Greg Dulli needs little introduction in these parts, but for those who are somehow not familiar, the now-46-year-old Hamilton native came up as frontman for The Afghan Whigs in late 1980s and exploded out of the local scene via a string of visceral, dark-hued albums (the best of which, 1993's Gentlemen, continues to grow in stature) that were equally influenced by Husker Du, Prince and moody, noir-infested crime movies. Dulli's post-Whigs output has been just as compelling, including releases by The Twilight Singers, his main project. The band performs Monday at Newport’s Southgate House.
Mesmerizing local singer/songwriter Kim Taylor – who performed recently at the CMJ Music Festival in New York City — has a new five-song EP called The Greatest Story …, which is available now for about four bucks if you download it on her Web site. (In fact, all of Kim’s music is only available digitally as of now; CDs are only being sold at shows, while a vinyl version of her I Feel Like a Fading Light is due out in December.) The set will hit the iTunes store in the near future.
It’s funny that The Fray are called what they’re called, because they hardly ever leave any loose threads or ragged edges — whether on their perfectly-produced, radio-friendly songs or live in concert. The piano rock band is so harmless and clean-cut that they probably couldn’t hurt a fly if their lives depended on it.
It’s no surprise, then, that their concert at PNC Pavilion Monday night, opened by Richard Swift and alt-rock band Jack’s Mannequin, felt like a quintessentially American outdoor summer party: laid-back, pleasant and totally innocuous.
There is no mystery in music anymore.
I‘ve been trying to find a scapegoat to blame for this. Most notably, I’d like to blame KISS for taking off their make-up in ’83, unveiling the Demon and Star Child as just a couple of goofy-looking New Yorkers dressed up like extras from a Dokken video.
But as much as I’d love to blame KISS for taking the mystery out of music (Gene Simmons ruins most things so it was a good guess), the problem really lies with the internet and the digital age we are consumed by. (Thanks, Al Gore!) When was the last time you went on Google and couldn’t find what you were looking for? With a few easy clicks, you can find answers to some of life’s most important questions like, "Who was the second guy from Wham?" (Andrew Ridgeley) and was Liam Neeson actually on an episode of Miami Vice (yes, he was).
But even with the constant flow of status updates, tweets and information that has caught Americans in this perpetual technology loop, over the last five months there has been one artist that has captured some sense of anonymity in the music industry. That artist is Captain Murphy.
For those of you who don’t know who Captain Murphy is, don’t worry. No one does.
When Captain Murphy burst onto the scene with his impressive verse on Flying Lotus’ Adult Swim single, “Between Friends," the music media and Hip Hop heads alike immediately got a raging hard-on for the guy. His use of voice modulation and his style, which carries the complexities of MF DOOM’s flow with just a hint of the silly attitude of Tyler, The Creator, caused a sea of speculation about his identity and spawned more gossip than when Honey Boo Boo Child gets pregnant before her My Super Sweet 16 special.
After the release of “Between Friends,” Murphy has intermittently dropped singles over the last couple months, turning the internet into his own personal Gotham City (Murphy playing the part of the Dark Knight) and leaving every music journalist and tons of Hip Hop fans trying to figure out who the hell is playing Bruce Wayne.
Now, Captain Murphy has dropped his mix tape, Duality, which takes the listener on a 35-minute Psychedelic Hip Hop excursion into the mind of a cult leader and has only heightened the anxiety attacks over his true identity.
But what’s the point?
Can we, journalist and fans, just relish in the secrecy of this up and coming artist without freaking the fuck out about it? I know that our job as journalists is to report information that people want/need to know, but I didn’t think obsessing over people who just want to make music and making their lives more difficult was in the job description.
The perfect example is last year’s music industry enigma, Earl Sweatshirt.
When the music media received news that Earl Sweatshirt, the most mysterious figure of the then-exploding Odd Future gang, was nowhere to be found, they began foaming at the mouth. The “Free Earl” campaign and the lack of knowledge of his whereabouts were covered by everyone from bottom feeder music blogs to The New York Times. But while Earl wasn’t even in the country (he was allegedly located at a troubled boy’s camp in Samoa), America was getting their rocks off on glorifying him as Hip Hop’s second coming and propelling him into stardom and fame before he was even old enough to vote.
Sweatshirt tackles this invasion of privacy on his latest single “Chum,” when he spits, “Tolerance for boundaries, I know you happy now/Craven and these Complex fuck niggas done track me down/Just to be the guys that did it, like I like attention/Not the type where niggas trying to get a raise at my expense/Supposed to be grateful, right, like thanks so much you made my life/Harder and the ties between my mom and I strained and tightened/Even more than they were before all of this shit/Been back a week and I already feel like calling it quits.”
It’s a shame that our insatiable infatuation with artists has been pushed to the point where we force young creators like Sweatshirt (and, to an extent, the seemingly fragile mainstream crossover star Frank Ocean) to want to give up on their budding careers, but what if the consequences were more severe? Sure, this constant media intrusion could push Earl to quit rapping and that would be a terrible loss of potential in the Rap game. But what if instead of quitting, this media malpractice pushed him to the bottle and drugs like Amy Winehouse or even a shotgun like Kurt Cobain?
