Freedom Rock

J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 24, 2009 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 Nicole Scherzinger does.

The transcript follows.

____________________ U2 Finds There's Much Virtue on 'The Horizon'

_______________________ For Gershwin, a Wonder Beheld (Stevie Wonder at Library of Congress)

_______________________ What It Feels Like To Win Country's Songwriting Triple Crown with Jennifer Nettles

_______________________ Blog: Post Rock


J. Freedom du Lac: Was really great to see Stevie Wonder onstage last night with somebody other than the Jonas Brothers. Didn't have to worry about first violinist Caroline Campbell exhorting Stevie to "show us what you got," a la the JoBros.

Interesting experience, getting to hear the world premiere. Hopefully I'll get more of Stevie Wonder week tomorrow at the White House.

Let's chat, shall we?


Rick Rubin ...........a quality guy???: As for the Rick Rubin lovefest, didn't he try to convince the Black Crowes to use the name Kobb Kounty Krowes instead on his record label? And if that weren't offensive enough, he adds his name to the credits of Executive Producer after their debut "Shake Your Money Maker" went platinum when he had nothing to do with their recording. For a guy who enjoyed the company of strippers, along with his buddy Owen Wilson (back in the day), he has the nerve to hide behind some spiritual, vegan persona...talented producer, though.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yep. You forgot the thing about the fur coat. And the stuffed polar bear in his study.

My understanding is that Rubin was never really behind that Black Crowes project. And then it hit and, as you noted, he magically appeared on the album credits.

He's a much better producer than executive. The man really does good work on the production end, even though his producing style these days has much less to do with knob-twiddling and more to do with coaxing and nudging and suggesting and such.

Bono actually had something quite interesting to say to Q magazine about why U2 decided to ditch Rubin and go with Eno and Lanois: "He's head over heels in love with the concept of the song. But our feeling was, you don't go to rock-and-roll just for the songs. We wanted songs that would take us into a different world. And because Brian and Dan are experimental in their niches, the opportunity to bring some experimentation into the pop consciousness is so exciting to them. And to us."

So basically, what he's saying is: Traditional songcraft isn't as important to us right now than atmospherics. That certainly comes across on the album.


U2: J Free, from your review it sounds like the new U2 is decent, but can you tell me where the album rates against their other stuff? And does it work as a collective set or am I better off downloading singles? Cheers!

J. Freedom du Lac: There are several songs on the album that you really need to download: "Magnificent," "Moment of Surrender," "White as Snow" and "Unknown Caller," too, even though that restart/reboot lyric is some kind of lame. "Fez - Being Born" is interesting, too. But there are also some dogs on the album, and you might be better off avoiding them. Oddly enough, the lead single, "Get On Your Boots," is one of the dogs. What a weird choice. "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" sounds like generic U2. The closing "Cedars of Lebanon" is a complete snore, IMO.

This album is not one of the band's classics. More like middle tier.


Not New Jersey: Okay, I'm going to say it. Springsteen is boring. Before the Super Bowl, the Palladia channel broadcast two different Springsteen concerts. And they put me to sleep. Even the up-tempo songs were slow. Snore.

J. Freedom du Lac: There's always room here for a dissenting minority opinion, even if you're flat-out wrong.

Seriously, though: Boring? Bruce? Really? I suppose I can see it if your idea of exciting is strictly limited to speed metal where the "slow" stuff is still played at a breakneck pace. Or, maybe, if you're only turned on by horrorcore hip-hop, or parody music (though Springsteen has recorded a few dogs recently that kind of come off like Springsteen parodies, so maybe not).


Washington, D.C.: Where do you find the "downloads"? Your reviews offer downloads of selected tracks but there doesn't seem to be any URL to actually download.

J. Freedom du Lac: Our reviews do not "offer" downloads. They suggest them.


Washington, D.C.: I had tix to the Mos Def early show last night but had to bail due to work. I am curious if you or any of the readers can fill me in on the show so I know how bad to feel about missing it.

On semi-related but happier note, I would love to get your thoughts on DC's best venues for music. What types of music do well and where?

J. Freedom du Lac: Sarah Godfey was there when Mos Def finally surfaced onstage. Her review is here.


Out in the Street: The Ticketmaster settlement in NJ doesn't help the thousands of Bruce fans who got equally hosed trying to get tickets for the D.C. show. Any recourse for us?

J. Freedom du Lac: I'd get in touch with DC's AG, Peter Nickles.

You can also go down to Capitol Hill and ask Irving Azoff, on his way out of the upcoming Senate subcommittee hearing, what he's going to do to make it right.

By the by, about that hearing:

"The Ticketmaster/Live Nation Merger: What Does it Mean for Consumers and the Future of the Concert Business?"

Senate Judiciary Committee

Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights

2:30 today in Dirksen-226

Here's the witness list, which has a big local tie, as you'll see:

Irving Azoff

Chief Executive Officer

Ticketmaster Entertainment, Inc.

West Hollywood, CA

Michael Rapino

President and Chief Executive Officer

Live Nation, Inc.

Beverly Hills, CA

Jerry Mickelson

Chairman and Executive Vice President

JAM Productions

Chicago, IL

David A. Balto

Senior Fellow

Center for American Progress

Washington, D.C.

Seth Hurwitz


I.M.P. Productions and 9:30 Club

Washington, DC

I'm going to try to catch the broadcast on C-SPAN3.


Bethesda, Md.: What band would you resurrect from the dead if you could? Not literally, like, I want to see Bob Marley, but what band would you reunite? I ask because I'm listening to Beulah's "You're Only King Once" and thinking, "Wow, I wish those guys were still together."

J. Freedom du Lac: Prince and the Revolution. The version with Wendy and Lisa. What an awesome band that was. Pretty good frontman, too.

Also: Talking Heads. To show all the pretenders how it's really done. Though if they can't do it anymore, then they should stay away. (Which they are, apparently.)


Silver Spring, Md.: At the risk of being rude-- where have you been? We've missed you!

Now that everyone has heard and ingested the new U2... any word on the tour? I seem to recall Bono saying that they'd like to push the envelope again (presumably talking about the stage and set direction of ZooTV and PopMart as opposed to the back-to-basics of the last few outings).

J. Freedom du Lac: Took a couple of weeks off for my Diaper Change We Can Believe In campaign, but I've been back for, like, a month. Really.

Don't know any details about this tour, other than that they want to do stadiums. I hope they leave the PopMart lemon at home, though. That was such a dumb prop. So much Spinal Tap-type potential.


Baltimore, Md.: Any rumors/updates about this year's Virgin Fest?

J. Freedom du Lac: I'd ask Seth, but he's busy getting his tie straightened before the Live Nation/Ticketmaster hearing. Big moment for him and Jerry Mickelson, a big indie promoter in Chicago.


Atlanta, Ga.: J. Free--Beyonce at the Oscars? Was that really necessary? She serenades the Obamas and then does show tunes with Hugh Jackman. The girl deserves a break! And I won't even mention her hideous Oscar dress...although your colleague Robin Givhan sure did!

J. Freedom du Lac: But you'll notice that she was nowhere to be seen - at least onstage - at the Grammys ("Music's biggest night" [tm]). I don't mind a little ubiquity. I do, however, mind that she lip-synced her performance. Weaksauce.

John Mayer had himself quite a weekend, btw. First, he sends a

hilarious video

to Conan for his NYC finale. (Key lyric: "Look at me/I used to live in NYC/Now I'm as douche-y as a man can be.") Then he gets prime seating at the Oscars with Jennifer Aniston. He had a much better seat than Peter Gabriel, who was actually nominated!


mos def: was the second mos def show cancelled? or did he do two sets as originally planned? what about those poor people standing outside since 8:30 waiting to get in to the second set. 9:30 club SUCKS.

J. Freedom du Lac: Not sure. Anybody have tickets to the late show?


Baltimore, Md.: "The Wrestler" was certainly not one of Springsteen's "dogs," and I'm not convinced "Jai Ho" is a better song. Care to argue for the Bollywood track?

