Pink Floyd has seen quite a resurgence in interest these past couple of years. Since the blog began, I have referenced them often. There was the amazing Dark Side of the Moon cover album headlined by the Flaming Lips (Flaming Lips’ brilliant take on Dark Side of the Moon). Then Roger Waters began his global tour where he performed the Wall in its entirety (Waters’s ‘the Wall’ live cements theme with vivid production). Now comes a comprehensive campaign reissuing and remastering the band’s entire back catalog, including some insanely thorough box set treatments for several albums.

Earlier this month, EMI Records continued its “Why Pink Floyd?” campaign with its second “immersion” box set, the five-disc CD/DVD/Blu-ray of Pink Floyd’s 1975 masterpiece Wish You Were Here (Support Independent Ethos, purchase on Amazon). On Black Friday, indie record stores will offer an exclusive 7-inch vinyl box set of the singles spawned by that other masterpiece by Pink Floyd, 1979’s the Wall, thanks to those Record Store Day people (Here are a couple of indie stores in my area that should be carrying it: Radio-Active Records and Sweat Records). That album will also receive the “immersion” treatment in February of next year (Support Independent Ethos, purchase on Amazon).

Already available are a couple of compilations, an immersion set for Dark Side of the Moon (Support Independent Ethos, purchase on Amazon), not to mention vinyl  versions of the albums selected for the immersion sets already out or yet to be released. Then, of course, there are the individual remastered albums issued on CD. Frankly, the immersion sets with all their subtle variation of the same album are quite overwhelming to a casual Pink Floyd fan, such as myself. For instance, check out the details on Dark Side of the Moon (copy and pasted from Amazon’s description):

DISC 1 – CD 1:

The Dark Side Of The Moon digitally remastered by James Guthrie 2011

DISC 2 – CD 2:

The Dark Side Of The Moon performed live at Wembley in 1974 (2011 Mix and previously unreleased)

DISC 3 – DVD 1, ALL AUDIO:

- The Dark Side Of The Moon, James Guthrie 2003 5.1 Surround Mix (previously released only on SACD) in standard resolution audio at 448 kbps
– The Dark Side Of The Moon, James Guthrie 2003 5.1 Surround Mix (previously released only on SACD) in high resolution audio at 640 kbps
– The Dark Side Of The Moon, LPCM Stereo mix (as disc 1)
– The Dark Side Of The Moon, Alan Parsons Quad Mix (previously released only on vinyl LP/8 track tape in 1973) in standard resolution audio at 448 kbps
– The Dark Side Of The Moon, Alan Parsons Quad Mix (previously released only on vinyl LP/8 track tape in 1973) in high resolution audio at 640 kbps

DISC 4 – DVD 2, ALL AUDIO VISUAL:

-Live In Brighton 1972:
Careful With That Axe, Eugene (previously unreleased on DVD)
Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun (previously unreleased on DVD)
-The Dark Side Of The Moon, 2003 documentary (25 min EPK)
-Concert Screen Films (60 min total):
British Tour 1974
French Tour 1974
North American Tour 1975

Screen films play in stereo and 5.1 Surround Sound

DISC 5 – BLURAY, AUDIO+AUDIO VISUAL

-AUDIO: The Dark Side Of The Moon, James Guthrie 2003 5.1 Surround Mix (previously released only on SACD) in high resolution audio at 96 kHz/24-bit
-AUDIO: The Dark Side Of The Moon, Original stereo mix (1973) mastered in high resolution audio at 96 kHz/24-bit
-AUDIO VISUAL: Live In Brighton 1972:
Careful With That Axe, Eugene (previously unreleased on DVD/BluRay)
Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun (previously unreleased on DVD/BluRay)
-AUDIO VISUAL: The Dark Side Of The Moon, 2003 documentary (EPK)
-AUDIO VISUAL: Concert Screen Films (5.1 Surround Mix):
British Tour 1974
French Tour 1974
North American Tour 1975
-AUDIO VISUAL: Concert Screen Films (High Resolution Stereo Mix):
British Tour 1974
French Tour 1974
North American Tour 1975

DISC 6  – CD3:

-The Dark Side Of The Moon 1972 Early Album Mix engineered by Alan Parsons (previously unreleased)
– The Hard Way (from ‘Household Objects’ project)
– Us And Them, Richard Wright Demo (previously unreleased)
– The Travel Sequence, live from Brighton June 1972 (previously unreleased)
– The Mortality Sequence, live from Brighton June 1972 (previously unreleased)
– Any Colour You Like, live from Brighton June 1972 (previously unreleased)
– The Travel Sequence, studio recording 1972 (previously unreleased)
– Money, Roger Waters’ demo (previously unreleased)