On a smaller scale, it’s the same kind of information-driven OCD that makes people sign off of Facebook only to almost simultaneously check the Facebook app on their phones. Many of us now have an endless need to be in the know.
But in more serious cases, it’s the kind of obsessive behavior that caused fans like Michael Abram to break into George Harrison’s house and stab him in ’99, caused Mark Chapman to shoot John Lennon in Manhattan in ’80 or Nathan Gale to shoot “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott in that Columbus nightclub in ’04.
We have an opportunity to change this "gotta know now!" behavior with Captain Murphy. Here’s my proposal — every copy of Captain Murphy’s first album should include a prescription for Xanax and Prozac (maybe even a spliff or two for our friends out in Colorado). Maybe that would allow everyone to enjoy the music without having a mental breakdown about who is making it.
In the end, if Murphy doesn’t want us to know his identity, then we don’t need to know his identity. So unless the Captain is 2Pac revitalizing his career under this new alias, let’s all just keep calm and enjoy the mystery. While it lasts.
UPDATE: Aaaaand that didn't last too long. No more mysteries! Captain Murphy was revealed to be Flying Lotus (details here).
At the City & Colour concert at Bogart's a while back, I watched as a woman in the front row texted her way through both of the great opening acts. I glanced around and discovered that she wasn’t the only one. I figured everyone would surely stop when Dallas Green and the rest of C&C took to the stage. Three songs in and the crowd was still lit up by glowing phones.
Everywhere I looked people were texting, tweeting, facebooking or recording the night away. Often, both members of a couple would be recording the same song. As if the iPhone 12 inches to the left might just capture something different from theirs. I watched as a group of friends passed around a cell phone with a message from another friend who, I assume, wasn’t present (or maybe they were just three feet over). Meanwhile, the band played on.
This left me disappointed in humanity.
Leafing through the latest edition of The New Yorker I was greeted with the Dolce & Gabbana ad at the right, which features actor/professional narcissist Matthew McConaughey with his shirt unbuttoned down to his navel, waxed chest exposed for all to ogle. I have one question for the marketing peeps at D&G: Is this image supposed to entice me to buy your cologne, dubbed The One, which is described as a "fragrance for men"?
Rockers Papa Roach hit the scene in 2000 with their most successful studio album, Infest. Six albums later, they are still headlining tours and festivals across the country including this weekend’s Rock on the Range in Columbus.
I was able to catch up with the man behind the music, Jacoby Shaddix, the lead vocalist. The two discussed the hard times and redemption that led to Papa Roach's most recent album, The Connection, released late last year.
Papa Roach plays Rock on the Range's Main Stage Saturday
afternoon, getting the night ready for Three Days Grace, Stone Sour and
The Smashing Pumpkins. Find full Rock on the Range details here.
CityBeat: What is your favorite Rock on the Range memory?
Jacoby Shaddix: Shit man, coming in headlining the second stage and utterly fucking demolishing it and being the only band asked back the next year to play the Main Stage and crushing it again.
CB: If you could trade places with anybody for one month who would it be?
JS: My wife.
JS: I just want both of us to live our lives in each other’s shoes for a month. I think we both would learn a lot. I know that it is not the super mega-kick ass Rock star answer, but that is some real shit.
CB: I know you wrote the last album through some of the toughest times of your life. Are any of the songs hard to play for you personally?
JS: No, they are just really good reminders. It is like I had to re-calibrate my life and re-focus myself on what my priorities were in my life and what was important to me and where I wanted to put myself five years from now and 10 years from now. All the decisions I made in the process of making this record I believe are some of the most important decisions that I’ll make in my lifetime. I think the songs are real good reminders of that desperate place that I once was.
CB: Well my favorite song on the album when it came out was “Where Did the Angels Go”…
JS: We had a No. 1 Rock track with that song, which was fucking awesome.
CB: Can you tell me the story behind the song?
JS: As we were making the record, me and my wife had split up at that time and I was strung out again. It is no secret that I have substance abuse issues and I was caught up again and I finally decided that enough is enough. I had to stop and that just utter desperation of hanging on to life by a thread and just feeling completely alone and so broken and not really knowing if I was going to be OK. I just finally realized how much my demons ate me alive and it was time to get myself back and that is where that song came from, utter desperation.
CB: Is it hard to be on the road and stay sober?
JS: Not this time around. It used to be really hard. I have a network of sober musicians I stay really close with and I have a support group through that.
It is finally clear to me in my life I can’t fucking drink, I can’t do drugs, because it eats me alive. I am finally on the road enjoying my life. I faced a lot of demons in the process of getting sober again and I finally put a lot of stuff to rest. I am trying to work on being in the moment, like some of that Buddhist-type culture philosophy — if I am not here now then what is the point? If I am not feeling the moment, then what is the point of my life. Just focusing on that, my spirituality makes all this other stuff that goes on out here on the road way more tolerable and way more fun.
CB: Have you ever had an experience that led you to believe in angels?
