Freedom Rock

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J. Freedom du Lac
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 25, 2008; 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 Britney Spears does.

The transcript follows.

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washingtonpost.com: Panic at the Disco, a Little Too Stuck in the Groovy

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J. Freedom du Lac: Greetings, chatters. I reviewed Beatles! at the Disco and lived to tell about it. You?

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Washington, D.C.:"the most shocking stylistic transformation to take place in the upper reaches of the Billboard Top 200 since the Killers tried to become an Important/Deep-Thinking Stadium Act, along the lines of Springsteen or U2. The Killers failed spectacularly." Sam's Town sold nearly 4 million copies world wide. Apparently, a lot of people liked it. What is your definition of success?

J. Freedom du Lac: I meant that it failed in an artistic sense. I should have been more clear.

Can (nearly) 4 million fans be wrong? Yes. Yes they can.

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Anonymous: Am I wrong to want to see George Michael when he comes to town?

J. Freedom du Lac: Not at all. Producer David and I actually had "Faith" in the Top 10 of our all-time Grammy Album of the Year rankings thingy on Post Rock. I'm totally there.

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McLean, Va.: Hey J - Have you been sucking up to your (relatively) new boss? After all, you want to get on the inside track now for primo seats when the inevitable Talking Heads reunion finally happens.

J. Freedom du Lac: This ain't no party. This ain't no disco. This ain't no fooling around.

She is definitely the coolest publisher in the biz. And I'm not just saying that because she's Tina Weymouth's niece. (I am, however, saying it because she put a foosball table and a Wii in the break room here.)

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No-Ho, Calif.: COLD WAR KIDS....are they the real deal???

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes. Especially live.

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Upper Mayberry, Md.: You ended a recent chat by saying you were going to listen to Erykah Badu's latest? Please share your thoughts.

J. Freedom du Lac: An early contender for album of the year.

She's strangely brilliant. Emphasis on strange, but hey.

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Alexandria, Va.: J Free, we seemingly hear a lot about the individual E Streeters. We all know about the Big Man. We're familiar with Little Steven and Max Weinberg from their TV work. Nils Lofgren is probably the best guitarist among the three. Patti has obviously taken on a bigger role since becoming Mrs. Boss. Roy Bittan's and Danny Federici's work really shines through on the early albums. Yet we never hear much about Garry Tallent? Why doesn't the bass player get much publicity?

J. Freedom du Lac: Bass players are like offensive linemen: You really only notice them when they screw up. Or, I guess, when they dance like Verdine White. (Or write like McCartney.)

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Silver Spring, Md.: Man, DC crowds are WEAK.

I was at the Fertile Ground, Tortured Soul and Amp Fiddler show at the 9:30 club this weekend.

Man, they crowd just died at 12:30. This is the second time I have been at a show (I was at the Black Cat before) recently where the crowd just had no energy. It is like the brought nothing to the show and were counting on the bands to supply it.

I will try again at the Saul Williams show. What do you know about him live?

J. Freedom du Lac: It really depends on the show - and sometimes the venue. Toby Keith at Nissan? The crowd was off the charts. (And also off the lawn: I saw one exceedingly drunk guy rolling down the back hill. Ouch.) BB King at Strathmore? On the first night of his two-night run there, he asked one of the guys in his band if the audience was sleeping. He was only kinda-sorta joking. No shortage of energy at Arcade Fire's Constitution Hall show last May. Etc etc.

Never seen Saul live.

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Washington, D.C.:"Bass players are like offensive linemen: You really only notice them when they screw up."

Bootsy Collins notwithstanding.

J. Freedom du Lac: He's more like a tight end. Like, he's the Shannon Sharpe of bass players. Or something.

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Killers: I enjoy listening to a few songs off their first album, but I couldn't ever get their lyrics. They don't make sense at all. I'd be singing along and thinking "what the h-ll does this mean?" And that made me eventually lose interest. Which I guess is strange because I've enjoyed plenty of bands with nonsensical lyrics. I think I'd at least like to know the general theme of what they're getting at.

J. Freedom du Lac: But on that first album, the nonsensical lyrics played pretty well. It was a fun album. When they decided to get all serious on Album No. 2, they were demanding that people pay attention to their lyrics. So, we did. And guess what? They were lousy!

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By the time I get to Phoenix: Glen Campbell at #24 on your Grammy albums list?

My sainted mother wants to have a word with you.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yeah? She has the floor.

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Country Man, Va.: Have you ever seen Kelly Willis in concert? I love her last three CDs but am only now taking the concert plunge. I'm reminded that she's a mother of four who sings her share of ballads, so the performance might not be a barn-burner. Doesn't mean it won't be great, just not high-energy, which is fine.