40 page 27cm x 27cm booklet designed by Storm Thorgerson

Exclusive photo book edited by Jill Furmanovsky

27cm x 27cm Exclusive Storm Thorgerson Art Print

5 x Collectors’ Cards featuring art and comments by Storm Thorgerson

Replica of The Dark Side Of The Moon Tour Ticket

Replica of The Dark Side Of The Moon Backstage Pass

Scarf

3 x Black marbles

9 x Coasters (unique to this box) featuring early Storm Thorgerson design sketches

12 page credits booklet

When I first saw those details my head began to hurt. This is clearly designed for the certain Pink Floyd fan in mind. In this post you will learn I am not that kind of fan (though maybe I am for David Bowie). Still, I do take Pink Floyd’s influence on popular and alternative music seriously. I even have a deep affection for much of their output. I can also get pretty passionate about which records in the Floyd canon matter.

My awareness of the band started in the late seventies, on local FM radio but also on the TV show I used to love as a kid: “WKRP in Cincinnati:”

Having watched that clip as a little, elementary school kid, it stuck with me and probably even informed the sort of music appreciator I am today (thank you, Dr. Johnny Fever). As the punk rock scene emerged in the same country that spawned Pink Floyd around that time, Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten lumped them in his “boring old farts” category. Dance crazes from pogoing to disco to techno came and went. Yet, Pink Floyd continued to matter. If progressive rock ever had a figurehead it would be Pink Floyd. But the Floyd also transcended that genre by finding a presence on the pop charts and even influencing “progressive” musicians of today. Just listen to the birds and acoustic guitar that opens Radiohead’s “Giving Up the Ghost” from their new album the King of Limbs. Pink Floyd did something similar on “Grantchester Meadows” from 1969’s Ummagumma.  Today, these reissued albums are at the upper parts of the selling charts on Amazon.

Yes, this is some popular music, but Pink Floyd attained this popularity by maintaining an independent ethos many bands and musicians of their stature have never been afforded. They made albums with entire sides of one record dedicated to a single song and still made a lucrative impact on the music charts. Most recently, they famously fought against allowing iTunes to sell single songs out of context of an album.

This band is an independent force, whose creativity reshaped the popular music world. With this recent re-release of the Pink Floyd catalog, remastered by James Guthrie, Pink Floyd’s engineer since the Wall, I’ve spent several weeks re-experiencing the entire catalog. It gave me a chance to really go back and spend time with some albums I have not heard in years and some I’ve also never grown tired of, not to mention a few surprises I have never given a chance. But, I’m not oblivious to the fact Pink Floyd also brewed up some dull work that never totally clicked, be it in a stretch to find their elusive greatness in some of their early albums to their post-Wall implosion.

It was not until the Shine On box set saw release in 1992 that I actually gave Pink Floyd any space in my music collection. I had just begun writing music reviews in ‘zines and my college paper, not to mention spent a fair amount of time as DJ and later program director and my college radio station. I felt obligated to get to know this band. The packaging of Shine On— though pricey for an undergrad— was impressive, and I had a friend who worked at a Sound Warehouse who could buy it for me with his employee discount.

The collection contained a selection of key albums, promoted as their best works by those who compiled the set. The band was officially involved, but it did not include Roger Waters any longer, who famously sued or tried to sue the remaining members for continuing on as Pink Floyd without him. This bias is apparent in the album choices featured in the set. Like most, I recognized its short-coming in including the post-Roger Waters album, 1987’s A Momentary Lapse of Reason, over the band’s Syd Barret-led debut full-length, 1967’s Piper of the Gates of Dawn (guitarist/vocalist David Gilmour had yet to join Pink Floyd). I still got into all the albums inside, very gradually, except for parts of Momentary Lapse of Reason, which still has a dated eighties-era quality and lacked the odd flavor Waters brought to the band. I still own all those versions of the albums, though the outer box wore out practical use over the years, but at least the spines of the CDs look cool lined up on the shelf, as seen in the image below:

Now, having finally spent time with the entirety of Pink Floyd’s catalog (all 16 full-length albums, including the soundtracks for two Barbet Schroeder films: More from 1969 and Obscured By Clouds the soundtrack to his 1972 film the Valley), a more complete picture comes to light of the band, not to mention some of the clear improvements in the sonics of these albums. Of course there will also be naysayers and purists who will protest any tinkering to the original releases (some people want to hear tape hiss in the music, which I think is just as bad as hearing surface noise on vinyl). But, when you listen to this new 2011 version of the Wall and can clearly make out words that sounded a bit indecipherable in earlier releases, you know something was done right in the remastering process. On the con side of this new remaster of the Wall, cues for “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2″ and “Young Lust” will not please many who want to isolate those tracks for whatever reason. Then again, this is a concept album that deserves a full contextual listen.

