Yes, the legendary new wave electro rockers known since 1980 as New Order have decided to stop torturing American fans by ending a seven-year embargo, kicking off a short tour on October 5th in San Francisco. Rolling Stone reports that the group will hop strategically (the only way to hop, really) across the continent during the month of October, ending on the 23rd in Toronto. This jaunt will be their first in North America since replacing founding member Peter Hook in 2007.
10/5 San Francisco – Oakland Fox Theatre
10/7 Los Angeles – Greek Theatre
10/10 Denver – Broomfield 1st Bank Center
10/12 Dallas – Palladium
10/18 New York City – Roseland
10/21 Chicago – Aragon Ballroom
10/23 Toronto – Sony Center
According to Rolling Stone, British icons Blur are set to be the headliners of this year’s Olympic closing ceremony, which will take place at London’s Hyde Park later this summer. The band, who split up in 2003 and eventually reunited in 2009, says that this performance for the BT London Live shall be even better than their reunion show. What’s more, they shall be receiving the Outstanding Contribution to Music award at the BRIT awards tonight.
Other bands scheduled to join Blur at the closing ceremonies are New Order and the Specials, making the event an iconic night for British music.
It’s been nearly eight years since George Michael released an entire album of new music, and three since he put out a single that wasn’t a cover of New Order’s “True Faith.” But in 2011, the singer-songwriter starred in what must have been one of the year’s most gripping YouTube videos, two minutes as gripping and heartfelt as anything on Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, his essential 1990 album.
There was no music, and Michael didn’t sing a note. In the clip, which was posted on December 23, Michael gave a press conference in which he discussed his recent near-death experience that began on November 21 on the Vienna stop of his forty-eight-date European tour and which he described as “the worst month of my life.” The normally robust singer, who had contracted a chest infection that was later diagnosed as life-threatening pneumonia and spent a month in hospital in Vienna (including ten days in the intensive-care unit), appeared gaunt and gray, often struggling to catch his breath.
In a year that took so many of music’s greats (R.I.P., Amy Winehouse, Nikolas Ashford, Phoebe Snow, Vesta Williams, Clarence Clemons, Dobie Gray, Billie Jo Spears), Michael is truly lucky to be alive —and he knows it. So what’s next? First, as he said in the interview, he will reschedule the cancelled dates on the Symphonica Tour that he was staging throughout Europe and the UK when his illness struck. The shows featured Michael performing his own hits and non-hits as well as select covers (including Winehouse’s “Love Is a Losing Game”) with a symphonic orchestra.
Last month when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its fifteen nominees for induction in 2012, the organization really outdid itself—and not in a good way! Donovan? Not again! Erik B. & Rakim? Not before LL Cool J! Joan Jett and the Blackhearts?
What? No “Weird Al” Yankovic? Hasn’t he been eligible for four years?
The Hall of Fame has been scraping from the B-list for a while now, but the voting body should take a closer look at the A-list. There’s still a lot of unheralded talent there, and that would not include Joan Jett. Yes, Jett’s former band, The Runaways, deserves credit for introducing girl power to hard rock, but did Joan Jett and the Blackhearts really earn a spot in the hallowed Hall based on the strength of one really awesome No. 1 smash, 1981′s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which the band didn’t even write? In the general scheme of things, aren’t they sort of a rock & roll footnote?
Not Linda Ronstadt. Perhaps the most influential female in ’70s rock, who spent the ’80s juggling genres from new wave to mariachi to the great American songbook, she’s the most deserving artist never to be nominated. And let’s talk about Pat Benatar and Stevie Nicks, who is already in the Hall of Fame as a member of Fleetwood Mac but whose solo career is far more worthy of the honor than Jett’s post-Runaways. At least the nominating committee finally had the good sense to give props to Heart, though I’ll eat my copy of the “Alone” Cassingle if the Wilson sisters actually get in.
Musicians often boast that their endeavors amount to a “labor of love,” but for no band is this sentiment more accurate than for Massachusetts electropop outfit Passion Pit. The group began as just one musician, singer Michael Angelakos, who recorded a few songs as a Valentine’s Day present for his college girlfriend. Angelakos’ songs began to circulate among his Emerson College classmates, and he quickly attracted a wider following of Boston-area music lovers. Soon, he found himself collaborating with a group of students from Berklee College of Music who helped flesh out his electronic sound with a full band. After New York label Frenchkiss re-released Angelakos’ original songs as the Chunk of Change EP, the band went on to record their debut LP, Manners, a critically-lauded shimmering dose of synthpop heavily indebted to British act New Order.
After the suicide of vocalist Ian Curtis, the three remaining members of Joy Division— guitarist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook and drummer Stephen Morris—turned tragedy into opportunity by reforming in 1981 as the appropriately-named New Order. With the addition of keyboardist Gillian Gilbert, the band began to forge their new sound and identity. Though New Order’s earliest songs sounded much like B-sides from a Joy Division record, the group gradually brought Gilbert’s synth to the forefront of the mix. This change resulted in songs like “Blue Monday” and “Bizarre Love Triangle,” which would become some of the band’s most enduring hits. Though the group continued to write and record through the ’90s and early 2000s, the snuffed-out flame that was Joy Division still trumped New Order in the collective imagination of music fans. Just like the legends of other rock stars who live fast and die young, the stories that formed around Curtis and Joy Division’s brief existence unfortunately eclipsed New Order’s quality musical output.
