Freedom Rock

J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 17, 2007; 2:00 PM

Washington Post music critic J. Freedom du Lac is online every Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET to talk about the latest on the music scene: alternative, country, alt-country, pop, hyphy, harp-rock, reggae, reggaeton, R and B and whatever it is that the Polyphonic Spree does.

The transcript follows.


J. Freedom du Lac: Let's go for a cold open today. 1-2-1-2-3-4....


Washington, D.C.: re the Smashing Pumpkins' review: It was completely biased and not objective. Obviously the writer went to the show with the intention of trashing it. Why would The Post send somebody who hates the band instead of a fan? The Smashing Pumpkins and their fans deserved better.

J. Freedom du Lac: You are absolutely correct -- the review wasn't objective. How dare we send a critic to a show to be subjective! This just in, but CRITICISM IS NOT HARD NEWS. We don't send critics to shows simply to report on what happened. They're supposed to opine. Objectivity? Whatevs!

The key questions are not who?/what?/where? and when? (you know, the stuff from Intro to Journalism), but rather: Was the performance a success or failure, or something in between? And why? Our critic answered those questions, and he did so in no uncertain terms. There was no question whatsoever what he thought about the performance. And the writing was great. I thought it was a great review of a not-so-great performance.

As an aside: It's funny that so much of the chatter in the comments section of the review and on the 9:30 club forum and elsewhere has honed in on the writer's supposed hatred of the Smashing Pumpkins. Not that we're obligated to send a fan of a particular act to review that act's show. But in this particular instance, the writer admitted before the concert that he'd pretty much lived with "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" when it was released -- even spending endless hours in the basement singing the songs with some of his friends. It was a deeply meaningful album to him at the time (that time being 12 years ago, when he was, like, what -- 9 years old?). So there you have it, fanboys and girls: One of your own hated the show. At 9:30 Club, Smashing Pumpkins Both Overcooked and Underdone


Columbia, Md.: What are the odds that Amy Winehouse makes it to Virgin Fest? I have not yet bought a ticket and her being there is a pre-requisite to me getting one. I hear she is not much on love shows at this moment, something about having a husband to take care of.

J. Freedom du Lac: Dunno, but a big British bookmaker is offering something like 1:2 odds that she'll cancel her show in Cornwall tonight. It'd be funny if only it weren't so damn sad.


Macon, Ga.: I like to call the Smashing Pumpkins the "Smashing Pumptards." It doesn't quite work, but it's fun to say.

J. Freedom du Lac: OK, if you say so.


Washington, D.C.: Did you see that Cornel West did a chat on this site earlier today? Do you think anything will ever come of his efforts to "clean up" the language in hip-hop?

J. Freedom du Lac: I have not seen the transcript of the chat. But I really don't think the language will be cleaned up anytime soon. At least not until Snoop and Too $hort officially retire, anyway.


Pumpkins review: Man, I thought it was HI-larious. Truly, truly great. Most reviews just give you the set list and a few tidbits. But the Post's was fantastic. Of course, Billy Corgan's singing sounds like nails on a chalk board to me. Plus, I really don't see how this incarnation gets to be called Smashing Pumpkins, anyway. How is this different than Zwan or Billy Corgan and his one guy who can stand to play with him all the time and whoever else he can rustle up? Don't get me wrong. He can write. I just don't want to hear him sing it.

J. Freedom du Lac: That's a very fine question about what makes this a Smashing Pumpkins reunion when, in fact, Billy and Jimmy have pretty much been together since the Pumpkins broke up, and James and D'Arcy didn't return for the reunion. Maybe it's just that the tickets say "Smashing Pumpkins," and the merch is all Pumpkin-y (with a few "Zero" shirts thrown in for good measure), and the set list is full of the songs Billy wrote under the guise of the Smashing Pumpkins rather than Zwan or Billy Corgan, Solo Artist. But in the end, despite all his rage, Billy is still just a rat in a cage -- no matter what he's calling his band.


Thanks Muchly: Thanks so much for the tips on Ryan Shaw and Brandi Carlile. Mr. Shaw has got it. To me he channels Jackie Wilson vs. Otis Redding, but still really good. And Ms. Carlile reminds me of early Bonnie Raitt on some tunes, but I really like her as well. There's so much great music it is just amazing. It is so sad that much of it isn't heard by lots of folks.