Speaking of the Wall, the first Pink Floyd album where Waters wrote all the lyrics, one new observation I made of his choice lyric pattern became apparent while hearing “Mother” from that album, “Brain Damage” from Dark Side of the Moon, “Wish You Were Here” from the album of the same name and “If” from Atom Heart Mother (maybe others?). He changes the number of syllables per line every so often and ever so slightly in an odd but still rhythmic pattern that bolsters the impact of his words, which are often very self-reflexive, tortured and existential. It clearly makes him the stand out lyricist of the band.

Pink Floyd’s great Waters-penned songs, however, only adds to the disappointment of 1983’s the Final Cut, where Waters entirely took creative control, leaving the other band members with almost bit parts, equivalent to the components of the National Philharmonic Orchestra featured throughout. Subtitled “A Requiem for the Post War Dream by Roger Waters” on the back cover, this album was to be a sequel to the Wall, where Waters bemoans his lot in life, growing up fatherless in post-war 1950s England. But he also stretches into the then current Cold War era of politics and society in the wordy album, where more is just too much, detracting from Waters’ strengths as a lyricist. Its ambitious and falls flat. Again, sonics are improved throughout, which does great justice to much of the subtlety of the album’s softer moments, as well as the many bombastic ones. Waters’ scream in “The Gunner’s Dream” bleeds into the screech of saxophone seamlessly. Though again, the effect can sound a bit over-the-top, typical of the entire album.

Listening to all these albums, reveals the fine line Pink Floyd often walked that frequently dipped into greatness. Atom Heart Mother‘s single-track A-side, the 24-minute “Atom Heart Mother Suite” reaches too hard, plodding along with its overly dramatic horns, obtrusive samples and Gilmour’s bored strumming. But then, just a year later comes “Echoes” on the B-side of Meddle. The orchestrations are gone and the band has found a place for some evocative lyrics. “Atom Heart Mother Suite” has its moments, especially during its middle guitar vs. organ jam and the softer, creepier chorus of voices. However, the grooving in it never comes close to the dynamic quality of “Echoes.” That track knows how to start soft and build dramatic crescendos with just the key players that are Pink Floyd: Waters on a soulful, solid bass, Gilmour soaring on guitar while breezily singing lead, keyboardist Rick Wright offering luscious, swinging organ bits, and drummer Nick Mason providing his decorative, scatter shot rhythms. One of Pink Floyd’s less celebrated apexes in the recording studio. I love the fact that a tremendously shot live version was caught on film for one of the most amazing Pink Floyd live videos available, Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii (though the Meddle version eclipses its performance power):

I can go back and forth about where Pink Floyd succeed (Animals is a tight, powerful concept album) and stumble (Most of the noodling on the studio album of Ummagumma goes nowhere and sounds like the soundtrack of a psychedelic B-grade horror movie). However, I cannot fail to pay tribute to the presence of Syd Barrett in the band’s early career. Like Waters, he too seemed obsessed with the subject of the mind and perception. Maybe it was the acid, but his lyrical contribution comes from a world beyond Waters’ depressed realm. No one could capture the “Twilight Zone” quality of Barrett’s words, from the opening lines of the opening track on Pink Floyd’s debut full-length, 1967’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn: “Lime and limpid green a second scene/A fight between the blue you once knew” to the closing lines of the final track of the final Barret/Pink Floyd album, 1967’s A Saucerful of Secrets: “And the sea isn’t green/And I love the Queen/And what exactly is a dream/And what exactly is a joke.” Barrett would go on to be institutionalized for paranoid schizophrenia, the result of his well-known abuse of LSD, and then die whilst living at home with his mother in 2006 of complications from diabetes. Barrett was a living legend, madness personified, yet he seemed in tune with the greater mystery of existence in this universe that few know and understand.

I barely found a blemish in the results of the remasters. Though, as noted, the new remastering process has made some of the blemishes of Pink Floyd’s catalog pop, like Gilmour’s aforementioned languorous strums in the “Atom Heart Mother Suite.” For every such moment, there is the redemption of hearing all of the fervor of Gilmour’s playing in the guitar solo of “Money.” However, on the live disc Ummagumma some tape hiss remains (it becomes most apparent during the hushed opening of “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”), and some of the audience applause comes across flat and trebly. Still, the performance, for the most part, never sounded cleaner. These four tracks almost sound like studio outtakes. Tape hiss is an inherent problem for many pre-digital albums released on CD. With A Saucerful of Secrets, I noticed less tape hiss in this new version of the album as opposed to the 1992 remaster from the Shine On set, however. It has been cleaned up so well, that I can finally hear the slowly swelling and throbbing minor key drones beneath the quiet din that opens the title track. That part of the track never stood out until now.

