It Was Fifty Years Ago Today*: Why the Beatles Still Matter
*give or take a few weeks…
October 1962. The Beatles, then a relatively unknown band from Liverpool, have just released their first major label single, “Love Me Do,” recorded at Abbey Road Studios, and later make their first TV appearance. History would never be the same.
But wait, isn’t this We Ball Harder, the home of the cutting-edge, underground, and hip? Yes it fucking well is. It’s not all Light Cycles, Madeon, and desert rock round here – anything hard-balling is saluted, and musically and culturally, nobody had a bigger, harder-balling, longer-lasting impact than the Beatles.
Observator – The Raveonettes’ New Album Out Today (And it Rocks!)
I actually bought a CD today, a physical compact disc. What could prompt such ludditery? Well, the dark Danish duo have done it again and released another quality album (their sixth, or in my count, seventh) shortly on the heels of the last one. Observator, released today, showcases the mature Raveonettes in a more emotional, stripped down mood. Recorded in a week in LA, after an apparent down period in Venice Beach for Sune Rose Wagner, the album and its title translate his many reflections into music. In his own words:
“This album rose from such a dark place but ended up illuminating the gloominess and restlessness in a way I never thought possible. I honestly never thought this album would see the light of day, all the turmoil, all the craziness, all the sleepless night but in a single burst of spontaneous madness it came to be. I’m so thrilled for people to hear this new album in its entirety, it’s quite a dark ride.” (quote from NME interview)
That said, when have any of the last several Raveonettes albums not had a dark side? Well, quite.
Musically, Observator has a back-to-basics sound, with the same lush melodies and some noise, as always. It opens with pure, melancholic vocal harmony, and ends with a wall of sound. Familiar territory? Sort of, but it’s by far the cleanest, purest, warmest Raveonettes album, with fairly unaltered guitars, simple beats, and some monstrously heavy piano, especially on “Observations,” the first and best single from the album.
Some of the other songs sound like distilled versions of classics from their last three albums, and they work very well (“Sinking with the Sun”, “She Owns the Streets”, and “You Hit Me (I’m Down)”.)
Others have a more original sound that makes for an interesting deviation. We end with “Till the End,” possibly the best wall of sound, harmonic noise-epic the Raveonettes have ever done – a song that could sum up their entire career. Tight melodies, punchy beats, chimey guitars, and waves of noise. It’s the Raveonettes at their best, and for me the best track on the album.
It’s hard to believe that Sune and Sharin could put out yet another quality album just a year after releasing the achingly beautiful Raven in the Grave, but then they’ve never gone more than two years without an album. I don’t know how they do it, but they so deserve the Great Ballers status I accorded them with earlier. Observator keeps the ball rolling.
Bonus: listen to Observator in its entirety streaming at Rolling Stone
Bonus part 2: The Raveonettes are coming to DC on October 6, playing the Black Cat as they always do. If you live in the area, go!
Great Ballers of Music: Tinariwen
The band you see above, founded by political exiles in 1979 in the heart of the Sahara, started playing on homemade instruments, fought in Mu’ammar Gadhafi’s guerilla army, slowly built up an international following making few concessions to outside audiences, and just recently won a Grammy. Actually, it’s hard to imagine any greater ballers of music than this legendary, long-running outfit, whose name simply means “Deserts” in the Tuareg language. (more…)
Great Danes of Music: The Raveonettes
In a slight stylistic deviation from much of the in-your-face music I love so much, we arrive today at the Raveonettes, one of my absolute favorite currently active and touring bands. They’re somewhat well-known, but not too much. Misdemeanor-ly unappreciated if not criminally unappreciated, I suppose. In any case, they are very, very dear to my heart, and here’s why:
Great Ballers of Music: Manu Chao
Where to even begin? A true living legend, multilingual global troubadour, the leader of two amazing bands and the man behind several brilliant albums for himself and others, and a veritable musical chameleon, capable of three-hour live sets run at breakneck speed.
(Lots of good stuff and a TON of videos after the jump)
Great Ballers of Music: Marc Bolan of T. Rex
Fuck yes: if this song doesn’t make you rock the hell out and put a smile on your face, you have no business reading this blog and following our hallowed wisdom. Marc Bolan, frontman of T. Rex was a rock god par excellence. Taking his airy-fairy late 60s hippie folk band Tyrannosaurus Rex, shortening the title, adding distortion, glitter, amazing stage presence and personality, and and a simple but pervasive sense of fun, Marc Bolan INVENTED glam rock right around 1970, releasing an eponymous album that year and then the sheer masterpiece of Electric Warrior in 1971, which has unquestionably one of the greatest album covers ever:
Marc Bolan and T. Rex, who released six more albums, arguably inspired the entire glam rock movement, from Bowie to Sweet, and in turn influenced the punk movement. We are ardent fans of the glam at We Ball Harder – it rocks hard, it’s unpretentious, you can dance to it, and it does it all with style, and Marc Bolan started it all. Truly a legend among legends, and the world suffered a terrible loss in 1977 when he died (as a passenger) in a car crash at the age of 29.
More brilliance (from Electric Warrior):
Also, for the guitarists out there, while Bolan played a Strat and a Flying V, both very cool guitars, he played one of the most distinctive original 1950s Les Pauls ever, a completely faded Burst with a Custom neck added later. Sweeeet.