The Over/Under: Robert Pollard

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Our friend Roob (you’d know him if you saw him) convinced us that he’s the foremost authority on Guided By Voices and Bob Pollard. (He claims to possess 257 GBV bootlegs, which is probably 256 more than Pollard himself owns.) Somehow, that qualifies him to make the following list of the five most overrated and five most underrated non-GBV Pollard songs.

:: The Five Most Overrated Non-GBV Robert Pollard Songs
1. “Do Something Real” (1999)

One of the things that’s made Bob Pollard the greatest songwriter who ever lived is that he never quite comes out and says anything. His remarkable lyrics hint at a notion, suggest an idea, foretell a feeling. But they never just say it. With the musically jerky “Do Something Real,” from the otherwise awesome Speak Kindly Of Your Volunteer Fire Department (a collaboration with Doug Gillard), Pollard actually gets preachy, and it’s unbecoming of him. “Do something real with your life,” he used to say while introducing this at Guided By Voices shows. I’ll go to a Midnight Oil show and listen to Peter Garrett’s rambling morality lessons if I want to hear this kind of crap.

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From The Desk Of Ben Lee: Sebadoh

benleealogo750news118d“No guilt, all pleasure,” sings Ben Lee on his forthcoming album, The Rebirth Of Venus (due April 28 on New West). Lately, the 30-year-old Australian singer/songwriter has been on a mission to deliver radio-ready pop songs for the rest of us, mixing up hooks and politics and letting it all hang out. Shortly before he appeared on Jay Leno last week, Lee did a Q&A with MAGNET on the topics of Venus, his recent marriage to Ione Skye and the “mistake-pop” of his past and future.

As guest editor of magnetmagazine.com this week, the world’s most enlightened pop star shares thoughts about his latest revelations—from music to monkey gods.

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Lee: Lou Barlow formed Sebadoh after leaving Dinosaur Jr and was the most prolific motherfucker of the ’90s. He made Ryan Adams look like a dude with writer’s block. He put records out as Sebadoh, Sentridoh, Folk Implosion and I’m sure others I don’t know about. He really pioneered the home-recording lo-fi aesthetic that became such a staple of underground music and indie rock. The thing is, Barlow always wrote from the heart, even when he was being snarky and cruel. I am making a Noise Addict record at the moment, and Lou is playing bass on it. It’s a bit of a moment for me. He’s spending a lot of time playing in Dinosaur Jr again these days. The world is going to re-awaken to the majesty of Sebadoh again very soon, I’m sure.

“The Freed Pig” from 1991’s Sebadoh III:

Lost Classics: Archers Of Loaf “Icky Mettle”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

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:: ARCHERS OF LOAF
Icky Mettle // Alias, 1993

The full-length debut by Chapel Hill, N.C.’s Archers Of Loaf revealed troubling levels of undergraduate angst and, even by 1993 standards, was considered highly derivative. But man, when the Archers hit their mark on “Web In Front” and “Plumb Line,” all sins were forgiven. Buoyed by singer/guitarist Eric Bachmann’s nascent songwriting talent, Icky Mettle straddled the line between Pavement’s brainy esoterica and Superchunk’s guitar blitzkrieg. The formula proved to be a winner, as it thrust the Archers into the national spotlight and quickly found them flipping tour-van odometers and declining a record deal from Madonna’s Maverick label. Those grueling miles took a toll, however, and over the course of three more albums and an EP, the Archers eventually emptied their tank for good.

Catching Up: Bachmann continues to make records with Crooked Fingers, which issued Forfeit/Fortune last year. Drummer Mark Price has played with Hotel Lights (led by ex-Ben Folds Five drummer Darren Jessee), while guitarist Eric Johnson has recorded under the moniker Spookie.

