From The Desk Of Bird Streets’ John Brodeur: Joining A Fan Club

Omnivore just released the self-titled debut album from Brooklyn’s Bird Streets (a.k.a. John Brodeur). In addition to self-releasing records over the past two decades, Brodeur also worked as a music journalist (poor guy). For Bird Streets’ debut, Brodeur enlisted Jason Falkner (Beck, Air, Paul McCartney, Jellyfish, etc.) as co-writer, co-player and producer, while Miranda Lee Richards and Luther Russell contribute to a few tracks as well. Brodeur will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Check out the Bird Streets track we premiered in June.

Brodeur: Being a rather sickly child kept me indoors a lot, so records were my friends. I’d examine every inch of the liner notes, memorizing the names of every session player, publisher and accountant listed on the sleeve. In those days, before Al Gore discovered the internet, there was the U.S. Postal Service. And if you were a fan of music and desired some kind of connection to the musicians you loved, you might send a letter and a self-addressed envelope to the address printed on the inside of your favorite band’s record jacket. I did this all the time, from the time I was old enough to lick a postage stamp. From Aerosmith’s “Aero Force One” and Pearl Jam’s “Ten Club” to every second-tier pop-metal act on the market, I put pen to paper and expressed my undying adoration—or at least fleeting interest.

Patience was the key. A note to, say, the Enuff Z’Nuff fan club might not yield a response immediately, but usually something would turn up in the mailbox several weeks, sometimes months, later. Often a photocopied newsletter, merch catalog and maybe a sticker or some other promotional swag. But sometimes the bands would actually write back. Case in point: the Canadian band Sloan, who I first wrote to in 1993, when their Smeared album was freshly out in the States. Dudes took the time to include funny little handwritten notes on all of their correspondence, a term I use because this familiar touch inspired me to write them several more times over the years. Somewhere I have a stash of a half-dozen or so postcards and envelopes with personalized messages from the Sloan dudes. Even if they weren’t one of the great pop bands of the last quarter-century, I’d still be a huge fan because of those early interactions.

Speaking of the personal touch, I wrote to Nirvana right after Nevermind came out, and nothing happened for what seemed like an eternity. Then, one day, there was an envelope. Inside, a photocopied merch form (printed over an a 16 magazine ad for a celebrity home-address guide—yikes) and a snarky “form letter” on yellow paper—personally signed by all three members of the band. Instantly and for all time, the coolest piece of rock memorabilia I own.

From The Desk Of Bird Streets’ John Brodeur: Bill Hicks

Omnivore just released the self-titled debut album from Brooklyn’s Bird Streets (a.k.a. John Brodeur). In addition to self-releasing records over the past two decades, Brodeur also worked as a music journalist (poor guy). For Bird Streets’ debut, Brodeur enlisted Jason Falkner (Beck, Air, Paul McCartney, Jellyfish, etc.) as co-writer, co-player and producer, while Miranda Lee Richards and Luther Russell contribute to a few tracks as well. Brodeur will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Check out the Bird Streets track we premiered in June.

Brodeur: The government murdered Bill Hicks!

Wait, let me back up.

When I first heard of Bill Hicks, he was on an MTV comedy clip-show in 1989 or ’90. Even in such controlled doses, I thought he was hilarious—I’m pretty sure that, to this day, anytime I do what I think is an English accent, I’m really doing Bill Hicks’ Keith Richards from that early bit about cockroaches and nuclear war. (“I saw a bright light and thought we were on!”) He turned up on TV periodically after that, but certainly not often. In 1994 he died of pancreatic cancer, which still seems like some kind of twisted cosmic retelling of one of his most famous early bits. Where was Denis Leary’s helicopter?

Then, in 1997, Rykodisc issued his two posthumous discs, Arizona Bay and Rant In E-Minor, and finally being able to hear his work at length, I became a full-on convert. He questioned everything: the government, religion, mass media, even reality itself. He called out hypocrisy at every turn. His skepticism and anti-establishment leanings fit perfectly with my developing political point of view—having written a lengthy school report on the conspiracy theories surrounding the JFK assassination some years prior, I found a kinship in hearing him challenge the veracity of the official record in such a humorous way (“coup! coup!”). And as a recovering Catholic, I, too, wondered why we celebrate Easter by “telling our children a giant bunny rabbit left chocolate eggs in the night.” (A bit I share yearly on my social pages.)

Also he told killer dick jokes.

Hicks work still informs the way I think in some major ways. I can even appreciate the youthful ignorance in some of his early work, which serves to show how someone can evolve their thinking over a relatively short period of time. Bill Hicks showed me that it’s OK to not believe what “they” are telling you. Take a heroic dose, squeegee your third eye, and listen to the man: Bill Hicks is the truth.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get to the meeting at the docks.

