Freedom Rock

J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 23, 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 Dan Deacon does.

The transcript follows.


J. Freedom du Lac: Sorry I missed last week. Then again, I'm not *really.* I mean, I blew off this chat so I could hang out with Brian Wilson out in California. Mad genius or mad chatters -- easy choice, right?

So what'd I miss?

Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne and Graham Nash are in town this week to revive Musicians United for Safe Energy, the group that gave the world the No Nukes concerts back in 1979. Nuclear power plants are back in play, so MUSE itself is back.

I've got Britney's new album on the headphones right now.

Let's shall.


Silver Spring, Md.: Hey there,

I've been hearing a fair amount of Elvis Costello and Death Cab for Cutie on the radio lately (i.e. the Globe). I didn't think I really liked them since I'm normally a rock/metal chick but I really like what I hear! Can you recommend some albums to start with so I can go deeper beyond their radio stuff? Thanks!

J. Freedom du Lac: There are many sides to Declan McManus -- but to fully appreciate what Elvis Costello is all about, you need to go back to his days as an Angry Young Man. The trio of albums he released in 1977-78-79 is pretty stunning, as he proffered three consecutive classics: His debut "My Aim Is True," then "This Year's Model" and "Armed Forces." The latter album might be a little bit easier for a newbie to get into than EC's first two releases as it's more pop-friendly. You could just pick up the new compilation, "The Best Of: The First 10 Years," as it covers the most important/obvious bases, from "Alison" and "Radio Radio" to "Accidents Will Happen" and "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes." But that's not necessairly digging deep.

As for Death Cab - I'm not a huge fan. But "Transatlanticism" is the album you'll want to pick up.


Philly, Pa.: I was going to buy my Dad the new Eagles record, but then I found out that it was going to be distributed by Wal-Mart, who insisted that it be produced by Chinese musicians who will work for a tenth of the price.

J. Freedom du Lac: Please, save your lame Glenn Stir-Frey jokes for another day.


Rockville, Md.: J.Free: I was shocked and appalled to see the list of R&R Hall of Fame nominees. No Iggy Pop and/or Stooges, but Donna Summer, Chic, and the Beastie Boys are on the list. It seems like the Hall is turning into a joke -- what exactly is the criteria for being nominated, and who does the nominating? And wouldn't it be a good idea to perhaps skip a year if there are no worthy inductees? Your thoughts, please. . .

J. Freedom du Lac: I'm having a hard time summoning any outrage. Does anybody actually care about the Rock Hall?


I'm Trying to Stop, But I Just Can't: Free--

How about "Chaka Khan Jovi"? A Melle Mel impersonator would of course be part of the act.

J. Freedom du Lac: This Bon Fauxvi thread is like one of those trick birthday candles that I always hated as a kid. Just when you think you've blown it out..

Did anybody catch the real Jon Bon hosting "Saturday Night Live" a couple o weeks back? The best part of that show was seeing Richie Sambora freeze up during the monologue. Dude, you had ONE-AND-A-HALF FREAKIN LINES! But, er, maybe that's the problem. Too many lines.


Berkeley, Calif.: Win, Regine, and Bruce - the ticket we all wish we had?

J. Freedom du Lac: Nah, I'll take Hendrix, Albert King and John Mayall at the Fillmore in February of 1968. But it's on the list.


Chattanooga, Tenn.: Do I care about the RnR Hall of Fame? Not really, but I do like it when they nominate people who are going to show up for the induction ceremony/tv show ready to play (like Prince).

J. Freedom du Lac: But aren't most of the performances kinda lousy?


Chicago, Ill.: To all the Springsteen doubters, his live show remains inspiring! Not in love with the new CD? You will be after hearing it live. The guitar playing on Gypsy Biker was amazing and Devil's Arcade was haunting...

I've seen him 10 times and last night in Chicago may have been one of the best. And for what it's worth, I didn't get my tickets to either show until last minute and I got them for face value. Do not be denied. In fact, I may see you in DC.