“Web In Front”:

Metric Shares Its Deepest “Fantasies”

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When Metric issues its fourth full-length studio album, Fantasies, on April 14, it won’t be through just one label. Last Gang Records, the Toronto-based company that released 2003’s Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? and 2005’s Live It Out, will handle distribution in Canada, and another Canadian label (Arts&Crafts) will release the album in Mexico. Meanwhile, Metric has hired its own staff to handle release and distribution in the U.S., the U.K., Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Perhaps fittingly, Fantasies is an album that defies labels. Emily Haines and Co. are back in true electropop form, but punk, psychedelia and disco influences have also worked their way into Fantasies. The album’s first single, “Help I’m Alive,” is a dreamy piece of synth pop that’s already become the band’s biggest radio hit in Canada and is quickly approaching gold status on iTunes. Metric will embark on a U.S. tour in June. Fantasies tracklisting after the jump.

“Help I’m Alive (Acoustic)” (download here):

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TiVo Party Tonight: TV On The Radio, Duffy, Adele

tivotvnb1Ever wonder what will happen during the last five minutes of late-night TV talk shows? They let musicians onstage! Here are tonight’s notable performers:

The Colbert Report: (COM): TV On The Radio
Yeah, we featured the band two days ago in this same space for its SNL appearance, but Tunde Adebimpe and Co. kinda sucked on the show, so we’re gonna give ’em a chance for redemption. To paraphrase (sort-of) Sen. Stuart Smalley, “Guys, you’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and gosh darn it, MAGNET likes you!”

Tonight Show With Jay Leno (NBC): Duffy
We always confuse Duffy with Adele.

Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson (CBS): Adele
We always confuse Adele with Duffy.

TV On The Radio’s “Golden Age” from Dear Science:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/GoldenAge.mp3

Q&A With Ben Lee

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In 2009, the idea of a well-adjusted, self-realized pop star tends to boggle the mind of the American public. Ben Lee, a 30-year-old Australian singer/songwriter, has lately been on a mission to deliver music that challenges the notion of guilty-pleasure pop by creating radio-ready songs that also encapsulate ideas about politics, identity and gender. The Rebirth Of Venus (out in April on New West), Lee’s seventh solo album, is his ode to feminintiy in all its guises: muses (“Yoko Ono”), compassionate politics (anti-Bush Doctrine “Wake Up To America”), gender role-playing (“Boy With A Barbie”) and just wanting to have fun (“What’s So Bad (About Feeling Good)”). Venus is a brave and positive statement from Lee, a 16-year veteran of the music biz (he started out in teenage pop/punk outfit Noise Addict) who recently married actress Ione Skye (daughter of ’60s folk icon Donovan and iconic in her own right for her starring role in Say Anything).

Lee answered MAGNET’s questions from the green room of The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, where he performed on Friday. A man of spiritual depth and professional accomplishment, Lee will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com this week.

“Yoko Ono” from The Rebirth Of Venus:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/YokoOno.mp3

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Wrens Watch, Feb. 9, 2009

We’ve been fans of New Jersey’s finest since even before their first album came out back in 1994, so let’s just say we’re used to sitting around waiting for them to take their sweet-ass time putting out new music. (Three albums in more than 14 years makes the Wrens about as prolific as Boston, which is kind of like being as tall as Tony Cox.) As reported in a Wrens Watch Special Report, January 9 marked a huge milestone for the guys: guitarists Charles Bissell and Greg Whelan, bassist Kevin Whelan and drummer Jerry MacDonald. They issued “Pulled Fences,” their first new (well, sort of new) song since 2003’s The Meadowlands. Perhaps motivated by finally releasing something, the band convened—not in a real studio, but in Kevin’s basement—three weeks ago to begin work on its new album. And not only that, the Wrens recorded an actual song (which you can download for free here). We checked in with Bissell to see what the band has accomplished since.

:: Wrens Watch, Feb. 9, 2009
MAGNET: Last week when we talked, you pretty much said you guys hadn’t done anything other than the one new song, aside from breaking the computer you use to record.
Bissell: If you want to look at it that way, then yes, I guess so.
I know you recently had a birthday, so I’ll cut you a little slack about the lack of recording. So any other news?
Hmmm. I heard this Coltrane song for the first time the other day. It was really good.
All his stuff is really good. That’s why he’s John Coltrane. Plus, the man made more than 100 albums, and he only lived to be 40, which is younger than you are now.
So what are you trying to say?
Nothing, other than some people are slow starters, I guess. Geez, come to think of it, you’ve already outlived John Lennon by a number of years.
Your point?
Don’t really have one. I mean, Paul McCartney was already at Press To Play when he was about your age. And my friends and I thought he was a has-been then.
If you even so much as mention George Harrison’s Cloud Nine or Ringo Starr’s Old Wave, I’m hanging up.
How about Billy Preston’s You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down? I think he might have been older than you when he made that. No, I think he was actually younger
Later, asshole. [Hangs up]

Are You There God? It’s Me … Duffman!

