Monday, August 17, 2015

Here We Go Again



"Trending" this week is a performance by Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats from the Jimmy Fallon show. I admit, it was a roof raiser. Take a look.

Between that performance and the hype surrounding it, I once again tried kicking Lucy's football through the goal posts only to have her pull it away at the last second so I could fall on my ass.

Now it's not like me to be cynical-- I'll give you a minute to wipe your beverage off of your screen--but, I think just about any band with a modicum of musicality and a respectable amount of musical chops can get a crowd on their feet with some hands claps and some ol' time religious call and answer.

But how about a whole record? A mere 35 minutes of "we had our whole lives to write our debut" type record. Go and listen to it. It is yet one more example of examples, and nothing juicy enough to sink your teeth into.

Each song sounds as if one or all of the band members made a suggestion:

"Let's do one like Al Green."

"How about one like Otis Redding?"

"How about a gospelly thing?"

Many of the tunes sound like demos to me, as if the band was still unsure of what the finished product would sound like. The record does not sound complete. It became a bore by Track 5; nothing more than a pretty good idea waiting for a suit to send it back to the drawing board.

I do hope you keep your hate mail to a minimum. But I simply refuse to just toss out 5 star reviews like a t-shirt gun at a pep rally.

On a final note, I had lunch with two long time friends last week. Both lifelong music guys, who have been around the block and back. We all noticed, and agreed how annoying and frustrating it is, that there are no shitty reviews anymore. Everything in Mojo or Uncut, or what's left of Rolling Stone, gets 3 stars or better.


Not here, folks. And if you happen to disagree with my take on Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, please show a bit of respect and talk about the music and not my lawn.


23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello all...no, please remain seated,

It's disappointing to hear that the album isn't up to...well, whatever benchmark one chooses. I heard the single a couple of weeks ago and think it's an absolute gas. On XM Radio, I also heard these guys do a live version of The Band's "The Shape I'm In", which also sounded terrific. Any band who covers a Band song besides "The Weight" deserves a listen, in my view.

Regarding your observation about review inflation...Huh. Good point.

regards,
RichD

Sal Nunziato said...

RichD, the single is an absolute gas. And I will say this--this band could be a completely different animal live. But a record used to make me wnat to see a band live, not wonder if it would be any better live.

Ken D said...

Like the video and the song. I guess I've been busy; it's completely new to me.
I'll add that "How about one like Otis Redding?" is a hellava lot better than "How about one like Billy Idol?"
And as far as sounding like demos, if you'd liked the record more, couldn't that just as easily have come across as "they didn't overthink the production"?
In general, though, no argument with you about overrated records.


RichD—Pulled out "Stage Fright" for a car trip last week. (Hadn't heard it in quite a while.) Still amazing.

Anonymous said...

My only comment is - UFO - Phenomenon, what a great record!! Sal, I always check out you're playlist - it jogs my memory banks into listening to some great stuff I've left on the shelf for too long. Thanks, Randy

Sal Nunziato said...

"And as far as sounding like demos, if you'd liked the record more, couldn't that just as easily have come across as "they didn't overthink the production"?"

That's a great point Ken and I should have been more clear. The record doesn't sound underproduced. It has a great sound, but not much else. This isn't a case of John Wesley Harding stripping down Madonna's "Like A Prayer" and discovering a great song.

William Repsher said...

Reviews become irrelevant when you can listen to a whole album for free upon release date (sometimes earlier) and decide for yourself. I think the main focus of reviews, at least back in the glory days of Rolling Stone and such, was to alert people to major new releases, and either sing their praises, or sometimes, to offer dissenting opinion to the hype. Yes, that dissenting opinion hardly exists anymore ... save the reality of it often does in underwhelming sales. Then again, long-time fans are going to buy the album, no matter what. I know ... I've done it dozens of times myself and sat there shaking my head when I realized the album wasn't "the best thing we've ever done." (I'm looking at you, R.E.M.)

Still, I miss the days when good critics would write about albums in ways that let you know they understood the artist in some sense and were really listening. We live in a culture of "likes" and "thumbs up." It's, like, totally not cool.

buzzbabyjesus said...

I wasted a lot of time defending Leon "What's His Name?" last time you wrote about this issue.
I played that album once, and thought it contained one pretty great song, mostly for the doo-wop backing vocals, but couldn't tell you a thing about the rest of it.

I got through two choruses of The Night Sweats Jimmy Fallon clip. I couldn't help thinking they were Mumford and Sons dressed up for Halloween, whatever that means.

Just like that new Bryan Adams song, it made me wonder if I was sick of music.

Bad reviews were always the most fun. I loved Robert Christgau's annual "Turkey Shoot" in the Village Voice.

Sal:

"Each song sounds as if one or all of the band members made a suggestion:

"Let's do one like Al Green."