From The Desk Of Bird Streets’ John Brodeur: “Law And Order”

Omnivore just released the self-titled debut album from Brooklyn’s Bird Streets (a.k.a. John Brodeur). In addition to self-releasing records over the past two decades, Brodeur also worked as a music journalist (poor guy). For Bird Streets’ debut, Brodeur enlisted Jason Falkner (Beck, Air, Paul McCartney, Jellyfish, etc.) as co-writer, co-player and producer, while Miranda Lee Richards and Luther Russell contribute to a few tracks as well. Brodeur will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Check out the Bird Streets track we premiered in June.

Brodeur: No, no, not that Law And Order—I mean the 1981 Lindsey Buckingham album. I got into this record five or six years ago, and now I can’t go more than a month without hearing it in full. I find it strangely comforting. The airbrushed vampire on the jacket made almost every sound on this terrifically idiosyncratic record. From the yodeling and trilling vocal vibrato of “Bwana,” to the the layers of vocal harmonies that moan in the background of almost every tune, to the (predictably) brilliant guitar work, it sounds Lindsey locked himself in a cheap hotel room with an eight-ball and a delay pedal and just went to town. Law And Order spawned a top 10 single (the sterling “Trouble”), but moments like the weekend-bender-in-song-form “That’s How We Do It In L.A.” and the woozy cover of Kurt Weill’s “September Song” are what makes it such a rewarding longplayer. This is the sound of one of rock’s most legendarily self-important artists not at all taking himself seriously.

From The Desk Of Bird Streets’ John Brodeur: Fender Mustang Bass

Omnivore just released the self-titled debut album from Brooklyn’s Bird Streets (a.k.a. John Brodeur). In addition to self-releasing records over the past two decades, Brodeur also worked as a music journalist (poor guy). For Bird Streets’ debut, Brodeur enlisted Jason Falkner (Beck, Air, Paul McCartney, Jellyfish, etc.) as co-writer, co-player and producer, while Miranda Lee Richards and Luther Russell contribute to a few tracks as well. Brodeur will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Check out the Bird Streets track we premiered in June.

Brodeur: The Fender Mustang is the short-scale bass as far as I’m concerned. The only one that can make a set of flatwound strings sound halfway decent. I’m told it’s because of the the string-through body design, which gives it terrific sustain. I have a ’69 Mustang that’s my favorite instrument. Mojo for miles. It was apparently “born” on March 17, 1969, which may explain why it’s turned from blue to green over the years. Now, I wouldn’t call myself a bassist by trade—anytime I play a full-size bass it quickly devolves into a wrestling match—but I can do the rock on a Mustang. It’s my favorite bass for recording because it takes up a narrower frequency range, so the tone is more focused and easier to place in a mix. And, for all the haters out there that say they lack low end, just stop it. Your low B string sounds like shit, dude.

Also they just look cool.

Take it from me, and if not from me, take it from Bill Wyman, Tina Weymouth, Chris Murphy (Sloan), Justin Meldal-Johnsen, or any of the other legendary badasses that have played this fine instrument: The Mustang is where it’s at.

#productplacement

From The Desk Of Bird Streets’ John Brodeur: “Yo! MTV Raps”

Omnivore just released the self-titled debut album from Brooklyn’s Bird Streets (a.k.a. John Brodeur). In addition to self-releasing records over the past two decades, Brodeur also worked as a music journalist (poor guy). For Bird Streets’ debut, Brodeur enlisted Jason Falkner (Beck, Air, Paul McCartney, Jellyfish, etc.) as co-writer, co-player and producer, while Miranda Lee Richards and Luther Russell contribute to a few tracks as well. Brodeur will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Check out the Bird Streets track we premiered in June.

Brodeur: To help triangulate just where I was at, pop-culturally, in the mid-to-late ’80s, please consider the following facts: My first cassette was Licensed To Ill; my first CD was Mama Said Knock You Out; I know every word to “The Humpty Dance.” I loved rap music from the first time I heard it, which could only have been “Rapture.” What was not to love? Old-school hip hop was elemental—rhythmic and catchy, with lyrics that were easy to process and memorize. The clothing was fresh, and the breakdancing was mesmerizing. When rap had its crossover moment, with Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys, I was so there for it. I’m pretty sure I wanted to be a rapper for a few years. My parents didn’t like rap, so I knew it must be really cool.