J. Freedom du Lac: One vote against the doubters.


Columbia, Md.: J -

Did you happen to catch Spoon and Shins last night at Merriweather? The sound was so bad, I thought I was at DAR. Seriously though, the soundman for that show should never be allowed to work again. The first four or five Spoon songs were ruined with low-freq feedback and the instrument levels throughout were iffy.

The Shins set was even worse. The instrument levels were off for at least the first ten songs, and the high-mids were so harsh that my ears were ringing even wearing plugs. We actually went out onto the lawn to get away from the pain.

And maybe the band had a crappy stage mix, but their performance was boring at best. They finally started to get into it around Gone for Good.

I found with both bands that keyboard was insanely loud. It was sort of like the soundman made every instrument the same volume.

Whatever - I want my hearing (and money) back.

J. Freedom du Lac: I didn't go. I was too busy suffering through the Tom Petty Documentary That Has No End. Quick, somebody get Peter Bogdanovich an editor. (And while you're up, would you kindly get those four hours of my life back, please?)


Just Blow: You mean, no one's gonna try Starland Vocal Ban Jovi?

J. Freedom du Lac: Ban. That's a good word here. We are so over and done with this idea, it's not even funny. Seriously -- it's not even funny.


Ashland, Ore.: Hey Freedom,

Did you see Clapton on Larry King? This guy has led the most amazing life, he could talk for days and I'd listen. This guy needs a biopic, bad. What do you say to Russell Crowe in sensitive mode? He's already a rock star, and in the seventies he could do his fightin' 'round the world bit. But seriously, Clapton's story needs a movie!

J. Freedom du Lac: It was a surprisingly intresting interview. He was more candid than I expected -- and interesting, too. I just may have to crack open the book. Loved the stuff about the George Harrison love triangle.


Washington, D.C.: Undoubtedly you read the New Yorker piece on race in indie rock. As someone who likes Bob Dylan's early work, which is entirely devoid of funk, and can appreciate lots of music that's not derived from traditional African-American styles, like Bhangra or Japanese music, I found the obsession with looking for a swing or funk to music to be rather strange. Not only is the Black American Experience often reduced to music and religion at the expense of, let's say, literature and engineering, but as Sasha eventually states, there's a good deal of discomfort amongst white people in appearing like posers ripping off someone else's culture. You can't both mock Vanilla Ice and expect impressionable white kids to want to adopt styles that they'll be mocked for. What's your take on it?

J. Freedom du Lac: Actually, I haven't yet read the Sasha Frere-Jones essay (I was exhausted after reading the great David Simon profile in that same issue), so I'm not yet ready to talk about it -- other than to say that I once declared to some friends/colleagues/fellow music fans that I'd rather listen to horrible hip-hop than mediocre indie rock any day. Because, you know, it's got a funky beat and you can dance to it. So I come to the SF-J piece with my own set of biases. I'll read the story before next week's chat and we can discuss.


The Dude: The Eagles? Can we please talk about some thing else? I had a rough f-----g day and I hate the f-----g Eagles, man.

J. Freedom du Lac: Sure. Let's talk about Little Big Town, which is doing Eagleseque stuff better than the Eagles themselves these days. That better?


Chicago, Ill.: Broooooce!

Just sayin'.

J. Freedom du Lac: Thank you.

_______________________ A Paler Shade of White: How Indie Rock Lost Its Soul (Sasha Frere-Jones, The New Yorker)


Indiana: Just got back from seeing both Springsteen Chicago shows and it was amazing! The concerts are shorter now (a shade over two hours), but the Boss still brings the same intensity to his music. He brought down the house the first night once Roy Bittan started the piano intro to Backstreets. The new version of Reason to Believe is incredible. The second night, he mixed the set list up a little bit. I never fully appreciated Darlington County until I heard it live last night - it was one giant sing-along. Then to open up the encore set he took a request from somebody down in the audience and busted out Thunder Road for the first time in years. I think the entire crowd must have been singing along with that one.