During the first decade of the 2000s, Joy Division was one of the most cited influences among indie rock buzz bands such as mope rockers Interpol. With the deck fairly stacked against New Order, it took a truly hype-worthy act to resurrect their synthpop legacy. Enter Passion Pit. “Eyes As Candles,” a cut from the band’s debut full-length Manners shares a few key characteristics with New Order’s “Thieves Like Us” (above). Not only do both songs begin with a driving solo drum beat that launches into a blast of synth pad, they both combine electronic sounds with traditional rock instruments. Continue reading ’88 MPH: Out With The Old, In With The New (Order)’
For some, the rock star life just isn’t that appealing. Guess there’s something about playing in one of the biggest bands in the world, being a critically respected, high selling household name that just doesn’t appeal to some people. It’s understandable, some artists just move to the beat of their own drum. Or to the beat of their own Roland 808.
Yes, the side project is one of the respected, time-worn traditions of the rock ‘n’ roller. Tired of their day gig, the misunderstood, “creative genius” of the band decides to go it alone to exercise some stylistic need they’re not able to flex in their day job. We’re not going to comment on the artistic or financial responsibility of this move; one could probably think of a number of both successful and not so successful forays from artists into genres they’re not necessarily known for. Instead, let’s celebrate the bravery, the effort alone some must make to try to break out of the mold they’ve been slotted into. (I’m making this sound way too epic, but let’s run with it). Here are some rockers who decided to take a dancable detour: the electronic side project.
Kele Okereke, better known as the frontman for aughts British indie invasion band Bloc Party, has taken to his band’s “indefinite hiatus” better than most would. For starters, he hit the gym.
Dude got jacked.
Oh yeah, he also released a record. The Boxer was not, in retrospect, a drastic departure for the singer. Bloc Party had flirted with some minimal beats to augment their post-punk guitar attack since the beginning of their career and their two albums prior to their break reflect a growing interest in meshing indie rock and electronic textures. Lead single “Mercury” is a good example of their approach: take a rock song structure and basic instrumentation and lay some post-production work over it to change the feel of the track. The break near the end is a nice touch as well.
But Okereke’s approach on The Boxer takes a different approach. “On The Lam” featured the familiar, chippy vocal editing fans of Bloc Party would remember but it also featured wobbly electronic bass and the famous Amen Break. “Tenderoni” lays the synth on heavy and the music video features a cybernetic Kele shadow boxing and robot backup dancers.
Punk outfit AFI just turned twenty this past year so it’s no surprise that its principal members have gotten a little antsy playing the same music for so long. Lead singer Davey Havok and guitarist Jade Puget formed Blaqk Audio officially in 2006 but had been working on material for the project for at least five years before. While both have fiddled around with AFI’s sound to make more room for electronic elements, especially synth, Blaqk Audio was a greater deperature for the duo then Kele’s in comparison. Their debut CexCells is a chilly, dark take on synthpop. Lead track and single “Stiff Kittens” features a Joy Division reference in the title but owes more to their successors New Order and to industrial music of the early nineties in terms of sound. The release was a modest success for Havok and Puget, debuting in the Billboard Top 20 and at Number 1 on the Electronic charts. It even got the listening party debut treatment… at Hot Topic.
God, remember Hot Topic? *Shivers*
While the band toured behind the record they soon went back to focusing their energies on AFI. Recently it appears that Blaqk Audio has once again become active as the group debuted new songs in late 2010 and have announced an upcoming album, Bright Black Heaven, slated for release some time in 2011. Listen to a new track from their Soundcloud page below.
Not only is Apparatjik is an electronic side project, it’s also a supergroup. Culling members from Mew, Coldplay and A-ha (yes, ‘Take On Me’ A-ha. That one.), Apparatjik traffic in experimental, ethereal rockish electronica. Their songs are swirls of pretty, twinkling guitar and synth lines that always sound a little warped, a little off (in an intentional way). People expecting a more electronic Coldplay or Mew will be disappointed. Really, it sounds like the groups greatest sonic debt is to the aforementioned A-ha but even that is a comparison which is lacking something. Despite all the star power behind the project there is relatively little out on the Internet about the band. What is there is… strange, to say the least. While they’re not touring at the moment, Apparatjik is playing two shows in Berlin at the Neue Nationalgalerie. Their performance is dubbed “The Apparatjik Light Space Modulator” which appears to be a semi-interactive audio-visual art installation where “performances are moving images that project from a large scale cube into the open glass structure of the building into the city space.” Sounds trippy. Check out “Datascroller” from their album We Are Here below.
MTV and OurStage joined forces again in December 2010 to kick off the “Score SKINS Music Project,” offering artists maximum exposure by getting their song featured on the mega-networks’ new teen drama SKINS. November winners Vic and Gab recently had their winning song “So Long, So Tired” featured on the show and now it’s time for December’s winner to take the stage. Introducing Unsolved Mysteries, the “mystic” songwriting collaboration between Jon Lynn and Colin Alexander. The duo lists Three Six Mafia, New Order and Keith Sweat as primary influences in their songwriting style, which they describe as being evocative of weird childhood memories. The guys caught the ears of the music supervisors at MTV with their song “You Only Live Once,” a bizarre yet catchy electronic / indie rock anthem. The song recently premiered on the Monday, February 28th episode of SKINS. Congratulations!