Anyway, part of what spurred me to snap up a Birchmere ticket is the news that Willis is bringing an early end to her tour. I don't know if that's a reflection of slower ticket sales, but she sounds like she just can't any longer balance touring with raising a sizable family. That's understandable. So she's canceled several shows, but not the Birchmere gig in early April. Check out her note on her home page.

J. Freedom du Lac: Somehow, I've never actually managed to see her, even though I've been a fan since somebody in my freshman dorm (the second one, after I got kicked out of the first one) got her debut around the time it came out and played the bejesus out of it. I really do think she's taking a hiatus from touring because of family. Four children, including twins, all under the age of 7. That's a handful. She hadn't done a new album in about five years before "Translated From Love" came in '07, so I'm guessing she really didn't know what she was getting into, in terms of juggling life and career, when she hit the road this time around.

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Saint Paul, Minn.: Please comment on Led Zep...

J. Freedom du Lac: Sure. I prefer "Led Zeppelin" to "Led Zeppelin II." I didn't particularly care for the Page-Plant shows I saw in the mid-90s. I wish I'd been able to see them live when John Bonham was still around. I love that Plant turned down all that money (for now) for the reunion tour. And David Coverdale doesn't compare.

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But on that first album, the nonsensical lyrics played pretty well: Okay, it was a fun album. But why should I care if I had a boyfriend that looks like a girlfriend that he had in February of last year? What does that have to do with his potential and why does it ruin his moonlight? Ugh!

J. Freedom du Lac: Because it has a funky beat and you can dance to it? Is that lyric any less ridiculous than Blur's "Girls who are boys/Who like boys to be girls/Who do boys like they're girls/Who do girls like they're boys/Always should be someone you really love"?

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Herndon, Va.: Hey Free - when you are listening to a new album for the first time, do you just sit there and listen or are you doing other things? Also, do they call them albums anymore?

J. Freedom du Lac: It depends on what I'm listening to - and why I'm listening to it. If I'm just doing random sampling to see whether I actually want to listen to something in depth later, I'm usually multi-tasking. Maybe reading a little bit about the artist, or, um, scanning the fantasy baseball waiver wires, or deleting spam and junk posts on the blog. But if I'm listening for a review, I'm not doing anything else.

Right now, I'm listening to She & Him's "Volume One," but I'm not *really* listening to it. On deck: Del the Funky Homosapien's "11th Hour." I've already heard both albums without distraction, so I'm not too worried about the fact that I'm barely paying attention.

I still call them albums, but I'm also old.

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Silver Spring, Md.:"Nobody knows what I am doing back there...until it stops."

Gary Tallent.

J. Freedom du Lac: Excellent.

Speaking of that band of his, I'm in the middle of reading Al Kooper's excellent memoir, "Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards," and I just finished the section on the Nils Lofgren sessions that Kooper produced while he was doing through his nitrous oxide period, and, well ... wow. Kooper is quite the raconteur.

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Richmond, Va.: So when is Maxwell coming out with his new album?

J. Freedom du Lac: Probably (and sadly) before D'Angelo, no?

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Union Station, Washington, D.C.: The bigger the band, the more the bass player gets lost.

Sting, Geddy Lee, Mike Dirnt, Flea ... all known.

Bass player for The Boss or Guns and Roses, not so much. Well, no one knows any of the current Gunners other then Axl.

J. Freedom du Lac: But Bootsy Collins was in a big band, and we all know his name.

And how does this formula account for Pete Wentz's fame and James Jamerson's anonymity?

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Richmond, Va.: So are you saying you are not a Maxwell fan, are you kidding me you like D'Angelo over Maxwell?

J. Freedom du Lac: I'm saying it's sad what's happened to D'Angelo.

Worse, even, than Maxwell's fate.

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Multitasking:"I'm not too worried about the fact that I'm barely paying attention."

This just about sums up my attitude toward this chat. I mean, I'll glance at it now and again on the off-chance something interesting happens (it rarely does), but usually I'll be doing something else, like picking my nose or looking out of the window. Ooh, look at the little birdie!

J. Freedom du Lac: What kind of bird? More details, please. (Now that I'm a member of the Audubon Society and all.)

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Baltimore, Md.: Oohhh..I wanna read the Kooper book. He's the Zelig of rock--present at so many big moments. What's his take on working with Dylan in the early electric forays.

As for bass players...Jack Bruce. Any bassist who could trade solos with Clapton is...I rest my case.

J. Freedom du Lac: He has a lot to say about Dylan, as you might imagine, but I think my favorite part is his recollection of the "Like a Rolling Stone" session. He hadn't met Dylan before, but he was invited to the session by Tom Wilson, and he showed up with his guitar, then talked his way onto the Hammond, and Dylan demanded that Wilson turn up the organ, even though Wilson knew that Kooper didn't really know his way around the instrument. His explanation re why he's an 8th beat behind the rest of the band is pretty great, too.