It is hard to cover all 16 of these gloriously remastered works in one blog post, and this has probably gone on long enough. So one last note: for those seeking key bonus tracks, none of the albums have been marred in flow with tacked on studio outtakes or live versions, except on supplemental discs on two albums selected as “experience” versions. Particularly outstanding is the complete live version of Dark Side of the Moon at Wembley Arena in 1974 in the “experience” version of that same album.

There is also the “experience” version of Wish You Were Here, featuring an early live version of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” also recorded in 1974 at Wembley. Though labeled as Parts 1 – 6, it is actually nearly finished up to Part 8 (the studio album is book-ended with “Shine On (Parts 1-5)” and “Shine On (Parts 6-9)”). Even more interesting are lengthy embryonic live versions of “Sheep” and “Dogs,” from the 1977 Animals album, presented alternately as “Raving and Drooling” and “You Gotta Be Crazy,” recorded at the same show.

Though I turned on to Pink Floyd later in my life as fan of alternative and progressive rock, I had been keenly aware of them on the radio as a kid. Later on, I could also always count on a few teenage friends who either had Floyd in their collection, if not their parents. Like the Beatles, I took them for granted, but I never failed to recognize their important role in the history of popular art rock. The mass of their work reveals a few bumps in the road, but they indeed merit this broad remastering treatment by EMI.

Note: EMI provided review copies of all the 2011 remastered CDs for the purposes of this post.

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

The Flaming Lips are back to releasing new music, though no proper album is in the works. Last month, they announced the first part of what seems will become an epic track. It’s all super-convoluted for a casual Lips fan like myself (read all about it here), though many familiar with this blog know I have celebrated the band on many an occasion (Flaming Lips overwhelm at the House of Blues, Orlando, October 16, 2010; Flaming Lips’ version of Darkside coming to vinyl, March 18, 2010 <– to note but two posts).

What really re-sparked my Flaming interest was word of a very limited vinyl EP, in collaboration with Neon Indian, entitled “Is David Bowie Dying?” It was released very low-key and by word-of-mouth with certain indie stores having exclusive access to the record directly from the band. There was even a signing with singer Wayne Coyne himself at one shop. A great chronicle of this release can be found on the band’s message board, right here, which is maintained by Lips fans. Supposedly no two vinyl records are the same color. A nice array of the colored vinyls can be found at Amy Brown’s Facebook page, which she shared with fellow Lips fans via the message board. The pictures were taken at the shop were Coyne appeared to sign the records (images of him doing so are there too).

No, I have yet to personally obtain a physical copy, but I am working on it and have hopes that more stores will get it, thanks to a message re-Tweeted by Coyne stating the following:

“Don’t pay Ebay prices for new Lips vinyl – more stores should have today or tomorrow! Good Records, Grimeys, Electric Fetus.

Stores that should have them today or tomorrow: Dwelling Spaces (Tulsa), Other Music (NYC), Luna Records (Indianapolis)

More copies of the new Lips vinyl will be available in 2 weeks.”

And, you know what? You can hear it all on YouTube, which is fair enough, considering how frustrated some Lips fans have been in getting their own copy:

Now, listen to the music (nice, stark and appropriate), because beyond the details of the “marketing” behind this vinyl record, what is most interesting to look at, especially for me as a long-time Bowie fan, is the title of this record (a search for Bowie’s name in this blog will reveal just how often I have covered the retired godfather of alt-rock and my top favorite artist in music’s history).

Any true Bowie fan will not be as much offended by the title as have a severe feeling of deja vu. With the last Bowie original full-length release having happened in 2003 with Reality (Support the Independent Ethos, buy the album on Amazon.com), I too have wondered this very question in recent years, but not in a literal sense.

Bowie was in renaissance mode with his last two albums, which also included 2002’s Heathen (Support the Independent Ethos, buy the album on Amazon.com), when he quietly by gradually retired from recording music and touring. Both albums were produced by the man who also produced Bowie’s all-important Berlin trilogy, Tony Visconti and were his best since Buddha of Suburbia (Support the Independent Ethos, buy the album on Amazon.com).

I love the Lips and I love Bowie, and I love that they ask a deep question on the state of Bowie, beyond the man. I am comfortable with it because, at least in my world of perception, Bowie will never die. His legacy in music has forever found its place. If the question has any relevance at all, it is in asking whether musicians or fans of music are now are losing touch with Bowie’s musical value. I meet more and more casual music fans who hear the name David Bowie who are more and more likely to not know his name. One day might this pass into the progressive alt-rock world? Is it starting to happen now? The question is valid, and the music is suitable, but it might just be a little premature.