J. Freedom du Lac: You're most welcome. Ryan is performing in Baltimore this weekend, at Artscape. Sunday afternoon on the main stage. A Singer's Hardy Old Soul; Ryan Shaw Is Just 26, but His R&B Vocals Are Aged to Perfection


Editors: Opinion on the Editors?

J. Freedom du Lac: They're generally kind and gentle people, though there was once an editor at one of my former places of employment who was neither kind nor gentle (an opinion shared by said editor's boss, who told me to ignore pretty much everything said editor said about a story of mine that was being ground to pieces in the editing mill until the editor's boss intervened and glued the pieces back together and the story ran pretty much as written). That same editor once told me that writers are a dime a dozen* (price not adjusted for inflation), but that good editors are rare. Yeah, ya think?

Anyway...what you're really asking (I think) is what my official position is on new Editors album, "An End Has a Start." I rather liked the band's debut, "The Back Room," which was a gloriously melancholy affair -- all brooding intensity and dramatic, desolate songcraft. It was like Echo and the Bunnymen hopping through the Joy Division catalogue. (In other words, a more interesting Interpol!) Now, though, the band seems to be scratching a serious Coldplay itch, and the slicker sound and arena-rock bombast aren't really working for me. As always, your mileage may vary.


Arizona Bay, Ariz.: Missed you again at the Tool show up in Reading. Again, good stuff.

However, I want to inform you and other Freedom Rockers that I will be taking a brief hiatus from the regularly scheduled chats, as I am moving out to California (near the soon-to-be Arizona Bay).

Hopefully it won't be too long and my next employer won't mind that me stirring the pot up in Freedom Chat. Thanks so much for the good times (and the Tool CD) and in the words of the immortal Homer Simpson: "So long suckers."

Spiral Out.

J. Freedom du Lac: We're not going to have Arizona Bay to kick around anymore! At least not in real time. Say it ain't so!


The Decemberists at M. Post Pavilion: So I saw the Decemberists at M. Post Pavilion and they were beyond awesome. At one point the bassist, who had moved from a guitar bass to a string bass was lying on the floor on his back playing with equal gusto and right on beat.


Also wanted to say the addition of the orchestra made for a unique experience, if not for creating a fuller sound for "I was meant for the stage".

Also--they played The Tain and the Mariner's Revenge Song. (And to top it off I heard Perfect Crime 2 on 94.7 The Globe, further solidfying how awesome that station is.)

I know you don't get them but I thought I would ask if the Post sent a reviewer out to the concert--I didn't see anything in the paper but its possible I didn't look hard enough.

J. Freedom du Lac: Thakns for this. We did not send a reviewer. One can only publish so many Decemberists reviews in an 18-month period -- unless one's name is, say, Ryan Schreiber.


Why why why: Why you so mean to Billy Corgans? You make his hair fall out!

J. Freedom du Lac: You say that like it's a bad thing.


Alexandria, Va.: I know I'm way behind the times on this one, but I've made my way through the Amy Winehouse album, and I just don't get what all the hype is about. Why are so many people and critics excited to listen to and support an artist who is in obvious need of an intervention and psychiatric evaluation? Winehouse has a musty old voice and unwarranted diva attitude that should be criticized, not admired!

J. Freedom du Lac: Are you talking about Billy Corgan here or Amy Winehouse? Personally, I think the songs on "Back to Black" are great -- from the writing and vocal performances down to the instrumentation and Mark Ronson/Salaam Remi production. I do think the hype has become overwhelming. But the music still sparkles as far as I'm concerned.


Bethesda, Md.: Heading to San Francisco in the Fall. Other than the Fillmore, is there a can't-miss place in SF to see a show?

J. Freedom du Lac: Really depends on what kind of tuneage you're interested in hearing. No room has quite the history of the Fillmore, of course (if you go, be sure to spend some time in the room with all the posters -- pretty great stuff). But I've always liked Cafe du Nord, where you might see everybody from Spoon, Dr. Dog, Tom Morello and Laura Viers (no, not on the same bill silly) to the Broun Fellinis, Honeycut, Jonathan Butler Trio and various/sundry bluegrass or Afrobeat acts. I'm also partial to the Great American Music Hall, where I've seen some great shows over the years, from Steve Earle to the late, great Jeff Buckley. Bottom of the Hill has a lot of character, too, though the music tends to be a lot, you know, *noisier* than you'll hear at the other places.