By 1988, I was already hooked on radio, but cable was new in my family’s house, and now we had MTV, and MTV was in its prime. This coincided with the “golden age” of hip hop, which was in full flourish by ’88. The genre was truly wide open during the years that followed, and Yo! MTV Raps was there to document the genre’s incredible growth. Originally a weekend show hosted by Fab 5 Freddy, the Yo! I remember best is the weekday version, hosted by Ed Lover and Doctor Dre (no relation) and with a Today tacked onto the title. The show aired at 4:30 EST, if memory serves, which tucked comfortably between whatever cartoons I was rolling with at the time. (Probably DuckTales.) Every day Ed and Dre would clown around hard—y’all remember the Ed Lover Dance?—while bringing new faces and voices into my rather sheltered suburban universe every afternoon. Eric B. and Rakim. Ice-T. N.W.A. Slick Rick. Tribe. De La. Big Daddy Kane. Boogie Down Productions. Public Enemy preached militancy over abrasive sound collages, while Kool Moe Dee rapped about how good he was at rapping over prototypical New Jack Swing. Like I said, wide open. The show sputtered to an end in 1995, but it left a mighty long shadow. Yo! is a crucial piece of music history.

From The Desk Of Bird Streets’ John Brodeur: The Grays’ “Ro Sham Bo”

Omnivore just released the self-titled debut album from Brooklyn’s Bird Streets (a.k.a. John Brodeur). In addition to self-releasing records over the past two decades, Brodeur also worked as a music journalist (poor guy). For Bird Streets’ debut, Brodeur enlisted Jason Falkner (Beck, Air, Paul McCartney, Jellyfish, etc.) as co-writer, co-player and producer, while Miranda Lee Richards and Luther Russell contribute to a few tracks as well. Brodeur will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Check out the Bird Streets track we premiered in June.

Brodeur: I made an album with Jason Falkner?! No way! (It’s in stores now.)

This is a Big Freakin’ Deal for me—I was a fan of the dude’s work for almost 20 years before we became friends. Jellyfish was one of my favorite bands in high school, and Jason’s solo debut Author Unknown was one of the guideposts that led me to one-man-band my first solo record. Despite the novelty having died down a bit, I still get that OMG feeling sometimes when listening to the music that so inspired me in those formative years, particularly this brilliant 1994 album by the Grays, Falkner’s band along with Jon Brion, secret weapon Buddy Judge and drummer Dan McCarroll, a fellow Albany expat who went on to become president of Capitol and Warner Bros. Just an absurd collection of talent. Along with my beloved Sloan, this band and record was one of the reasons I attempted being part of a multi-songwriter band in the late ’90s. (That didn’t last long.)

Beavis & Butt-head may have panned it, but “Very Best Years” is some incredibly easy listening.

From The Desk Of Bird Streets’ John Brodeur: “The Making Of Pump”

Omnivore just released the self-titled debut album from Brooklyn’s Bird Streets (a.k.a. John Brodeur). In addition to self-releasing records over the past two decades, Brodeur also worked as a music journalist (poor guy). For Bird Streets’ debut, Brodeur enlisted Jason Falkner (Beck, Air, Paul McCartney, Jellyfish, etc.) as co-writer, co-player and producer, while Miranda Lee Richards and Luther Russell contribute to a few tracks as well. Brodeur will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Check out the Bird Streets track we premiered in June.

Brodeur: With the release of their 10th and finest (fight me) album, 1989’s Pump, Aerosmith instantly became my favorite band, dethroning the mighty Def Leppard. I loved the big, bloozy guitars, the king-size hooks, Steven Tyler’s cartoonishly awesome vocal work (he’s an American treasure!) and tongue-barely-in-cheek wordplay. I was a tender and impressionable 13, and this was totally my shit. Finely crafted yet playful, ass-kicking yet nuanced. Not to mention Pump features “Janie’s Got A Gun,” a rare social-commentary track from the good-time rockers, but also “What It Takes,” which is, for my money, one of the best rock ballads of this or any era. This album had range.

And then there’s the documentary. The Making Of Pump is a mash of interview, studio and video footage, released in 1990 to cash in on the band’s behemoth success and the booming home-video market. The interview footage is supremely cheesy: the staging, the sets, Tyler’s hair—it’s 1989-90 to the letter. But the studio footage is outstanding, surely the distillation of many, many hours of tape, but Tyler’s creative spirit is infectious and the band is at the top of its game, communicating and jamming and acting like a bunch of guys who actually like one another. Producers, A&R and managers turn up to contribute to the process like honorary band members. (Turns out it takes a village to make one of the all-time-great hard-rock records.)