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Blur Lyrics: I always thought the lyrics from Girls and Boys made a lot of sense in consideration of the previous line, "Love in the nineties is paranoid, on sunny beaches take your chances with..." The song is obviously a take on changing gender identities and the evolving definition of love.

The lyrics for Song 2 (one of their worst), on the other hand...

J. Freedom du Lac: Which, by the way, might wind up as the home-run song at Nationals Park. Over "Bustin' Loose." Which would be a travesty. Vote now on the Nats web site..

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Bass Player Theories: Sid Vicious was the most well known member of the Sex Pistols.

J. Freedom du Lac: He was also the worst musician in the band. By a wide margin. Go figure.

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Audobon Society: What's that, a Kraftwerk fan club?

J. Freedom du Lac: Very funny.

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Washington, D.C.: J Free, some guy asked me out to come to some happy hour tomorrow. I'm not really into the guy, but always up for a happy hour. What band/artist should I say I looove to make him reconsider his feelings toward me?

J. Freedom du Lac: Tila Tequila? Though he might actually appreciate that for reasons that have nothing to do with music.

Try Good Charlotte.

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Leesburg, Va.: Bass players truly don't get the love. Ever see the Tom Hanks flick "That Thing You Do!" about the fictitious one-hit '60s band? The bass player's name is never given - he is simply The Bass Player. At the end of the flick there is a American Graffiti knock-off "What happened to them" montage of the characters, and he is listed as "TB Player".

J. Freedom du Lac: Yeah, pretty hilarious. Almost as good as the exploding drummers in "Spinal Tap."

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Drumaville: Free -- any thoughts on the new Kathleen Edwards release, "Asking for Flowers"? I find it's another terrific piece of work, just like her previous two. A resonant voice, great lyricist.

J. Freedom du Lac: It's a lovely album - especially the writing, which is poignant and provocative. Wish she'd rock out a little bit more, though, a la "Oh Canada."

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dude.: Please explain Heidi Montag's musical career (for lack of a better word) to me.

J. Freedom du Lac: She has a musical career? I'll have to consult with L. Freedom on this, since she's the "Hills" expert in our house. Is it a musical career in the same way that, like, Paris Hilton had a musical career? Or is it more like Zooey Deschanel's musical career? Cuz I'm kind of liking this She and Him album (at least until Jenny Lewis makes another sorta-solo album with the Watson Twins).

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Re: Bass Players: That's why it was so funny when Mike Huckabee was playing his bass everywhere. Could he have picked a lamer instrument? The Glockenspiel, maybe.

J. Freedom du Lac: I'm saying flutophone. Though Dan Snaith uses one to pretty terrific effect on Caribou's "Andorra," so maybe I'm saying keytar, instead.

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Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory:"What band/artist should I say I looove to make him reconsider his feelings toward me?"

Dave Matthews Band. If he does not reconsider his feelings toward you after that, then I can only conclude he is deaf.

J. Freedom du Lac: One idea.

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Nats Songs Options: I just looked at the list, thanks to your link, and the worst travesty of all would be if Toby Keith somehow won. I would make the drive to Camden Yards just to avoid it (although they do play that "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" song).

You just can't win.

J. Freedom du Lac: Well, the good news is that you wouldn't hear that song very frequently. Since it's in the Victory Song category. And with Odalis Perez serving as the de facto ace of the Nats staff, I just don't see them winning more than 55 percent of their home games.

Here are the fields...

Victory Song:

Beautiful Day by U2

Celebration by Kool And The Gang

Dancing In The Streets by Martha Reeves and the Vandelas

How Do You Like Me Now by Toby Keith

Rock and Roll Part 2 by Gary Glitter

7th Inning Stretch Song:

Build Me Up Buttercup by The Foundations

The Gambler by Kenny Rogers

Rock Me Gently by Andy Kim

September by Earth Wind and Fire

Shout by Otis Day And The Knights

Twist And Shout by The Beatles

YMCA by the Village People

You Gotta Have Heart by Damn Yankees The Musical

Home Run Song:

Because We Can by Fatboy Slim

Bustin Loose by Chuck Brown

Kernkraft 400 by Zombie Nation

Off We Go (Air Force Theme) by Robert Crawford

Song 2 (Woo Hoo) by Blur

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re: Heidi: like a Paris 'career' - seriously, it sucks. But what makes me angry is that there are SO many talented REAL musicians out there that can't catch a break b/c of clowns like her. UGH.