One idea: Venture out of SF proper and head over to the Sweetwater in Mill Valley. (It's maybe 20 minutes from S.F., across the Golden Gate Bridge on 101.) It's a great old bar with a LOT of history. You never know who might show up there to perform. It's also not far from one of Nor Cal's great record stores, Village Music. I once went record shopping with DJ Shadow there. A most interesting outing.


Inquiring minds want to know: Is the Post going to be reviewing the new Hanson CD that is scheduled to be released next week?

J. Freedom du Lac: We're not accepting write-in votes for next week's review schedule. So no, we won't be reviewing this one -- even if I do love me some "MMMbop."


Rock on, Beavis: I feel the need to report that XM channel 41 is playing Krokus right now.

Seriously, has there ever been a worse hard rock band?

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, Manowar was worse.


Bethesda, Md.: Now that we're officially halfway through 2007, please give us your picks for Albums of the Year So Far. I'll get you started: Stephen Marley, "Mind Control," Miracle Fortress, "Five Roses," and maybe, for a dark horse, Bebel Gilberto's "Memento." Lay it on me.

J. Freedom du Lac: The album-of-the-year race was over in May, when Miranda Lambert's "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" was released. A few others that are contenders for the year-end best-of list:

Patty Griffin, "Children Running Through."

Amy Winehouse, "Back to Black."

White Stripes, "Icky Thump."

Spoon, "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga."

LCD Soundsystem, "Sound of Silver."

Elizabeth Cook, "Balls."

Richard Thompson, "Sweet Warrior."

Arcade Fire, "Neon Bible."

Not many surprises so far. I've been spending a lot of time recently going through the crates, randomly sampling CDs, hoping to hear some surprise magic. Thus far, I've come up empty.

And by the way, I guess this isn't exactly news, but it's been an incredibly lousy year for hip-hop so far. About as bad as any that I can remember -- and made worse, no doubt, by my decision to revisit a few bona fide classics while reading Brian Coleman's "Check the Technique: Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies." (Great new book in which the author interviews artists about their classic works, from Rakim on "Paid in Full," Chuck D on PE's "It Takes a Nation..." and Big Daddy Kane on "Long Live the Kane" to Ice -T on "Power," Q-Tip and Pfife on Tribe's "Low End Theory" and some of the Wu-Tangers on "36 Chambers.")

J. Freedom du Lac: (Though, on the hip-hop tip, I *will* say that "100 Miles and Running," the new mixtape from DC's own Wale, is pretty great. Absolutely worth a listen if you haven't heard it.)


Washington, D.C.: I know that you are a fan of Solomon Burke's Nashville, the new Patty Griffin album, and Kelly Clarkson's version of "Up to the Mountain" and I wondered which version of the song was your favorite? Does a tie go to the songwriter?

J. Freedom du Lac: You know, I'd listen to all three of these songs right now for the side-by-side-by-side comparison, but my main iPod blew up on me this morning and had to go in for emergency surgery. (Think good thoughts, people.) I think I might prefer Clarkson's live version to the others, but only by a hair.


Silver Spring, Md.: I'm an almost 40 Dad with $7 on my iTunes account. (Go ahead, I deserve the scorn.) My collection ranges from U2 to the Disney "Cars" soundtrack. I did enjoy School of Rock, but I'm clueless when it comes to contemporary music, so please help. How would you spend the 7 bucks? (And this is not a hypothetical question!) Please don't tell me I'm a hopeless case.

J. Freedom du Lac: Nah, a hopeless case would be the person who steadfastly refuses to listen to anything new and instead keeps those moldy oldies locked up in the 6-CD changer, if not the 8-track machine. I applaud you for seeking out new music. But I really need more paramaters to help you find your seven songs, as U2 to Disney doesn't really tell me much other than that you might not like Panda Bear.


Smashing Pumpkins Review: I do have to wonder if it really serves the readers to use a review from someone who has already formed an opinion of a performance before it occurred. The only evidence that was provided to prove his opinion was that people were leaving before the show was over. Did the reviewer ask what people (fans) thought or why some left early?