For any Bowie fans offended by the title, no, the Flaming Lips (incidentally the warmest most loving band I have ever seen live)  mean no malice to Mr. Bowie’s health. According to a Lips fan identifying himself as Mr. Modular on this thread via the unofficial Flaming Lips message board: “Etched into the vinyl on the A side it says ‘The Flaming Lips Hope David Bowie Isn’t Dying!!!’ and on the B side it says ‘The Flaming Lips will always love you!!!'”

Finally, there seemed to have been a hint regarding this release, be it coincidence, synchronicity or chance, not too long before the EP’s release via the ‘net. About a week ago, just a few days before the release of “Is David Bowie Dying?”, someone posted the following vintage concert poster from a show headlined by the Flaming Lips:

Notice who has the biggest crop of hair in that shot and no face? It is probably the most iconic image of Bowie’s album covers, Aladdin Sane:

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Summing up “Rocktober”

November 2, 2010

After a too long dry spell of visiting bands in South Florida, October was packed with out-of-town acts I wanted to see live. I even missed some, like Matt and Kim, Massive Attack and Thievery Corporation due to the overlap of shows. I even couldn’t drag myself out to see Caribou because I was too dang tired from the week before! It was a first for South Florida, as far as I was concerned. Hopefully we’ll have more of these kind of months.

I did a lot of comparing of the shows in my resulting live reviews, so let me sum up some of the standards, here.

Best performance

Hands down went to LCD Soundsystem. I have never seen such a large band of musicians gel so strong on stage, while keeping a groove with such consistency. One song after another infected the system. It was a transcendental experience of music. I was buzzing for days afterward on the natural high of their sounds, and I am dying to see them again. I had high expectations based on their albums and they surpassed them. Heck, they are among the best live bands I have seen in my life.

Best show

Anther band with high expectations going in: the Flaming Lips. I had only seen them live once before, a few years ago, but these guys were able to put on a show that demanded a follow-up. That called for a trip to Orlando, as previous plans would mean we would miss their geographically closer weekend show in Boca Raton. It was well worth the drive and hotel stay.

With their confetti canons and costumed friends dancing at the side of the stage, and lots of other surprises, the show was an unrelenting experience. Beyond that, singer Wayne Coyne showed a masterful connection with the audience. He was on stage even during the opening act, Le Butcherettes, just on the sidelines, cheering them on and waving at the audience. Throughout, he was in constant dialogue with the fans, be it an opening speech about the hazards of their bright lights or in the deeper moments of the music. There was no band with that much flash and that much connection this month or that I have probably ever experienced.

Most surprising opening act

I had never heard Beach House until they opened for Vampire Weekend. Of all the opening acts I caught this month, Beach House proved the most absorbing. Their glowing pyramids on stage proved them the showiest of the bunch. Even with the terrible sound that made Victoria Legrand’s lyrics mostly unintelligible, their dreamy sounds shown through. It was the only opening band who compelled me to buy a record after the show.

Biggest let down

Vampire Weekend directly followed Beach House but left me cold. I had been regretting missing their stop at the Fillmore during their support of their last album, but now I am over it. They went through the motions of connecting with the audience, but it was all a bunch of clichéd arena antics.

They certainly did their music justice, but the energy seemed canned. Out of all the shows, this is the one that most felt like a cabaret show.

Best effort transcending Fillmore’s stage

Most of these shows took place at Miami Beach’s Fillmore. None projected themselves beyond the stage better than Phoenix. They used screens and a light show meant for the theater and not just on stage, and singer Thomas Mars threw himself into the crowd more than once. He was the only singer I saw at the Fillmore this month do that, so props for him on that effort.

It was also the friendliest crowd (sure, Lips fans are friendly, but they are mostly high). They may have stormed the stage, but only after Mars started yanking people up and inviting them to do so. Otherwise, there was no moshing or even pushing throughout the set, and I was right up front. I was even able to have some nice conversations with the strangers around me about music. A roadie handed two of the teenage girls I was talking with after-show passes because, he said, they smiled at him.

Most challenging

Yes, the band with poppy hits like “Kids” and “Electric Feel” proved the most challenging. As a music fan born of an appreciation for Bowie and art rock, MGMT exceeded my expectations live at the Miami Beach Fillmore, as I heard stories of drug-fueled, slack performances in the past. For all I know those were false because these guys certainly did justice to their music, which is probably the most complex and challenging music of all of the bands I saw over the course of October.

