public struggles with her weight and the law, but nothing obscures her natural good looks and funny personality. In the grand tradition of celeb spawn, Nicole dated DJ AM (Adam Goldstein) and is now married to Good Charlotte’s Joel Madden.
Son of musician Frank Zappa and Adelaide Gail Sloatman
Just like his father, Dweezil is an acquired taste. His bright eyes are intense and surely one of the features that won over former girlfriend (and librarian glasses enthusiast) Lisa Loeb. Yeah, he seems like he can be kind of a douche, but that doesn’t cancel out his dark, almost John Stamos-y sexiness. Fun facts: Dweezil was an MTV VJ for a minute and has many musical credits to his name (including playing lead guitar on the the Fat Boys’ “Wipe Out”). He also had a bit part in Pretty in Pink as Andie’s friend Simon- this lil’ cameo automatically puts him in the Forever Hot Club.
Nicholas Des Barres
Son of musician Michael Des Barres and original groupie Pamela Des Barres
Best known as Murdoc on MacGuyver and the dude who replaced Robert Palmer in Power Station, Michael Des Barres has an interesting career as both an actor and a rock singer. His former wife, the beautiful Pamela Des Barres, is an author, a ginger and legendary groupie. Together they made Nick, who is tall and handsome with a striking blend of features from both of his parents. He’s also probably the most talented person on this list, finding success an actor, a writer and a designer.
Daughter of musician Donovan and model Enid Karl
Best known as Diane Court from Say Anything, the object of Lloyd Dobler’s affection won over teen audiences with her fresh face, crooked smile and quirky mannerisms. Basically, all straight men of a certain generation will always think that Ione Skye is just the hottest shit ever. She could have pretty much any dude she wants, but Ione keeps up the tradition of inter-industry dating: she dated Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, she was married to Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys for a few years and she’s now married to musician Ben Lee.
Daisy Lowe – Daughter of Gavin Rossdale of Bush and Pearl Lowe
Sally Taylor – Daughter of musicians / songwriters James Taylor and Carly Simon
Amber Le Bon – Daughter of Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran and model Yasmin Le Bon
Elizabeth Jagger – Daughter of musician Mick Jagger and model Jerry Hall, dated Sean Lennon
Riley Keough – Granddaughter of Elvis Presley, Daughter of Lisa Marie Presley
Rufus and Martha Wainwright – Musician children of Loudon Wainwright III, songwriter / singer
Peaches Geldof – Daughter of Bob Geldof, musician, and Paula Yates, Brit television presenter
Alexa Ray Joel – Daughter of musician Billy Joel and model Christie Brinkley
Elijah Blue Allman – Son of musicians Cher and Gregg Allmann
Stella McCartney – Daughter of Beatle Paul McCartney and photographer Linda McCartney
AA Bondy reinvents himself as an indie-folk artist
By Jaime Lees
Published: February 6, 2008
Though few outside of the indie circuit recognized Verbena, critics and fans hailed the group as the second coming of Nirvana. The comparison was easy to see — and not just because former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl produced the band’s 1999 major-label debut, Into the Pink. When Verbena emerged from Birmingham, Alabama, in the late ’90s, its sound was dark, powerful and based on a foundation of big pop hooks. Lead singer Scott Bondy in particular came across as very Kurt Cobain-esque, with his lazy, marble-mouthed singing style, snarky attitude and bleached-blond hair. These days, Bondy is all grown up and no longer playing the role of snotty rock kid. Performing solo under his birth name of AA Bondy (the initials stand for August Arthur), he composes enchanting, elegantly sparse indie-folk music. The songs often feature just his voice and an expertly strummed guitar, with the occasional hint of mournful harmonica and handclaps used as percussion.
When he tries to explain the difference between the louder Verbena and his current stripped-back project, Bondy confesses via phone, “I don’t really know what I was doing before.”