J. Freedom du Lac: Springsteen fans, driving up the grey-market price for the [Insert Telcom Company Name Here] Center shows one rave at a time.


Gainesville, Fla.: I'm not in Gainesville, but I grew up there. I'm glad to hear what you had to say about the Tom Petty documentary, because now I don't have to feel bad about not going to see it. I probably will watch it on DVD eventually, but I've got home town pride motivating me.

J. Freedom du Lac: It's on Sundance next week. But it might take you the entire week to watch it. It took, like, 41 minutes for them to get around to the release of the first TP and the Heartbreakers album. FORTY-ONE MINUTES!!!! That's way too much biographical throat clearing. (And trust me, I know from throat clearing.)


Tampa, Fla.: Why couldn't you have brought Brian Wilson along with you to last week's chat? We could all use some crazy non sequiturs in our day.

J. Freedom du Lac: OK, so just a quick highlight (among many) from the interview -- we're talking about influences and, of course, Phil Spector's name comes up, so I ask Brian what his relationship with Spector is like, and he says he hasn't seen him since 1984. I ask what his impression of Spector is. Not artistically, but personally. First description out of Brian's mouth? "Zany." How perfect is that? Brian Wilson calling Phil Spector zany!


Blaine, Missouri: To the gentleman on the Metro the other day listening to "Training Montage" from the "Rocky IV" soundtrack on his MP3 player at deafening volume: Please accept one of the following as relevant: (a) my sincerest respects for being the greatest (and most tragically unheralded) humorist of the modern age; or (b) my deepest sympathies for being possessed of absolutely no musical taste. (I would also like to extend this latter sentiment to all the deejays at the radio station known as DC101.)

J. Freedom du Lac: This is just delightful. Great post.

Reminds me that when I was in L.A., I was stuck in traffic on La Cienega (which is what you do when you're on La Cienega, I guess) I saw/heard a guy in a tricked-out SUV (tinted windows, enormous chrome rims, the whole nine) cranking Chuck Mangione at full volume. Very strange.


Atlanta, Ga.: Yeah the Petty Doc was too long for one sitting, but if it was shorter, they would have dropped the cool weird stuff first. Like the scene where Tom is yelling at Roger McGuinn's A&R guys while Roger just looks on, mortified. I loved that scene. I would never, ever get on Tom Petty's bad side.

J. Freedom du Lac: I mean, look - I love me some Tom Petty. I've long thought that he's somewhat underappreciated. He's written some great, great songs. The band is outstanding. Etc etc etc. But he's not worth four hours.


That Lucky Old J. Free: Will we be seeing Brian Wilson perform his new work around these parts any time soon?

J. Freedom du Lac: He's going into the studio in December - right around the time of the Kennedy Center Honors, in fact - to record the new song cycle and then plans to head down to Australia to perform it. I'm sure a U.S. tour will follow, but he didn't mention any specific plans.


Washington, D.C.:

What are the essential Elvis Costello albums? Just got "Get Happy" after the first 3, and its not on the same level.

J. Freedom du Lac: The first three albums. Then, I'd have to say "Imperial Bedroom" and "Trust" are #4 and #4a. But you're right -- after the first three, there's a drop-off. Still, that's a pretty nice run -- throwing "Get Happy!" in there and that country covers album whose name I don't remember, he released something like seven albums in six years, and the quality control was STRONG. Ryan Adams wishes he could be that productive at that level over that length of time.


Ashland, Ore.: Freedom, every time I post on the Post, you guys change Ashland OR to Ashland Ore. What's up with that? Are people going to be confused by the OR and think "Ashland, or what?"

J. Freedom du Lac: The official AP style calls for Oregon to become Ore. And Producer David isn't an either/OR kind of guy.


Bethesda, Md.: Speaking of Brian Wilson and Phil Spector, any comment or question to Wilson about his recent collaboration, with Bill Medley, on Medley's new CD?