I also read grumblings about the set list in a major magazine review, and the fact that the band did their hits early and lost steam from then on (I forgot which magazine this was, but I’ll save them the embarrassment). To me, one of the most inspired actions by the band was to diverge from their own set list, as described thanks to a photographer’s report here. The highlight was their 10-minute version of “The Handshake” mixed with Magazine’s coda for “Burst” followed by their 12-minute early-period Pink Floyd/Beach Boys prog-rock epic “Siberian Breaks.” I caught both on video (though “Siberian Breaks” was cut halfway through due to space limits on my SD chip):

During these two moments, I never saw so many walkouts of people who were clearly there to hear the hits and leave. Sure, they got to hear the seventies-inspired disco cut “Electric Feel,” but they would miss “Kids,” which capped this near half-hour prog-rock rock odyssey. I hope MGMT keep searching the prog in their blood.

(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

MGMT are at a crossroads, and their problem came wholly to life during a live show at Miami Beach’s Fillmore theater the other night. The alternative pop/psych-rock outfit straddles a daring line by dabbling in progressive rock while also being responsible for constructing some all-too perfect disco-pop songs, which has hurtled them to the top of the charts. The execution of both forms and the reactions to both were on vivid display last night at the Fillmore.

First some context: When their second album, Congratulations, debuted earlier this year, it nearly unseated Justin Bieber’s album on the top of the Billboard charts, reaching number two but falling off steadily after. When the article appeared on Entertainment Weekly’s Music Mix blog, some fans of both Bieber and MGMT admitted to owning both albums.

What an unpleasant irony. MGMT have striven all along to be an art-rock group, and they have proven their knack for amazing music by constructing both groovy retro funk ditties like “Electric Feel” while also pulling off moody spacey-psych experiments like “Future Reflections,” both from their debut album Oracular Spectacular, which shot them to indie and even pop stardom.

In an article on Billboard.com, just ahead of the release of Congratulations, MGMT’s founding members, Andrew Vanwyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, expressed their apprehension of success and the pressures that come with the expectations for a band as successful as MGMT. What at first began as an ironic joke– mixing progressive music with a sure-handed approach to pop– has become a burden, and that drama visibly unfolded on Fillmore’s stage last night.

The all-ages show certainly attracted the rambunctious teenie boppers, as evidenced by the screams that greet and end each song I captured on video below. We tried to make it to the front with the aid of our fastlane tickets, but were overtaken by running kids who crushed us into the barricade. Despite ending up right up front, we gave up our spot to two small girls behind us and headed for the balcony to take in the show leaning back in chairs and calmly drinking beers.

The balcony provided a good view to take in the walkouts after “Electric Feel,” which segued into the two lengthiest songs of the night, an extended jam version of “the Handshake” followed by the epic “Siberian Breaks” from the new album.

One should not take these walkouts as a cynical commentary to the extended, artier songs of MGMT’s repertoire, but a reflection of the fair weather fans MGMT’s hits have attracted in its following, which do  include some of the ignorant teen hipsters that saturated the place. Let’s face it, these teens are mostly clueless as to the groundwork that has informed MGMT’s music. I doubt most understand how fully Brian Eno’s early 70s albums, beyond the name of one of MGMT’s songs on Congratulations, has informed their aesthetic. But kudos to anyone who understands the reference to Oblique Strategies and what it has done to create great albums by David Bowie and Talking Heads, among others.

As “the Handshake” and “Siberian Breaks” provided the soundtrack to the emptying crowd, which included some neighbors next to me in the balcony, you can also hear some disinterested chattering during the quieter bits of these songs. Most people were not into it or did not get it. I for one, loved to hear them stretch “the Handshake,” which is under four minutes on Oracular Spectacular, to such epic length.

Listening to it all the way through, it might just be segueing into another song, but as far as I can tell, this added section only contains two lines “Keep your silence to yourself/You won’t forget yourself.”* Maybe this is the beginning of a new song, but in this context it totally worked like the epic coda of “Future Reflections.” If it is a new song, it’s a nice, long and spacey addition to MGMT’s repertoire, and also featured some great, over-the-top guitar soloing by James Richardson.

As for “Siberian Breaks,” I was only able to capture the first half before my memory card filled up. Still, it is a certain someone’s favorite part of the song, so here it is:

What you do not see in the video above is, toward the end of the 12-minute opus, when the song breaks down into dreamy burbles of noise, bassist Matt Asti walks away, and the band carries on. Then it’s off with “Kids,” which is all backing tracks! Vanwyngarden and Goldwasser take to the stage, mikes in hand, to dance around like a couple of b-boys and sing along, leaving drummer Will Berman and Richardson to mime along by tapping the sides of the drum kit, clearly a bit bored, though still smiling about the silliness of it all. Who knows? Maybe Ben and Andrew were even lip-synching to the song, and the only thing real was the crowd’s screaming during the break down of the song. The audience ate it all up, despite the fact that the band was trying to parody itself. A photographer did post a video of that night’s performance of “Kids” from down in the crowd, which you can see here.