J. Freedom du Lac: It's the Perez Hiltonization of pop music.

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Foggy Bottom, Washington, D.C.: When the -flip] are they going to announce the Virgin Festival lineup already!?

J. Freedom du Lac: It'd better be soon. Otherwise Producer David is going to start predicting Chuck Mangione and KC and the Sunshine Band as the co-headliners.

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Nats Victory Song Choices: GARY GLITTER??

This is on the list for consideration? After his,umm, legal troubles?

J. Freedom du Lac: Woo hoo, indeed.

The polls are still open. Go vote.

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Kooper: He seemed so magical for a while with Like a Rolling Stone and I Stand Alone with the screaming woman starting the album and Blood Sweat and Tears and Super Sessions with Bloomfield then it seemed his stuff became very mediocre--I always thought it was a case of burnout (not the working too hard kind)

J. Freedom du Lac: Better that than fading away, yeah?

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Bakersfield, Calif.: Is there a more underrated country artist than Dwight Yoakam?

J. Freedom du Lac: Critically speaking, he's generally very highly rated. So yes. Yes, there is. (Toby Keith for instance. No, really.) But if you mean artists who've flirted with the mainstream but are criminally under-appreciated by the masses - then yeah, he's right up there.

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Hoserville, Canada: Some bands have bass players that pretty much play low notes and provide rhythm, and that's about it.

Others define the fundamental sound of the band. New Order would be just another 80s dance-type band without Peter Hook, yet I think most people probably can't quite put their finger on what the NO "sound" is due to.

J. Freedom du Lac: Which made Hook the Jeremy Shockey of New Order.

My offensive lineman analogy still holds. So to speak.

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Nats Songs: Can everybody make a concerted effort to get "Sister Ray" by the Velvet Underground on one of the lists?

J. Freedom du Lac: I'd rather see Fugazi's "Waiting Room" on the list. More DC representation, please.

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Alexandria Bass Player: Common J. Free, you're slipping....how could you forget Phil Lynott, Thin Lizzy! And the greatest bass player singer of all time...Lemmy.

Lemmy is God. No other bass player can aspire to that.

J. Freedom du Lac: Great call. Great hair, too!

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Heidi Montag's musical career: is putting the kibosh on the careers of REAL musicians? How so?

J. Freedom du Lac: Because she's taking up valuable real estate on Perezhilton.com. He could be using that space to break the next Eric Hutchinson, you know. (Though more likely, he'd be drawing penises on another photo.)

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The Lamest Instrument:..has to be the recorder. Ever hear a class of 3rd graders give a recital with those things? The Seventh Circle of Hell..

J. Freedom du Lac: Umm.....

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Re happy hour: How about Celine Dion? And not just that you like her music -- you LOVE it, you're a huge fan, you talk about her all the time...

Hannah Montana would work for that too, especially for someone old enough to be at happy hour.

Or to go in a different direction, what's the name of that band that dresses up in disgusting monster outfits and throws blood (fake, I think) on the audience? Begins with a G. Lord help you if it turns out he's into that, though.

J. Freedom du Lac: You can't just say Celine Dion, though. You have to say that you like her music so much that you even have all of her French albums -- and one of those $3,400 Judith Leiber/Celine Dion clutches they sold at the gift shop at Caesars Palace.

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Nats Home Run Song: Whatever gets chosen, there's not much chance of it ever being played. It would be like this chat having an "insightful comment" song.

J. Freedom du Lac: Touche. (Cue " funny comment song" here.)

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Career Center:"My offensive lineman analogy still holds."

Are you angling for a move to the Sports section or something?

J. Freedom du Lac: Just warming up for Sunday night, when I'm supposed to find the intersection of Style and Sports. Wish me luck.

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Conspiracy theory: Every time I try to submit a question to you abouyt REM's new album, my computer goes haywire. Conspiracy?

J. Freedom du Lac: What's the frequency, indeed.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Bass players get love... from male music dorks with questionable social skills. Geddy Lee and Les Claypool have no shortage of admirers, but they're not the kind you want to party with.

J. Freedom du Lac: Threeish words: Melissa. Auf. der Maur.

You know you'd party with her.

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Celine Dion: FYI, Celine Dion is an anagram of no dice, Neil. And anagram is an anagram of manager (except that the e should be an a).

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, and Defrock More is an anagram of Freedom Rock.

So, too, is Coked Former. And on that Steve Howe-ian note, we're done here - even if rehab *is* for quitters.

See you all at the Thao Nguyen show.

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Washington, D.C.:"I'm supposed to find the intersection of Style and Sports"

S and T according to my Venn diagram.

J. Freedom du Lac: Thanks. I was thinking Navy Yard station and then up to the press box. But yeah...

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