"How about one like Otis Redding?"

"How about a gospelly thing?"

To which I'll add:

"Let's rent a Hammond B-3 and wear hats".

Noam Sane said...

I guess the reviewers don't want to piss off people they might interview or otherwise need in the future. It's too bad.

I remember being hired by an Austin magazine called Pop Culture Press to submit some reviews (important: always ask if you will be paid, don't assume.) Four CDs, two of which were OK, two of which sucked, and I reviewed as such - and I let the sucky ones have it good. Guess which two were published.

When I moved back to central PA from CA a dozen or so years ago, there was a new radio station repeating in the area from Philly, WXPN. On Saturday afternoons they had a show where area columnists, musicians, "experts," etc. sat around and reviewed recent releases, and they didn't pull punches. It was so refreshing to hear. A couple of weeks later the show disappeared, never to return.

Because EVERYTHING is AWESOME!

Gene Oberto said...

Whatever you do, don't watch the cheesy Vevo video before you watch the Fallon show. Couldn't last through the second chorus the second time round. What upsets me more is the the fact that Stax,,,STAX! for duck's sake released the album. Empires crumble to the sea.

There was time when you would follow certain writers because their discussions were like the ones you had with...well...Sal at his shop. When they liked something, you went and got the LP. You trusted their perspective.

What gets me is that the reviewers are immersed in their subjects for such a short time. I'd like to read (or hear) somebody born before Home Alone or Goodbye Jumbo were released.

William Repsher said...

Got home and sampled more tracks. Really not that bad! This new album sounds like it's going to be a quantum leap in quality over their last two releases, which sound overly somber and self serious in that irritating way hipsters have when trying to be "deep." I like what I hear ... and maybe should be glad I have a knack for avoiding the hype you run headlong into with artists like this! Seriously, though, if you have any inkling for this kind of music, The Gourds just spent the past 20 years doing this kind of music much, much better. Better vocals. Better musicians. Better songs. But I'd still rather not dissuade a band like this from leaning in the right direction, which they are.

Sal Nunziato said...

"Got home and sampled more tracks. Really not that bad! This new album sounds like it's going to be a quantum leap in quality over their last two releases, which sound overly somber and self serious in that irritating way hipsters have when trying to be "deep.""

"Sampled"

"Not that bad"

Exactly.

Buzzbabyjesus says maybe he's "sick of music." I'm sick of "not that bad" and "sampled."

Play the whole thing. Sit and love it all like you used to love WHOLE records.

William Repsher said...

I can think of maybe one new album per year going back to the 90's where I had that "listening to a great album" vibe that I know very well from dozens of experiences in my past. Sure, in my mind, it's because I sense musical greatness is much more rare than it used to be. But a large part of it, too, is that the feeling around that experience tends to not be as strong as it once was. Because I've had it to many times before.

To put it in a better context: there's a ton of jazz, classical, even some country and blues albums, where I double back and listen for the first time, ever, and know I'm listening to a great album, but I don't have that same "pop" in my senses like I got, say, the first time I heard Station to Station or Abbey Road. I'm not talking new artists, or new albums. I'm talking albums from the past, in many cases legendary albums, that I'm hearing for the first time because I was most likely "not into" that kind of music when I was younger. I get excited, but not in that "world changing now" sort of way.

I'm willing to suspend my disbelief in a lot of hype cases because I think the people doing the hyping are much younger than I am and just don't have that long and wide a range of listening experience as I do. They just don't. And I'm not stating that in a "lording it over them" light -- I mean they're still susceptible to carrying on like mental patients over new things they love. (You should have heard me carrying on about This Is Hardcore by Pulp in 1998 ... I probably put a few people with a decade of listening experience on my off that album by how much I carried on.)

Then, of course, you have the bullshit artists who are old and experienced enough to know better, and that's when I see red. But again, I understand, anything to keep a job, and these pure arbiters of taste who never seem to age, who somehow "know" all the cool things in every era and are "with it" with the kids ... it's these people who inspire the sort of irritation and loathing I see you pointing towards here. But I guess "Hey you kids, get off my artificial turf" doesn't have the same ring to it.

buzzbabyjesus said...

"Got home and sampled more tracks. Really not that bad! This new album sounds like it's going to be a quantum leap in quality over their last two releases, which sound overly somber and self serious in that irritating way hipsters have when trying to be "deep.""

I'll file those first two records under "Must To Avoid".

"Whatever you do, don't watch the cheesy Vevo video before you watch the Fallon show."

I made the mistake of seeing possibly two choruses. The more I think about it the more I hate that song.

Charlie Carr said...

You have a lawn?!?
:o)

Troy said...

Gave the song a full listen. Usually this is right up my alley, but this song did nothing for me. Strange. Don't feel compelled to check out any more by them. Oh well, to each his own.