It’s ironic that on their debut EP as MGMT, “Time to Pretend,” the duo threw in a snippet of “Only Time Will Tell” by eighties prog-poppers Asia in an early version of “Kids,” which closes off the EP. It’s an ironic reference to what was then a pop supergroup composed of luminaries from such previous  prog-rock outfits like King Crimson and Yes . It might have been a send up then but now it might portend MGMT’s very own fate, unless they do something serious, like maybe just dropping the hits from the set-list and playing smaller venues? Radiohead refused to do “Creep” when it became a hit, and look how they turned out.

Another psych-rock band burdened by zeitgeist-defining hits is the Flaming Lips, but they never refuse their fans “She Don’t Use Jelly” or “Do You Realize.” But at least they pay respect to the songs while turning their sets into giant parties, even if they noodle on and on with crazy prog-rock bits (the parts I prefer). In my post about their recent live show in Orlando, the Flaming Lips certainly indulged in several songs from their new prog-heavy Embryonic. But, like those great early Genesis days with Peter Gabriel at the helm, they know how to turn the songs into spectacles.

Plus, when you see Wayne Coyne and his crew perform, you cannot help but feel the love he has for his fans, which transcends to life and humanity. Many tears flow from the fans when he sings “Do you realize you have the most beautiful face,” while also singing “Do You Realize that everyone you know someday will die,” and it’s not from fan-girl zeal but from a deeper reverent place in the soul.

Vanwyngarden definitely showed an effort to connect with the audience at Miami Beach’s Fillmore, but even when he I said, “I love you guys” to the crowd he had to tag on “I really mean that,” when he had his back turned to the audience. Despite this strained attempt at sincerity, what mattered is that these guys rocked the stage with true passion for their music. Having seen some MGMT performances prior, even on TV, when they just can’t seem tot get into it, I had reservations going in. But, that night, they had energy, and it showed, despite the crowd reaction and interaction. Still, there was something heavy hanging over the show.

In a lengthy review I wrote for Congratulations, I praised the band for their indulgence in the progressive side of their music. Though some have derided this second album from MGMT for not producing anything as catchy as “Electric Feel” or “Kids,” I think it is not for a lack of musical skill on the part of MGMT. I truly hope they continue to break away and continue listening to bands like Krautrock legends Cluster, as one of the band members admitted to in an NPR interview around Congratulations‘ release. Screw them walk outs, and keep rocking, MGMT.

*Edit: According to an MGMT fan on the MGMT Fan Forum this is a cover of Magazine’s “Burst,” which they have done live on other occasions. Looking it up, I found a live version by Magazine from 1978, and actually MGMT take the coda of that song, and tag on to “The Handshake” to great affect.

(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Since I could not make the Boca Raton show this Saturday, I could not allow a chance to miss the Flaming Lips live, so we made the drive from Miami to Orlando on Thursday. It should go without saying that they did not disappoint. Anyone who has attended a Flaming Lips show knows it is much more than watching a group of guys on stage regurgitating their catalog of songs in a live setting. The Lips are an EXPERIENCE (yes, in all caps).

To warm up the Lips fans, who are always the freakiest audience (you’ll see lots of oddball costumes at a Lips show) but still one of the more polite concert crowds, Le Butcherettes took the stage. They did their nasty punk rock sound justice and singer/keyboardist/guitarist Teri Gender Bender threw herself about the stage in dramatic fashion on many occasions. Even though Ms. Bender sang in English, for some reason I thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if Mexican electro-punk act Maria Daniela y su Sonido Lasser would open up for the Flaming Lips?” Wayne Coyne would later reveal Le Butcherettes actually hail from Mexico City. Here is a video I made of one of their songs, “Bang!”:

Coyne came off as utterly accessible throughout the show. He appeared on stage several times before his band began their show. He would first show up off stage to cheer on Le Butcherettes (and of course, stir up the audience). He would later thank the audience for so warmly receiving Le Butcherettes because, in his words, “Everyone knows the Flaming Lips has the best audience in the world.” He would also warn the audience of the light show they were about to behold because occasionally some people, including members of the Lips’ crew, might feel a bit ill with the brightness of some of their lights.

As the set up for the Flaming Lips stage continued, he and other band members would routinely show up on stage, with house lights on. It was the beginning of the warmest connection between artist and fan on a live stage I had ever experienced. There is no curtain or any notion of staginess to separate performer and fan at a Lips show. That’s why dressing up is encouraged among fans, and why Coyne rolls around in the audience in a plastic bubble, not to mention constantly assaulting the fans with balloons, confetti and streamers throughout the show. They even have groups of costumed dancers on either side of the stage, who seem to act as chaotic cheerleaders to the band and audience. A Flaming Lips live show is a communal experience.

When the show finally began, I had wondered whether we would see the same famously reported entrance of the group at such a small venue. Sure enough, the band brought their giant screen (akin to one of those things you see in stadiums so attendees in the nose bleed section might be able to see what they are missing on stage). As the music started, the band members made their way out from between the legs of a young woman projected on the screen, with Coyne make the last of the appearances, wrestling from a clear sac below the image. The sac then began to inflate in to a giant sphere. Soon enough Coyne jumped into the crowd, who would roll him about overhead. You can watch the latter part of this entrance in the video below, along with the first full song of the Lips’ show, “Worm Mountain.”

Continuing forth is more of the same from the Lips: epic, prog-rock moments interspersed with noise pop classics like “She Don’t Use Jelly.” I was happy to hear lots of the new songs from their amazing art-rocking new album Embryonic (I think it’s one of their best full-length albums ever, yes, even better than the oft-hyped Soft Bulletin). Here are all the rest of the videos I made of the Lips from that night, all are pretty much complete songs:

Here’s the song where Coyne brought out the giant hands linked to an array of laser lights:

Here’s an obscure tune they did from At War With the Mystics:

One last bit that adds to the coolness of the Lips for me, as a Krautrock fan: Their sound tech had an orange jumpsuit with the Neu! logo on it:

And then there was the mess to clean up afterward…

Oh, what the heck, there were a lot of great images captured at the show, here are more:

(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

After what is shaping up to be a vapid several months for summer concerts in South Florida, the fall is continuing to grow as the coolest season to be here. So far, concerts in October alone include the Flaming Lips, Vampire Weekend and now MGMT (thanks to Sweat Records for the tidbit of unofficial information). Starting off the whole new exciting season is Interpol with a date set for the end of summer at what is shaping up to be the busiest venue for these alt-rock bands: The Fillmore in Miami Beach.

The dates are as follows, and you can expect soon after these dates I will have exclusive videos posted on this blog from the performances, as always:

Aug. 21: Interpol – Fillmore in Miami Beach

Sept. 11: Crystal Castles – Grand Central in Miami

Sept. 20: James – Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale

Oct. 5: Yeasayer – Fillmore in Miami Beach

Oct. 6: LCD Soundsystem w/ Sleigh Bells  – Fillmore in Miami Beach

Oct. 13: Vampire Weekend w/ Beach House – Fillmore in Miami Beach

Oct. 15: Built to Spill – Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale

Oct. 16: Flaming Lips Boca Raton’s Sunset Cove Amphitheater (I’ll be missing this show, however—if only they could come the next day, to somewhere in Miami-Dade County, if not Broward….)

Oct. 26: MGMT – Fillmore in Miami Beach

or, also on Oct. 26, you can go to: Massive Attack with the Thievery Corporation at Bayfront Park in Miami.

Oct. 27: Phoenix – Fillmore in Miami Beach

Hopes and dreams:

Though Arcade Fire have a tour set up to happen around this part of the year, they have yet to put Florida on their tour itinerary… in their entire history of existence. But I had feared several of these bands would be passing South Florida by until these very recent dates were announced, so there is reason to hope.

Finally, shout out to Broken Social Scene, too: come to South Florida (they are teasing more dates in the U.S. TBA)!

(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)


Flaming Lips do Dark side LP cover art

It has happened: the Flaming Lips are now taking pre-orders for their collaboration with Stardeath and White Dwarves, Henry Rollins and Peaches doing Pink Floyd’s the Dark Side of the Moon. . . on regular 140 g weight vinyl, which comes with a bonus CD! Click here to pre-order the item direct from the Flaming Lips’ website.

The official release date for this reportedly limited edition vinyl is slated for April 17, which happens to be National Record Store Day. The CD-only version comes out later, on May 4.

Originally released as a digital-only album on iTunes, Napster and other sources, this collaboration blew my mind from the first few seconds, when the Lips and Stardeath crew decided to turn the original mellow, wash of “Speak to Me/Breathe” into a driving noisy bass hook. The rest of the album comes across just as inventive while still showing great affection and respect to the original work of Pink Floyd.

I immediately pined for how this might sound on the openness of vinyl, and I wasn’t the only one. I’m glad to see this is coming out on my preferred music format.

As for that annoying Parental Advisory sticker, I don’t know if it will really be on the album sleeve, but the Christmas on Mars LP was supposed to have it, and mine does not.

(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)
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