JS: I don’t necessarily have a grasp on the idea of angels. I have an understanding of people that have come like saviors in a sense, people that have been sent to me by my higher power to show me and guide me out of the darkness. I had to be broken down to realize I needed help.
CB: People have shown up at the right time?
CB: If you could ask one question to a psychic about your future what would you ask?
JS: I wouldn’t ask anything. I wouldn’t want to know. What do you want to know? Are you going to live different or some shit? I’d rather let it be. Let the future be what it is going to be.
CB: What does your perfect day look like?
JS: Perfect day — wake up next to my wife, sex right off the bat. Then go downstairs and cook breakfast for my kids, take them to school, go for a run, dance with my wife, go fishing with my brother-in-law in the bayou swamp, stretch out and warm up, play a Rock & Roll show, then fall asleep next to my wife. That sounds pretty fucking kick ass.
CB: I know your songs that you write are very autobiographical. Have you considered writing a book or a memoir in the future?
JS: Oh definitely, that is something I am going to definitely do in my life. 100 percent.
CB: No immediate plans?
JS: No immediate plans, but I have put pen to paper. It is something that I can craft as I go along.
CB: What can the fans expect this weekend at Rock on the Range?
JS: A fan that is on fucking fire. We have been doing these festivals, May is a big festival month, and we have been fucking annihilating audiences. We just devastated Carolina Rebellion, just ripped that shit up, we had a great show. Fort Rock in Florida, Rockville down in Florida. Memphis in May was awesome at the Beale Street Festival. That was rippin’. I just feel like we are tuned up and primed for these big festivals. I have to say, all these other bands, bring your fucking A-game because P Roach is coming to town and we have come to rip it.
CB: Memphis was awesome. I saw most of the set. It was awesome. It was great as always. I look forward to shooting you guys again. Smile for the camera on Saturday.
JS: Fuck yeah. Cool. We will see you Saturday.
Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights is a Dallas-based rock band with a great southern rock sound. The band is made up of frontman Jonathan Tyler, guitarist Brandon Pinckard, bassist Nick Jay, vocalist Emotion Brown and drummer Jordan Cain. They have released one album, Pardon Me, that includes the acclaimed song Gypsy Woman.
I caught up with the band after their early Sunday morning rocking performance at the Voodoo Experience Festival in New Orleans last weekend.
During the past year CityBeat has spent a lot of
energy reporting on countless Republican screw-ups, from typical
shortsighted policies to legislation that is straight-up offensive to women,
minorities, gay people and the poor and working class. But we didn’t
realize that by pointing out how offensive and irrelevant the country’s
GOP leaders were acting, that we were inadvertently killing America.
That's why we would like to formally apologize to the Lebanon tea party in Warren County. The email you sent to The Enquirer today hit us pretty hard — the fact that you’re literally wearing black and mourning America because “socialists, welfare and unions took over this country” is super sad. In our haste to ask questions of elected leaders, fact check their statements and put their beliefs and policies into perspective over the past few months, we forgot how badly people in Warren County wish America could be like the 1950s again, when women knew their place and black people had to operate the elevators and never say anything whites didn’t want to hear. Mad Men is a great show.
We didn’t mean to be tricked by President Obama’s stimulus bill — we (stupidly) believed the economists who said it staved off a depression caused by under-regulation of the housing and financial industries (we tried to believe Mitt Romney’s concept of further reducing regulations so the job-creators can stimulate the economy in the private sector thus giving our wealth back to us, but it was maybe too complicated for us to understand?).
Some people we know kept their jobs when the president didn’t allow the American car companies to go broke even though they’re the ones that decided to max out profits on SUVs with truck beds on the back. Other people we know spent time last year without health care, and this country’s health care costs are somewhere around twice as much as any other country’s so we were like, “Yea, reforming that system sounds about right.” But we admit that we don’t know what it’s going to be like for the 15 percent of this country living in poverty to all of the sudden have access to preventative care. Someone in Cincinnati died of a tooth problem last year, and we don’t even know if that’s covered.
We realize that it wasn’t Mitt Romney who used the term “legitimate rape,” but it made us want to throw up, which slowed down productivity that might have allowed us to figure out that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was the only thing keeping our country’s military from turning Afghanistan into a European-style gay disco.
We thought it was kind of gross when the president killed Osama bin Laden, but everyone was really happy about it so we focused our attention on the results of the president’s home buying and refinancing programs that helped stimulate the economy and saved people’s houses, even though we’re all a bunch of renters who don’t even know how to use a level.
So we’re clearly at fault for your expectation of the downfall of this country, and we realize that you’re upset and probably right about America becoming a socialist nation within months. We messed up bad this time, but we want you to know that we’re not blind to it — your press release has put our actions into a perspective that we wish we had yesterday or, even better, several years ago before we learned how to do our jobs the right way.
At least you have the local daily newspaper to publish your emotional reactions to historical election results and to continue endorsing GOP candidates no matter how ill qualified and misguided they are. Please don’t mourn long — there’s still hope for the type of social regression you’re looking for, especially in Warren County.