He’s certainly figured out what to do on his solo debut, American Hearts (which will be re-released on Fat Possum Records in April). Hearts is a bewitchingly beautiful album that’s been embraced as an impressive contribution to the world of nü-folk — largely because the songs don’t sound like the “unplugged” indulgences of a former rock guy. They’re not stripped down; they’re just not decorated with unnecessary wrapping. The songs overflow with unflinching sincerity, and the tiniest details — like the delicate noise of fingers sliding across guitar strings — stand out and seem purposeful.
The way Bondy constructed Hearts reflects this simplistic style: He recorded it in a rickety old barn next to his house in New York. (“It’s a really good-sounding barn,” he says with a chuckle.) Perhaps as a result, Hearts‘ lyrics are also unadorned and straightforward, relying heavily on the polarities of good vs. evil, apathy vs. love and God vs. the devil. Still, Bondy finds plenty of room for shrewd statements (“Love, it don’t die/It just goes from girl to girl”) and optimistic observations (“The barroom is filled with the joy/Of making old friends.”)
Many of Hearts‘ songs also carry a twinge of the ’60s protest vibe — meaning that the Bob Dylan comparisons are inevitable. It’s no surprise that Bondy has absorbed a penchant for clever lyrics; he cites Tom Waits, Nina Simone and Tom Petty as classic favorites. But of these influences, he fondly explains, “You can’t really speak to the nature of what makes things special. But whatever does make things special doesn’t really matter. I guess for a listener you just know it is special to you — and that’s all that matters.”During live shows, Bondy is frequently accompanied by his wife, Clare Felice, who plays the organ. She’s from the same family that produced the up-and-coming Americana band the Felice Brothers — a group Bondy lovingly refers to as his brothers and source of inspiration.
Jaime Lees: The stuff you’re recording seems very… like, if someone walked into your house, you could be sitting there playing it.
AA Bondy: Yeah, I could.
It seems very intimate — like you’re not putting on a kind of show.
Yeah, those songs could exist without any other accompaniment. And they were written that way. Which is one of the main differences between this stuff and anything that happened before it. Those other songs weren’t brought to the light of day in that fashion. They were always pieced together. They were… like, a guitar part always came first. They never started with, like, basically a finished song. Which all of these songs did. They were finished songs that things got added to — or didn’t.
Is it scary for you to stand up there alone?
When I first started playing by myself, I’d played tons and tons of shows with a band. I didn’t even understand how freaked out I was. If you’re getting up on stage with a band, it’s like you’re part of a team. But once you get up there by yourself, it’s totally different. ‘Cause you’re responsible for it all. I like it better. It’s more thrilling, at least. I don’t get too freaked out anymore, but I used to. When you’re by yourself, it’s so much easier.
How is your writing different as you’ve gotten older?
I actually write songs now. [Laughs] You know, I don’t just, like, play a guitar part and put some stuff over it. I just know that it feels completely different than it used to. It feels like there’s something contained inside of it, as opposed to being like a shell.
The topics seem pretty grown-up — relationships, war. Do you feel like you’re getting something out? Does it make you feel better?
Maybe it makes me feel better only in the way something gets completed that I’m somehow satisfied with. Not in the way that I’m saying something, you know. Like, it could be a song about a pile of leaves that I lit on fire and I could feel just as good about that as if it was, like, a so-called song that had something to say.
8 p.m. Wednesday, February 13. Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Avenue. $8 advance, $10 day of show. 314-773-3363.
>> EXTENDED INTERVIEW HERE <<
Long regarded as lucky metalheads with a psychedelic soul (after all, Kurt Cobain invited them to perform on Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged session), the Meat Puppets have since outgrown most former labels. The band’s new album, Rise to Your Knees, adds half-country harmonizing to the drawn-out, effects-pedal-distorted fuzzy sound found on albums past (perhaps because co-founders/brothers Curt and Cris Kirkwood now call Austin, Texas, home). Other tunes are a throwback to the apex of classic rock and often conjure the jangly alt-rock of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. Knees proves that the Meat Puppets have become more than just a band only patient experimental-music lovers could love.