I wasn't personally at the show, but the feeling I got from the review was one of bias from a writer who had made up their mind before writing the review, and was not swayed to change their opinion from the performance. It would be equivalent to sending a member of the Kiss Army to review an Indigo Girls or 50 Cent show, in that the reviewer is likely to have an opinion going into the show, and unless they're knocked out by an amazing performance, they're going to turn in a negative review.

I think this reviewer did a disservice, as many music critics do, by trying to opine on a type of music that they don't really like very much to begin with.

J. Freedom du Lac: And how, might I ask, do you know that he formed an opinion of the performance before it occurred? Did you interview Producer David before the show to ask him what he might write? Why don't we ask him right here and now?

PD, you have the floor. Yeah, I don't really know what to say. I saw the Smashing Pumpkins three times the first time around and it was always pretty good to very good, so I was looking forward to it. This show was just really, really terrible. The band sounded flat, they played lots of bad songs, there was no spark, etc. And it went on forever, unnecessarily. I know there were many superfans there who are bound to disagree, that's fine. But it's entirely presumptuous and just wrong to think I went in there "on a mission," or something like that.


where 4 seasons change: i'm going to see boyzIImen at the birchmere! first time for both... being at the birchmere and seeing the boyz break it down. what should i expect?

J. Freedom du Lac: You should expect to get there early and get a spot near the front of the stage. You'll marvel at how close you can sit to the performers. That room will feel TINY compared to the arenas BIIM used to fill. No idea how their voices are holding up, but I haven't heard any reports indicating that they're in bad shape.


Falls Church, Va.: re: Village Music

Better head over there soon, it's closing September 30.

J. Freedom du Lac: That is really, really, really sad.


Herndon, Va.: Ok, I liked the Pumpkins show, but the text messaging thing was really frickin' funny (and I agree on the 2nd encore).

J. Freedom du Lac: Rlly? I thot the txt msgng was sorta stoopy - tho wehad 2 edit some of the best stuf out bc um it wsnt fit 2 print. LOL.


Back to Black Retort: I, on the other hand, was stunned at what I believe to be one of the best, authentic soul albums I've heard in quite some time.

J. Freedom du Lac: Take THAT, doubter!


Speaking of Arcade Fire...: Have you heard if they'll do another DC show this fall?

J. Freedom du Lac: I've heard that they probably will, perhaps with LCD Soundsystem opening, but I have no date or venue details. And no, I won't make you my plus-one.


Washington, D.C.: So I finally weeded through the almost endless hours of Live Earth I recorded a week and a half ago, and I was pretty disappointed. There were a couple of standouts (Spinal Tap, Madonna, UB-40, Keith Urban/Alicia Keys, Musaf/Cat Stevens, and Wolfmother), but for the most part, the artists were far from entertaining. What made these concerts so much worse than previous world-wide mega-events like Live 8 or Live Aid?

Despite all of the monitors, just about every singer had trouble singing on key, and the crowds were less-than enthusiastic--I guess I would be too if I sat in the hot New Jersey swamp for 12 hours for Kanye West to shout "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, SOS" over a classic Police tune.

J. Freedom du Lac: Dunno about the other venues, but everybody in New Jersey seemed to be waiting for that Bon Jovi performance -- nevermind, I guess, that the band's liberal use of hairspray back in the day probably put a huge hole in the ozone layer.


ManOwaR Bay, Ariz.: When losers say it's over with / you know that it's a lie

'Cause the Gods made Heavy Metal / And it's never gonna die

J. Freedom du Lac: Thank you.


Amy Winehouse : men love drunk sl**s

J. Freedom du Lac: When did Freedom Rock turn into You're in the wrong place.


the USA: No review of the Toby Keith show?

J. Freedom du Lac: Technical difficulties. We actually sent a reviewer out to Nissan but for reasons not worth getting into here, the writer had problems getting into the venue -- and also had to leave early. So no, no review. A shame since Freedom Rock fave Miranda Lambert was great on the undercard (loved her cover of Steve Earle's "Hillbilly Highway") to Toby Keith put on cap-S SHOW, complete with high-tech videos, confetti bombs and a whole lotta pyros. He's got a pretty great voice, too, though I think a lot of his songs are pretty lame. He sounded best when singing ballads. He also shaves his armpits, I noticed. Interesting. There were about 22,000 people at Nissan for the concert (including a couple-few who showed up with Confederate flags flying from their pickups -- ummmm), and I've gotta say, it was one of the best concert crowds I've seen in DC. Maybe they were inspired by the big FORD grill that was incorporated into the set design.