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No, the topic at hand isn’t Springfield’s caped beer crusader (ah, if only … ), but the other famous Duff. Stumped? Here are a few hints: He’s from Seattle, he has a finance degree, his pancreas once exploded from substance abuse, and he races mountain bikes. Still confused? Maybe this book excerpt will give it away: “Duff was now living … in an apartment on Hollywood Boulevard, coincidentally, next to Sly Stone. I guess you could say that he and Sly had a tight neighborly relationship: Sly used to come by Duff’s place unannounced to smoke PCP, crack, or a mix of the two, alone, in Duff’s bathroom and then just leave.” This little tidbit is from Slash, by Slash with Anthony Bozza, a trashy, if highly entertaining, read. And as you’ve probably figured out, the Duff in question is Duff McKagan, former bassist for Gun N’ Roses (before they became known as the Axl Rose Debacle), current bassist for Velvet Revolver and frontman for Duff McKagan’s Loaded, which is set to release Sick this April. Put to tape by Martin Feveyear (Kings Of Leon, Crooked Fingers), the music from Duff’s side project is of a genre rarely heard these days: straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll.

“No More” from Sick:

From The Desk Of Superdrag’s John Davis: “The World According To Monsanto”

johndavisc1John Davis wanted rock ‘n’ roll, but he didn’t want to deal with the hassle. The Superdrag frontman broke up his band in 2003, got religion and issued a pair of solo albums, putting a seemingly tight lid on the legacy of his Knoxville, Tenn., outfit. Apparently, Davis is willing to be bothered again: Superdrag’s original lineup reconvened to record Industry Giants, a new album due March 17.

This week, MAGNET celebrates the return of Superdrag by handing Davis the reins to our website, where he’ll share his favorite music, films, food, literature and more. Read our Q&A with Davis about the comeback here.

monsantomural5301Davis: The World According To Monsanto is French filmmaker Marie-Monique Robin’s mind-blowing exposé on Monsanto, the U.S. government-sanctioned corporate juggernaut whose “greatest hits” include:

• Genetically modified seeds (90 percent of soybeans grown in America are “Roundup Ready”)
• GMO (genetically modified organism) foods (contained in 70 percent of the food products on American shelves)
• PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls)
• rBGH (recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, linked to breast, colon and prostate cancers)
• Agent Orange
• Aspartame
• Roundup (herbicide)

If you’re unaware of the toxicity of these products and the dangers they present to your family’s health, I strongly recommend viewing this documentary. The fraudulent means by which many of these substances have been granted government approval is another matter entirely. Try Googling “Rumsfeld aspartame” sometime if you’re interested in some light reading.

View the eight-part documentary here. You’ll love the scene where then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, during his tour of a Monsanto lab facility, tells a group of execs frustrated with ”bureaucratic hurdles” (i.e., health- and environmental-safety testing), “Call me. We’re in the ‘de-reg’(ulation) business.”

This concludes “John Davis Week” here at magnetmagazine.com. Thanks to John for writing about some really important and interesting stuff. Go to the store and buy all the Superdrag records and Industry Giants when it comes out March 17.

TiVo Party Tonight: Radiohead

tivoradioaEver wonder what will happen during the last five minutes of late-night TV talk shows? They let musicians onstage! Here are tonight’s notable performers:

51st Grammy Awards (CBS): Call us cynical, but we think In Rainbows got five nominations so the fantastically unhip Grammys could use Thom Yorke to promote the show and persuade Radiohead to perform. Other acts playing the awards shindig include U2, Paul McCartney & Dave Grohl, Coldplay and, of course, Lil Wayne.

Radiohead’s “Bangers + Mash” from In Rainbows bonus disc: