Freedom Rock

J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 17, 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 Constantine Maroulis does.

Submit your questions and comments before or during the discussion.

____________________ Coldplay Gets Warmer With 'Viva'

_______________________ Stairway to Down-Home Heaven; Plant and Krauss Find a Sweet, if Improbable, Harmony


J. Freedom du Lac: What happened to this guy?

I don't even know me anymore.

Let's do this.


McLean, Va.: The weekly E Street Band question, Backstreets is reporting that there will be no Fall 2008 Tour, do you have any info?

J. Freedom du Lac: No.


Washington, D.C.: After their 3 hour set at Bonnaroo, are you looking forward to Pearl Jam's return to the Verizon Center, or will the terrible acoustics kill it?

J. Freedom du Lac: I would be, but for the fact that I'm leaving town for a family vacation.

Pretty epic show in Tennessee, based on this set list and everything I've read about the performance.


Washington, D.C.: Late to the complaint, but why is it that everysinglereview, either of the actual music or performance has to compare Jakob Dylan to his father? The man can't win. Either people complain that he's trying too hard to forget his roots/legacy, or they're like "bahhh he's trying to be his dad." The second comment is directly related to the release of his new solo album, because it's much folks...ier than previous albums.

I'll admit that when I first heard Jakob in The Wallflowers, I didn't know who the heck his daddy was, so it's not like I had anything to compare him to. I still prefer the younger one.

J. Freedom du Lac: Because for, like, 40 years, people have been trying to figure out who the next Dylan would be. (There's a great list of Next Dylans or New Dylans or something like that in Dave Marsh's "New Book of Rock Lists.") He's the rock-folk-whatever singer-songwriter against whom all other rock-folk-whatever singer-songwriters are measured. Why would his own kid get a pass? I'm sure that being a Dylan has helped more than it's hurt, anyway.


Washington, D.C.: I heard one of my favorite and most underrated bands, James, (no, I did not like them because of "Laid"!), has gotten back together. Will they be doing shows in the US and when? I never got to see them live!

J. Freedom du Lac: Yep, they reconvened last year. New album is out in the UK. If you look hard enough, I'm sure you can find it on the Internets. It'll be released stateside in September, or thereabouts. I'd imagine that the band will land on these shores for a tour around that time.


confused: Just kind of curious as to how you select who does the music reviews. You hate Coldplay yet wet yourself over Good Charlotte, which is fine, cool, whatever. Wouldn't it be of a bit more value to give the review to someone who isn't guaranteed to hate the disc? As it stands, it was much like giving a movie in which there are shades of gray and no maniacally cackling "terrists" to Stephen Hunter; a foregone conclusion and not really helpful to those that aren't in lockstep from a taste perspective.

J. Freedom du Lac: Because I didn't like Coldplay during the "X+Y" album/tour, I shouldn't review the new album? Yeah, okay.

Following that "logic," a TV critic who hates -- ohh, I dunno -- a Kathy Lee Gifford Christmas special one year should never write about her or her Christmas specials again.

A restaurant critic who wrote unfavorably of Mario Batali's Enoteca San Marco should not review Mario Batali's great joint venture with Nancy Silverton, Pizzeria Mozza.

Woe (and no more assignments to review Taylor Branch) be unto the book critic who has something negative to say about any of Branch's books.

Hell, for that matter, any opinion columnist who didn't like George W. Bush during his first term shouldn't have written about him during his second term.

You really are confused about how this works, aren't you? You must be if you read that review and think I actually hate the new Coldplay album.

To recap: I hated Coldplay during the "X+Y" album/tour. I like the new album. I had something to say about it. So I said it. That's sort of how reviewing works.

To answer your question: I select who does what reviews based on who I think gets what a particular act is about and who will write the most interesting review, not based on who is a card-carrying member of a particular act's fan club. Sometimes, I select myself because, well - I can.

By the way, have I ever actually reviewed Good Charlotte? (Here, I'll help you: No, I have not.) I wrote a feature on the band for The Washington Post Magazine. Not the same as reviewing. Not even close. Same instrument, sure (computer keyboard). But it's a completely different kind of song.



D of C, 20005: Hey J. Free -- what local D.C. music blogs do you read?

Anything in particular, other than the Post's?

J. Freedom du Lac: The only ones I'm on daily are City Paper's Black Plastic Bag and DCist, which isn't a music blog, per se. But they sure do cover a lot of music.

I drop in every now and again on various, sundry others - DC Rock Club, Rockist Society, etc.



Fairfax, Va.: Just wanted to compliment you on your two articles a few weeks ago: one on Bo Diddley and the other on James McMurty. Both were entertaining and informative. Keep up the good work.

Speaking of good work: what happened to ex-Style guy, I think his name was David Segal?

J. Freedom du Lac: Thanks, mom!

Segal? Nothing ex about him here in Style. He's in New York now, writing about, well ... all sorts of stuff for This Very Newspaper.


Severna Park, Md.: I saw an old video by The Alarm on VH1 classic and man oh man. You make fun of Coldplay for aping U2, but Coldplay's got nothing on The Alarm.

J. Freedom du Lac: Didn't the Alarm open for U2 at some point - "The Joshua Tree" tour or some such?


Washington, D.C.: Who are you and what have you done with the real J. Freedom?

J. Freedom du Lac: He was critically injured while jumping the shark.

I'm a temp, a pinch-runner, a sub, a stand-in, a short-timer. And yes, I like the Coldplay. Deal with it until I'm gone.

Waldorf, Md.: When I saw/heard the Coldplay iTunes commercial, at first I thought it was Marc Anthony. So I guess I'm not there yet..

J. Freedom du Lac: Yeah, but you're from Good Charlotte's hometown. So, really, what do you know?

Seriously, though: Marc Anthony is one great salsero. The dude can flat-out sing. No joke.


Washington, D.C.: J Free, I think you're in trouble. A positive Coldplay review is like a gateway drug. This will only lead to you writing an appreciation of Dave Matthews.

J. Freedom du Lac: That's Aaron Leitko's job.

I didn't hate the first Dave Matthews Band album for RCA, by the way.


To Confused: J. Free also loooooves Steven Seagull.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, and don't forget Tila Tequila.


Chicago: Sorry - Coldplay still sound like U2 wannabes.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yeah, but they sound like better U2 wannabes now. Certainly more interesting. And they're diversifying their influences. There's even a shoegaze song on the album!


Blogs--D of C again...: I've been reading this one a lot recently...good stuff and really supports the DC indie store scene. I think it's a year or so old.

J. Freedom du Lac: Any relation to the late Vinyl Mine Clip Shack? I kind of miss the old days, when that guy ripped me to no end. Kind of.


Washington, D.C.: What other music blogs to you typically read or can you recommend, that aren't necessarily DC focused?

J. Freedom du Lac: Idolator, Stereogum, Bill Wyman's Hitsville, music-biz blog Coolfer, New York magazine's Vulture and Minya Oh's hip-hop-centric Miss Info, among others.

In the not-really-a-blog (or is it?) division: Pitchfork, Billboard's news feed, The Fader, Rotoworld (oh, wait - that's only for fantasy sports)....

Long list, really.


Wow: So it's possible to LIKE one album by a band, and DISLIKE another album. I suppose it's also possible to like a single song on an album, and dislike the others. It might also be possible to dislike an album, only to have it grow on you over time. Imagine that, Mr. confused, imagine that.

J. Freedom du Lac: I'm really confused. Either you're in the tank or you're out of it. Which is it?


REM: What did you think of the REM show?

J. Freedom du Lac: This.


Alison and Robert: Between your review and Nate Chinen in the NY Times I hate that I didn't get tickets. I love Alison, and what I've heard from the album seems like a great expansion of both their recorded horizons. T-Bone Burnett did a great job it seems, on the recording and on the band for the tour. Buddy Miller is worth seeing on his own (with wife Julie usually), and it's wonderful he's part of this tour.

J. Freedom du Lac: Buddy Miller is a god. That whole band was great, really.

Worst part of the show? (Besides the fruitcake dancing in the front row in 7/8 time to songs that were in 4/4?) T Bone's two-song mini-set. Nothing against T Bone, but his vocals sounded rough, rough, rough sandwiched between so many superlative vocal performances by the show's stars.

coldplay singer: looks like scott weiland in the itunes commercial. moves & sounds like SW.

J. Freedom du Lac: Actually, have you seen his outfits lately? Like, on the cover of Rolling Stone and in the band's publicity photos?

Looks like dude found Arcade Fire's clothier or something.


Seattle, Wash.: The Alarm opened for U2 on the War tour in 1983. The San Francisco Civic show was a good one. Bono and I were both considerably younger then than now.

J. Freedom du Lac: Wow, the San Francisco Civic. My high school graduation was in that building. Way cooler than some random U2 show.


all hail the Eno: If he can make Coldplay sound like this, what might he do for someone who's actually good?

J. Freedom du Lac: Something like this, maybe?


Silver Spring, Md.: I have to kind of give props to anyone who can maintain 7/8 against 4/4 music. Although, from what I hear, might've been better if he'd done it in his seat. I kept hearing about this concert and being vaguely intrigued - as a Led Zeppelin ignoramus, would I have liked it? (Seriously. I know Stairway to Heaven and that's it.)

J. Freedom du Lac: I think the guy's twin brother was at the recent James McMurtry show.

If you like roots music, you would've loved it.


Elkridge, Md.: Would you have picked Pearl Jam as the 90s Seattle band that would have legs? Man, was I wrong - I figured Mudhoney and Soundgarden would have been droning around until the end of time, but not Eddie and the boys.

J. Freedom du Lac: Well, Mudhoney's still around. New album, now out on tour, etc.

I thought Eddie and Co. would break under the weight of all that attention/pressure. They figured out a way to manage it, though. Good 'on em.

I was struck, in re-watching EdVed's REM induction speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on YouTube last week, by his remark about Peter Buck taking a bunch of the Seattle-scene folks under his wing when he moved up there, and saving a lot of them, but not all of them, and boy, how he wished Kurt Cobain had been giving REM's speech instead of him, how he'd love to have been second choice.


Florida: J-Free, need your advice: we want to sublet a house for the summer somewhere cool and near the Pacific, but need a little cul-cha and civilization. Would Arcata be better than Eugene?

J. Freedom du Lac: Arcata. You're about 3.5 hours from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, you've got Mendocino three hours to the south, you're close to Redwood National Park -- pretty awesome. Go, go, go, Eugene ain't on the coast.


Washington, D.C.: Hooray, the new Hold Steady is available a month early for iTunes users. JFdL, have you had the chance to hear any of it yet? If so, thoughts on Craig Finn trying to sing more this time around. At first, I found it disconcerting, but then I found his voice disconcerting the first time I heard "Stuck Between Stations."

J. Freedom du Lac: I've heard a little bit of it, though not as much as the NYT's Nate Chinen, who reviewed "Stay Positive" yesterday. (Interesting idea, really: Album isn't officially released for another month, but it's already leaked in full, which prompted the band to stream the whole thing on MySpace. Release dates are really just an MSRP these days, aren't they?)

Our resident Hold Steady expert, Producer David (author of this Hold Steady glossary, this 2007 concert write-up and this 2006 show review) is going to post some thoughts on the new album soon on the blog.


The Dentist's Office: Thought you despised Coldplay? Lay off the laughing gas............

J. Freedom du Lac: I did. But just as you don't have to love a new album by an artist whose earlier works made you weak in the knees (this means you, My Morning Jacket-circa-2008-hater Producer David), you don't have to hate a new album by an artist whose earlier works made you hurl.

I swear it wasn't the nitrous oxide.


Pearl Jam - gimme a break: They still owe me the 90 minutes of my life wasted watching them open for Tom Petty two years ago.

J. Freedom du Lac: Okay, take the rest of the afternoon off.

You probably complained when they opened for the Rolling Stones, too, didn't you? They blew the Stones off the stage when I saw them at the Oakland Coliseum.


Anonymous: Stipe pulled an Obama pin out and put it on in Chicago. Is this a nightly thing? Risky move to pull in front of such a liberal audience. If I was Obama I might ask Stipe to cool it with the buttons. The REM connection didn't work out so well for John Kerry. Maybe with the "return to form" of Accelerate, they might help more this time than in 2004.

J. Freedom du Lac: Nightly, apparently. He did the same thing at the show here. Some people booed. It was kind of funny, really. Did they not know what they were getting themselves into? Cillizza Blackberried me right after it happened, saying he was shocked - SHOCKED! I mean, we all expected Stipe to back McCain.

Will it hurt? I dunno.

Mike Mills had something very interesting to say about that in a Q&A with New York mag's Vulture blog.

Do you thinks actors and musicians really help politicians, or do you think there's a chance they sometimes hurt them?

I think anybody's endorsement is probably going to be mostly helpful. I think that actors and musicians and entertainers and truck drivers and dentists and housewives and everybody in this world should speak up and endorse people. I think it's everyone's civic opportunity to stand up and say what they think, and to tell people they're not allowed to do that is very anti-democratic.

I'm asking more from a strategic standpoint. George Clooney said something recently like he hasn't been doing a lot of campaigning, because he thinks it does more harm than good.

Yeah. There comes a point at which it's too much. There's nothing wrong with speaking your mind, but at some point it begins to sound like you're preaching, and people have a limit on how much celebrity endorsement they can take. So you just have to be smart about how much you say, and when and where you say it.


Plant-Krauss review: Enjoyed your review of their concert. I saw them a couple of weeks ago in Roanoke, Va., and thought it was a great show.

One quibble--you write that for their lovely last song, "Your Long Journey," Buddy Miller "strummed the harpsichord."

Um, I do believe you meant "autoharp." At least that's what Buddy played when I saw the show. A harpsichord would sure give the song a whole new flavor . . .

J. Freedom du Lac: It was the most unbelievable thing I've ever seen. Once-in-a-lifetime, never to be seen again. You missed it.

(Buddy is stronger than he looks, you know.)


Washington, D.C.: Stop whining about having to answer a question about Springsteen every couple of weeks. He's one of the biggest artists ever with one of the most loyal fanbases around and he's currently touring (and unlike most old guys, his shows are still pretty good and not just an hour and a half setlist!).

J. Freedom du Lac: How is saying "no" whining?

You must be new around here. When Springsteen comes to town, we go wall-to-wall. Have a look after you're done pulling your wingtip out of your mouth.


RE: REM: RE: REM: What did you think of the REM show?

Great review, thanks. I think you must have been standing behind a "buddy" of mine from work.

J. Freedom du Lac: Hilarious. He was the one singing Cheney's praises? Same guy who mocked me for typing notes into my Blackberry. I should have stuck an Obama sticker to his back when he wasn't looking.


Winston-Salem, N.C.: Why do you hate Taylor Branch?

J. Freedom du Lac: Too many footnotes -- 200 pages in "At Canaan's Edge" alone!

(Pretty amazing, actually.)


Tila Tequila: You're just jealous because she was the one responsible for Cali lifting the gay marriage ban.

J. Freedom du Lac: I'm just jealous because she has a better business model than I do.


Long Beach, Calif.: God Bless Bo Diddley. He was cool all the way. I met him when he did some recording with the Bonedaddys in LA. He hit up my girlfriend at the time, asking her to go back to his trailer. She mentioned that his family was there, and he replied, "Don't worry about it, I only want 5 minutes with you"...... What a character!!!! He was very urbane person, confident and witty. Cheers to Bo!!!

J. Freedom du Lac: Great story!


morE, NO: Fear of Music was a truly brilliant collaboration, but so too was "Q:Are We Not Men A: We are Devo"

J. Freedom du Lac: Dude's everywhere in my life these days: Just interviewed Thurston Moore about his No Wave book and, of course, Thurston talked about how Eno's "No New York" comp was basically the end of the movement.


Another MM interview?: Is Peter Buck not doing press for R.E.M. this go-round?

His interviews are always interesting to read.

J. Freedom du Lac: I think I've seen one or two. I rather enjoyed chatting with Mike Mills. He works very, very quickly. In fact, he asked me when he got on the phone if I was recording, which would dictate just how quickly he'd answer. That, boys and girls, is what you call a "pro."


Wow, "I Zimbra"!: This song scared my 19-yo Midwestern self when I first heard it. Thirty years later, I realize David Byrne was no less a cultural dilettante than Paul Simon.

J. Freedom du Lac: Speaking of which, I read in the NYT wrap-up of Bonnaroo that Vampire Weekend is creeping closer and closer to Paul Simon territory with its new songs. Cultural dilettantes imitating a cultural dilettante: Discuss.


Silver Spring, Md.: So who should Brian Eno work with next? Good Charlotte? Tool?

J. Freedom du Lac: Maroon 5.


Road Testing: "Coldplay and the Dave Matthews band generally appeal to medium-level dull people. They both create music to be played in new cars. Whereas true artists make music to be played in old cars."

Nicely said, J-Free. I heard that Tom Waits insists on testing demos of every new album in an old beat-up car of his, with an ancient stereo, to make sure the new music sounds right.

J. Freedom du Lac: Am I making this up, or did I once read a quote from Beck about how he listens to his new stuff on a crappy stereo to see how it sounds, given that most people have crappy stereos? I'm probably making that up. But it sounds like a good idea.


Plant/Krauss: You liked the show but did you like the CD ? I've listened and it just didn't work for me and I like each of the artists individually.

J. Freedom du Lac: The show was > than the CD, IMO.


???: When is the return of the real U2?

J. Freedom du Lac: Dunno. But Eno's supposedly working with them on the new stuff.


Anonymous: Trip with your "family"? Come on, Manson's family are all in jail? Are you waiting for Susan Atkins' release, is that it? You are an orphan of the universe, brought here to bag on humanity~~~~

J. Freedom du Lac: It's one of them pre-Fourth of July Willie Nelson Family Picnic deals and everythin'.


James McMurtry: I thought he had the best comeback I've ever heard to rude people shouting out song requests at the Birch:

"You know what you WANT to hear, but you do not know what you are GOING to hear."

J. Freedom du Lac: I think you left out the expletive, but yeah. That's his standard retort to people shouting requests. He readily admits that he stole the line from David Bromberg.


Richmond, Va.: On the Virgin festival, do you think Nine Inch Nails will be the last group to play, and will Kanye West screw up the timing like he did in Bonnaroo?

J. Freedom du Lac: He won't be allowed to. I think the show has to be finished by 10 each night. And yeah, it's probably going to be NIN on the A stage, Kanye on the B stage, which I think will be larger this year than it was last year. (Same size as the A stage.)


Richmond, Va.: You know that "Bomb Iran" song that John McCain always sings? I can't find it on Itones.

J. Freedom du Lac: In which John McCain makes like Brian Wilson.


re: Coldplay singer: Arcade Fire, nothing - looks like they want to dress like Adam and the Ants.

J. Freedom du Lac: Fantastic! Yes, you're right. Though he's missing the face paint and the poofy shirt.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by today.

The chat is on vacation next week because, well, so am I. And Producer David is still reeling from the whole Madonna thing.

See you at Adele.

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