J. Freedom du Lac: No.


Care about the ROCK HOF: Well J Freedom,

Several months ago we all stood firm against a Journey nomination, so we must care a little.

J. Freedom du Lac: But just a little.


Arlington, Va.: Any word on last weekend's British Sea Power show at Black Cat? I'd wanted to go, but couldn't. I figured anyone who'd write a pop song about an ice shelf deserved a listen...

J. Freedom du Lac: Any chatters attend this one? Care to recap?


RE: Costello advice: Avoid Goodbye Cruel World. At all costs.

J. Freedom du Lac: The first real brick in the wall for Elvis, no? (The country covers project didn't count.)


25th and M, Washington, D.C.: Enough of Bruce "the Almighty" - let's chat about a more important artist. Neil Young's coming to DC in November. At DAR of all places..Ugh. Why?

But it's Neil, so it's hard to pass it up.

J. Freedom du Lac: That might work to his advantage, though, depending on how crazy horse-d he's planning to get. Think about the best Neil Young live shows you've seen -- there've no doubt been more than a few moments of glorious noise, no? The tricky acoustics at DAR could actually serve him well.


Band of Horses (Cease to Begin): Is this some of that moderate Indie rock you're talking about? Because I happen to love their new album, but heard some folks talking -&$# about it the other day.

J. Freedom du Lac: No, no - they make MAJESTIC music. "Funeral" from the first album, "Detlef Schrempf" from the new one ... me encanta.

I don't remember exactly who/what started the argument, but we were talking about a band that was trying to do the Pavement thing -- and not very well. It was seriously middling stuff. This was circa 1997.


Falls Church, Va.: re: Costello -- King of American, good. Blood & Chocolate, bad.

J. Freedom du Lac: Spike, worse.


Foggy Bottom, Washington, D.C.: I didn't personally go to see British Sea Power, but I heard they put on a great show. I -did- see the Middle Distance Runner/the Dance Party show at the 'Cat on Saturday and that was amazing. Props to the locals!

J. Freedom du Lac: Love the Middle Distance Runner. When is "Naturally" going to get picked up by a Hollywood music supervisor?


Herndon, Va.: JFdL, did you or any of the chatters make it to the Hendrix tribute? I thought parts of it were bad (Mitch Mitchell), but Robert Randolph made up for it and overall wasn't nearly as bad as the Post review made it sound (it was kinda like the Paul Simon tribute, ups and downs).

J. Freedom du Lac: Wasn't there, no. Still on my Brian Wilson high. So to speak. (Me: "Isn't it true that you thought Phil Spector was monitoring your brain?" Wilson: "Yes." Me: "What was up with that?" Wilson: "Drugs!")


Anonymous: One of the most hilarious moments of my life was walking back from class at UMD one day and hearing the rocky training song blaring from my dorm, as I was about 3 dorms away. And as I got closer I gradually started to realize where it was likely coming from, ultimately returning to my dorm room to find my roommate, shirtless, finishing off a very intense set of situps.

J. Freedom du Lac: In case there's video evidence of this somewhere out there, I'm just going to get preemptive and admit this: When I was in Philadelphia doing a Live 8 story two years ago, I spotted the Rocky steps in front of the Museum of Art, ran

up to the top and thew my arms in the air. When in Rome and all. (I think I probably fainted about three minutes later, but who's counting?)


river city: I may be the only one, but I -liked- Costello's "Almost Blue," he's got the right voice to play with the yodely country stuff. Plus he's earned the right to do some self-indulgent albums.

J. Freedom du Lac: OK.


Re: Elvis: King of America is pretty solid.

J. Freedom du Lac: Lots of Declan fans today.


re: Whitewashing of indie rock: Slate has a sometimes-interesting response to the New Yorker piece on indie rock.

J. Freedom du Lac: Great -- more verbiage that I'll have to read before next week. Thanks for the homework.


Costello: Almost Blue is the country album. Trust is OK. I liked King of America and Blood and Chocolate. For the most part it was all downhill from there.

J. Freedom du Lac: Elvis, cont.


A bathroom stall far, far away:"Think about the best Neil Young live shows you've seen -- there've no doubt been more than a few moments of glorious noise, no?"

I experience more than a few moments of glorious noise every time I go for a number two. Doesn't mean I go to DAR to do it, though, does it?

J. Freedom du Lac: But it *is* possible for there to be good sound there, no? (At Constitution Hall, I mean. Save the bathroom talk for Weingarten's chat.) Where would you rather see this show? The Patriot Center? Bender? I'm no sure there's a decent alternative. The Warner is too small.


RE: Brian Wilson: Brian Wilson discusses the Theremin!

J. Freedom du Lac: Good times. I wish I'd been videotaping when he discussed the sandbox he used to have inside his house, for songwriting.


Little Big Town: Actually, I think they're doing more of a Fleetwood Mac thing than the Eagles ("Bones" sound like a track of Rumors, and they cover "Go Your Own Way").

J. Freedom du Lac: But those harmonies...


Radford, Va.: If you could buy stock in a performer/singer/rapper I'd be all over Lupe Fiasco's stock right now. This guy is incredible.

J. Freedom du Lac: I have high hopes for his new album. Very high hopes, indeed. Strong lyricist, good ideas, needs to upgrade his beats from the first album.


Re: DAR: It can sound good, just look at the Arcade Fire show last spring.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, indeed. That was one of the great moments in live music this year. Great crowd (not always the case in DC) and above-average mix (though the pipe organ parts sounded lousy). Too bad the Arcade Fire isn't black enough, per the New Yorker.


Falls Church, Va.: Costello -- Punch The Clock is pretty good; it's the one with horns, chick backup singers and a hit single: Everyday I Write the Book

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes.


Costello: Juliet Letters--Unforgivable.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes.


What year is this?: Brian Wilson, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Elvis Costello...have we discussed anyone under the age of 50 in this chat today?

J. Freedom du Lac: Britney. Win Butler. Err....that's about it.


And the cradle...: Have you seen Woolfie's grades???

J. Freedom du Lac: No, but I'm truly excited about the upcoming Van Halen show here -- because when it happens, Producer David loses a big bet and has to cover the Wiggles.


J. Freedom du Lac: If you just can't wait, the new Britney is streaming at Britney Spears, "Blackout"


SNL: That episode was just weird. They gave Jon Bon Jovi even less to do than when they have athletes on, and he actually has done some acting! (And he's not terrible at it -- at least, he was good on "Sex and the City.") And the supposed "musical guest" Foo Fighters totally got shafted: one song for them, two for Bon Jovi.

J. Freedom du Lac: That was a tough draw for the Foos. Bon Jovi has home-field advantage in a big way.


Strange Car Tunes at High Volume: For me, it was the guys in shades, sitting motionless in the back of the pick-up truck holding startlingly realistic plastic machine guns, while the James Bond theme blaring at 11. Kinda funny, kinda skeery.

J. Freedom du Lac: Was that the POTUS motorcade?


Columbia, Md.: What is your favorite movie soundtrack of all time? Mine is the Big Lebowski but you have to be a fan of CCR and Dylan to fully appreciate it. Oh and you have to really hate the Eagles.

J. Freedom du Lac: I don't know that I have a favorite. I love "O Brother Where Art Thou?" "Wild Style." "Pump Up the Volume." "Harder They Come." I have a strange affinity for the "Less Than Zero" soundtrack, too. But I wouldn't say it's a favorite.


Washington, D.C.: Hey, I liked the Delivery Man a lot, and When I was Cruel and the River in Reverse aren't bad either. Why are we looking to knock Elvis? He's pretty good, no?

J. Freedom du Lac: We're not looking to knock Elvis. We're just picking through his catalogue. And not all Elvis Costello albums are created equal.


Strange Car Tunes at High Volume: I once saw a middle-aged woman rocking out in her car at a stop light. I laughed to myself until I realized that THAT is what people see when they drive by me. I saw the clash over 25 years ago... I'm not 20 any more...

J. Freedom du Lac: Well, yeah, there is that. But you should drive through life knowing that your musical tastes are superior. Don't let anybody's laugh stop you. (Unless it's a Big Audio Dynamite song that you're singing.)


Singing in public:: I've been caught TWICE singing The Cover of the Rolling Stone with the window down at a stoplight. I've never felt so low.

J. Freedom du Lac: Can't help you here. Sorry.


U Street: Half the chat has gone by and nothing about the Josh Ritter (official favorite of the Post I think). What's up with that? What did you think of the show?

J. Freedom du Lac: Show was good, if ragged and uneven. I hated the sound mix on the louder/brassier material; the amped-up "Girl in the War" was especially overblown. His rambling chatter got a little tedious.

The Springsteen cover during the encore was fantastic. As was "Next to the Last Romantic."

I'd say the show was probably a solid B.


movie soundtracks: Broken Flowers, As Good As It Gets and Royal Tannenbaums

J. Freedom du Lac: OK.


Washington, D.C.: Regarding strange car songs,

At the University of Maryland I was at a party where four U of MD football players just left with some serious bad attitudes and those awful-mid-1980s sunglasses hanging off their nose like the Risky Business poster. They piled into the car, gave us all the finger, and cranked Tiffany's "I think we're alone now" at deafening volume. That was the hottest top 40 track at the time, but you know, for kids, not adults.

J. Freedom du Lac: Now THAT is hardcore!

The tough guys (heart) Tiffany. For everybody else, it's Debbie Gibson. No doubt.


Seattle, Wash.: Also saw the Clash 20 years ago. And was caught by the irony of singing along with "Clampdown" at high volume. In my Acura. With a child seat. On the way home from my Big Corporate job.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yeah, but did you use your Visa to buy tickets to one of those VISA Signature Presents An Evening with Elvis Costello and the Imposters shows?


More Strange Car Tunes: My dad, turning 80 in January, tooling around the streets of Boynton Beach, FL in his convertible blasting klezmer music at top volume. All the widows swoon.

J. Freedom du Lac: That's hot.


...And not all Elvis Costello albums are created equal.:"Mighty Like a Rose" also less equal than others.

J. Freedom du Lac: I had a friend in college who worshipped Elvis. Thought he could do no wrong. And then Mighty Like a Rose and Spike came out while we were in school (yes, I'm that old) and he decided he no longer had use for Elvis Costello in his life.


river city:"Harder They Come"--classic; always on my desert island disc list.

Also noteworthy: "Beavis and Butthead Do America" soundtrack for the Chilipeppers cover of "Rollercoaster" woo woo woo

J. Freedom du Lac: Gotta love the Isaac Hayes tune on the Beavis and Butthead soundtrack, too.


Nashville, Tenn.: There's hardly been a musician more anti-corporate over the years than Don Henley. But where's the only place you can get the Eagles new cd? Why, WalMart.

Now that's what I call "walkin the walk.."


J. Freedom du Lac: Joni Mitchell quits the music industry in disgust. Says she basically hates the biz side of the music biz. Then comes back years later and releases a new album via Starbacks. Oh?


Richmond, Va.: Elvis Costello and Marian McPartland, Piano Jazz, for the win.

J. Freedom du Lac: Nah. That's more like the music to play while eating the victory cake.


Singin in Car at High Volume: I got busted by a couple of giggling teenagers at the light for doing "Mack the Knife". You can't get lower than that.

J. Freedom du Lac: Teenagers giggle at anything involving old people (old = legal drinking age and up). Here we are now/entertain us/etc.

That's enough snickering at everybody's car karaoke exploits for one day. Thanks for stopping by. Come back next week so we can talk about the unbearable whiteness of indie, k?


Mojo Nixon was right: Don Henley must die.

J. Freedom du Lac: Coda.


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