This film has become a bit of a secret handshake among my musician friends. I have had two different bands watch it together in recent years, on days off from tour, and it’s just as entertaining as it was more than two decades ago. It’s an accidental evergreen.

From The Desk Of Bird Streets’ John Brodeur: Prince

Omnivore just released the self-titled debut album from Brooklyn’s Bird Streets (a.k.a. John Brodeur). In addition to self-releasing records over the past two decades, Brodeur also worked as a music journalist (poor guy). For Bird Streets’ debut, Brodeur enlisted Jason Falkner (Beck, Air, Paul McCartney, Jellyfish, etc.) as co-writer, co-player and producer, while Miranda Lee Richards and Luther Russell contribute to a few tracks as well. Brodeur will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Check out the Bird Streets track we premiered in June.

Brodeur: Shortly after they both had passed, Falkner asked me if I was more of a Prince or Bowie guy. Without hesitation I said Prince. Don’t get me wrong, I love Bowie, but Prince got to me at exactly the right time. In 1980s suburban upstate New York, pop culture kind of trickled down through top-40 radio and late-night television, so when I heard “Little Red Corvette” on the car stereo on the way home from church, I was fascinated. (I had no idea how filthy it was at the time, but to this day I can’t believe that line about the Trojans made it into heavy rotation.) I remember going to a friend’s house to sneak a listen to his parents’ copy of Purple Rain (off-limits because “Darling Nikki,” apparently); my buddy James bringing the Dirty Mind cassette to school and playing “Partyup” for me on his Walkman (he said the “f” word!). “When Doves Cry” kind of freaked me out—all my memories from that period are set to the weird talk-box sound at the beginning of the song.

I started actively buying records at the time when Prince was really exploring his sound—Around The World In A Day, Parade, Sign O’ The Times, Lovesexy—while Bowie had more or less abandoned his art-rock past in favor of stadium dross. (“Blue Jean” is not the best entry point for that catalog. I came around to David later. This is not a competition.) Prince’s music and persona showed me that you didn’t have to just do or be one thing as an artist. And he was one of the first one-man bands I remember hearing about, which was a massive influence on my development as a musician.

I rode with the the Purple One through Batman and Graffiti Bridge, the transition to his gold period (only the most regal colors for this king), his early flirtations with the internet (ever the pioneer) and his underrated late-career releases (20Ten is pretty solid!). It wasn’t until 2004 that I finally saw the man perform live, and I can honestly say it changed me. I saw him play four times before he died, and each would rank in my top 10. His concerts were like joy conventions—they were as close to a religious experience as anything I’ve ever experienced. I never met an asshole at a Prince concert. He was a rock star and a philanthropist and a feminist and the baddest MF ever to sport a pair of furry platform moon-boots. When we look back and list the reasons why 2016 was the Year That Ruined Everything, you can put Prince’s death near the top of the list. The world is simply worse off without him.

From The Desk Of The Innocence Mission: The Boys Of Summer, Running

Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the first innocence mission album. Since then, the Lancaster, Pa., band—wife/husband duo Karen and Don Peris (both play multiple instruments and sing) and bassist Mike Bitts—has released nine more LPs. The latest is Sun On The Square (Badman), which also features Peris children Anna (viola) and Drew (violin) on a couple tracks. Karen and Don will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Don: The boys of summer, running … I grew up across the street from a city playground entirely covered in asphalt. Nowadays, the summer smell of evening rain on the oily bitumen of macadam is transporting. It’s right up there with the smell of gasoline and freshly mown grass, “Sugar Mountain,” the opening of chapter three of Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, the carnival scenes from Pollyanna and the mandolin songs on R.E.M.’s Green: “ … leap the sprinklers.”

From The Desk Of The Innocence Mission: Susanne Sundfør Sings Scott Walker

Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the first innocence mission album. Since then, the Lancaster, Pa., band—wife/husband duo Karen and Don Peris (both play multiple instruments and sing) and bassist Mike Bitts—has released nine more LPs. The latest is Sun On The Square (Badman), which also features Peris children Anna (viola) and Drew (violin) on a couple tracks. Karen and Don will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Karen: Recently I rewatched fragments of the BBC Proms concert of the songs of Scott Walker, in particular the ones sung by Susanne Sundfør. This has to be some of the most thrilling singing I have ever heard. Actually, everything about these performances is thrilling—the brilliant and mysterious S.W. songs, the emotional accompaniment of the Proms orchestra and the incredible singing. Together, this makes a music that is like a punch in the stomach in the best possible way. I hope you enjoy these performances of “On Your Own Again” and “The Amorous Humphrey Plugg.”