As for the hype question, I stopped using written reviews for anything besides bathroom reading material long ago. It's all PR and has been for a long time; critical analysis is long dead, IMO. I get more of my info from reading comments and suggestions on blogs like this. And then I download the stuff that sounds interesting or appealing, decide if I want to purchase it, or delete it.

buzzbabyjesus said...

Exactly. I get all my info here and other blogs written by people who by now are all old friends. I bought cd's from Sal for years, and I read Simels over at Power Pop since the mid '70's when he wrote and edited for the "magazine formerly known as "Stereo Reveiw".
The internet allows us to have a virtual dorm room to hang out in and say "have you heard this yet?". That's how we keep it alive.
Everyone likes different things. Here, we get exposed to music outside our immediate comfort zone. Everyone likes the Beatles and a lot of the same musical DNA, but it would be boring if everything was unanimous.
It's probably unanimous that we all love the music that The Night Sweats source for inspiration. This isn't that. I'll stick with the real thing.

ge said...

I can recommend one guy discovered of late-- Canadian Johnny DeCourcy
https://johnnydecourcy.bandcamp.com/album/alien-lake

ag said...

"Play the whole thing. Sit and love it all like you used to love WHOLE records."

Seriously, Sal, when was the last time that happened for you?

I think it's pretty obvious by now that the "whole record" concept is long gone, that the only reason bands even attempt to put out album-length releases these days is to give the consumer some sort of false sense of "value", an idiotic notion concocted in full by the money grubbing record labels. I bet if you and I went back and examined all of the albums that we have liked over the last 10 years, most contain two, maybe three "great" cuts...maybe less if I really think about it.

There is great talent out there. It's not that hard to find if one takes the time to look. But none of it is expressed in WHOLE records anymore.

Sign of the times, I guess.

Thanks for keeping an open mind, Sal, and keep digging!

Sal Nunziato said...

"Play the whole thing. Sit and love it all like you used to love WHOLE records."

Seriously, Sal, when was the last time that happened for you?

Seriously ag, it happens a lot just not with new overhyped crap. I can list 100 records easy that I love as a whole, most released in the last 10-15 years but nobody gives a crap or has time for John Hiatt or Richard Thompson or Marshall Crenshaw or Rush or Rundgren or Wilco. Everyone is trying too hard to be the discoverer of the next big thing, they forget to bother to listen to the old stand bys. Basically unlike BBJ, I'm sick of something. Not music. That will never happen. I'm sick of bad new music

A walk in the woods said...

Great discussion. Usually I'm the one saying "Hey, I like it!" but I don't dig this single at all... it sounds so easy, so clich├ęd, so - white guys cribbin' from blacks. (Isn't almost all good music that way though, black-derived? Except folk)

I do notice review inflation - it sucks.

Nice point by William about how important reviews used to be when you had no good way to hear an LP for yourself. I still do read them though, every single issue in MOJO or UNCUT, and do get clued into new stuff that way. Same with year-end best-of lists... I try to go thru them and at least sample every much-lauded record. It doesn't always yield much, but it did give me my favorite song of last year - the song below, which I discovered from a "50 Best Songs of 2014" list:

Hamilton Leithauser
Alexandra
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTvcAm_BxQg

ag said...

All of the artists you mentioned are old school, in that they grew up in the era of great WHOLE albums, and most likely have it ingrained in their brains that their releases should be full of good material...although I will posit that not everything each has released in the last 10 years has really qualified in the WHOLE album arena.

That aside, though, not every new artist is over-hyped, and a few show great talent and promise, even if they haven't filled a WHOLE album with it. For example, I'm very impressed with John Fullbright (as you know), Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear, The London Souls, The Damnwells, Striking Matches...to name a few that have released solid albums just this year (with the exception of Fullbright, whose debut a few years back was an absolute stunner).

Like you, I can't stand bad music -- and whoever said that there is no such thing as bad music should be drawn and quartered. But there is plenty of good, new, non-overhyped music out there...just keep listening, my friend.

buzzbabyjesus said...

"Play the whole thing. Sit and love it all like you used to love WHOLE records."

J D McPherson "Let The Good Times Roll" is a recent release I've done that with.

I'm not really sick of music. I used that the describe to total boredom I feel when I hear music that sounds too much like a mediocre imitation of something I like.

"I've heard this before, but much better".

Gene Oberto said...

Why make "whole" albums at all?

Write a great song, record it well (either live or in studio) and put it out. If it flies, do it again, then again, then again and so forth. If doesn't fly, then go back and try it again, only better.

If you have only one, two or five great songs, that's all I need to hear. If you have forty minutes of great songs then, by all means, put out an album.

What we and the rest of the world doesn't need is an LP's worth of sub-standard material. That's just jerking off to say, "We put out an album!"