Re: Smashing Pumpkins and Amy Winehouse: So why all the hating on Producer Dave for not liking a concert? I wasn't there, but have heard the segments on XM from the Smashing Pumpkins playing Live Earth. When I heard those segments, I was glad I forgot to buy tickets for the 9:30 club show. Then I read his review and was doubly glad I didn't put out the cash.

As for Amy Winehouse, why hate her music because she may be crazy, a drunk, etc. Her voice is incredible and the music is great! I love listening to this disturbed woman.

J. Freedom du Lac: Poll: How many people who claim to hate Amy Winehouse were big fans of the Replacements?


Krokus, USA: Let me caress your flesh/

Unveil your passion, turn you on!/

It's the night of the snakes!

J. Freedom du Lac: Thank you.


You got crates?: Sounds like you might need some helping cleaning up your overflow of new releases. Do they get put out by the back door? Can we play in the pile? What happens to them crates of stuff.

J. Freedom du Lac: I have more help than I need when it comes to thinning the CD stacks, actually. In fact, somebody seems to have helped themselves to the new Cribs album that I wanted to listen to today. I blame Vegan Chris.

Thanks for your offer, though. All you do is give.


Springfield, Va.: When I checked the iTunes new releases this morning I was most surprised to see the new Josh Rouse: COUNTRY MOUSE, CITY HOUSE. I don't think the CD gets officially released till the end of the month. I know that JFD prefers Ritter to Rouse when it comes to Josh's, but I'd still like to give this new record a little dap.

J. Freedom du Lac: Will investigate. I do like Josh Rouse -- just not as much as the other JR, as you noted.


Herndon, Va.: I went to Live Earth NJ, and you couldn't tell from the TV, but the crowd was pretty wild for the last four acts: Jovi, Pumpkins, Waters, Police. Sure, Kanye was a bit of letdown, but it was a packed 2 hours of hits. Personally I thought Roger Waters was the highlight, better than his solo show at Nissan last year (smart to only do Floyd material from Dark Side and the Wall).

J. Freedom du Lac: Was that you spilling beer uncomfortably close to my laptop? I agree that the energy level really got cranked up down the home stretch. The "Pumpkins" came roaring out of the gate after Bon Jovi's set, and I, too, rather liked Roger Waters. The Police didn't wow me (same reaction I had when they made their comeback appearance on the Grammys), but deadlines and a dying laptop battery might have been partly to blame. Or maybe I was living in fear of a Najee sax solo.


Fairfax, Va.:"the writer had problems getting into the venue --"

I would never had guessed that...Trouble getting to Nissan, that NEVER happens. Maybe that's why artists have started moving back to Merriweather for shows in the DC area.

J. Freedom du Lac: I personally enjoyed the 35-minute journey between I-66 and the parking lot. Nice two(ish)-mile drive.


What's Going On ??: A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that Superman Intro for you but you haven't changed it yet.

J. Freedom du Lac: I'm more of an Aquaman guy.


Arlington, Va.: We can still kick around Arizona Bay in his absence. You can't outrun the long arm of the Freedom Rock law.

J. Freedom du Lac: This is true. And besides, we need some sort of issue or idea to rally 'round, and it clearly isn't the greatness of Starland Vocal Band's "Afternoon Delight," whose Freedom Rock shelf life proved to be pretty short.


TOBY: Shaved pits??????????????

J. Freedom du Lac: Yeah, shaved pits. He also appeared to have shaved his arms (looked that way on the big screen, anyway). I believe he's admitted as much in interviews before. I'd be willing to bet, too, that he dyes his hair and bleaches his teeth. Apparently the rough-n-tumble maintenance man who can't get the high maintenance women is sorta high maintenance himself. Rock on, Toby!

Thanks, as always, for stopping by today. Thanks, too, for making Producer David squirm. That's always fun. Good luck to Arizona Bay, who will need it as he tries to convince a new crowd that Maynard James Keenan is, in fact, the last of rock's living geniuses.


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