J. Freedom du Lac: I was truly befuddled by Springsteen's absence from that category. I still haven't seen "Slumdog Millionaire," so I'd have to see how the song plays in the film before I could say whether it deserved to beat Springsteen. After all, it's not the Grammys; I think you very much have to consider the work in the context of the film.

And you're correct: IMO, "The Wrestler" is one of the two best tracks on "Working on a Dream."


L'town, Md.: J.Free, how long have you had the U2 album to review? I feel it often takes months to really get to know an album, especially from an artist like U2. Songs I initially don't like grow on me over time. Are you that confident in your review of the "dogs" on the album?

J. Freedom du Lac: This is an interesting question, especially as I was talking to Klimek about this very thing last night in the context of my U2 review. The album leaked last week, but I didn't hear any of it until the weekend. Ideally, I would've liked to have lived with it for a week because by the time I landed at the Library of Congress last night, I wasn't sure I agreed with my own review -- the one I'd just filed. Maybe I'll write an updated version next week on the blog. It's one of those albums that keeps sounding different to me.


Miranda' On the Radio: Miranda Lambert's "More Like Her," which she performed at the CMAs a while back, is now getting airplay on WMZQ. I take it that means it's now a hit Country single.

If so, does that push back plans for Miranda's next CD? "More Like Her" is from the CD you picked as the best of -2007-, so it's been out a while.

J. Freedom du Lac: She's had some radio play before. Just not a ton, though "Gunpowder and Lead" went Top 10, I think. The question is, can she ever score something like a major hit? I'd think this song might have a shot. I doubt this would throw a wrench in her plans, though, unless it becomes a monster, multi-week No. 1 that opens the door for another hit from that album, in which case, they might delay the new album a little bit. But we're getting way ahead of ourselves.


Waldorf, Md.: How long with will the Jonas lads be in JFDL purgatory for their Grammy faux pas with Stevie Wonder? Surely you made some silly, careless comments in your teen years while standing in the presence of a legend.

J. Freedom du Lac: I dunno. Ask me again on Friday after I've seen their 3D movie, which I'm reviewing for TWP. I'm trying to make one of the 9am screenings. I might have to Twitter that from the theater, actually.


Arlington, Va.: Just got word of the Elton John/Billy Joel show in DC. Any thoughts as to ticket price? Will it be exorbitant? I thought the baseball stadium locale might = cheaper tickets.

Thanks for this!

J. Freedom du Lac: Right. As predicted on Post Rock last week! (Though I didn't have the date nailed down.)

I believe tickets will be $56.50 on the low end, $182.50 on the high side. No bargain bleacher seats, I guess.


J. Freedom du Lac: Sen. Kohl giving a shout-out to indie promoters at the Live Nation/Ticketmaster hearing. This is going to be a rough hearing for Azoff and Rapino.


Spinal Tap and the PopMart Lemon: As I recall, the lads from Dublin got trapped in the lemon one night...

No 12-inch Stonehenge, however.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes! It happened during the dress rehearsal, too, on the eve of the tour opener in Las Vegas. While a bunch of entertainment journos were watching. That was a truly great moment .... for us!


Washington D.C.: Hello Mr. du Lac - What ever happened to all of the lawsuits that were going to be filed against Nissan Pavilion after the Radiohead debacle last summer? I don't have a dog in that specific fight but I'd sure like to see the bastards at Nissan get slapped around some. Any updates?

J. Freedom du Lac: Never heard anything about 'em.

But now Sen. Schumer is piling on at the start of the hearing. (It's streaming


, if you're interested.)


The new Morrissey LP: Thoughts? I think it's horrendous. Almost as boring as Bruce (not to mention U2). And on a completely unrelated note, David may be interested to learn that Mark E. Smith has broken his hip--again.

David Malitz: Porter, is that you???

I love "Years of Refusal," but I'm a fan of the "big rock" Morrissey of recent years. And I'm obviously counting down the days to his Warner Theatre show in a few weeks.

Poor MES. But I guess he breaks his hip as often as he makes a new album.


Elton John/Billy Joel : Now there's a yawn fest. Get those guys together with Bruce Springsteen and it's the Trifecta of Boring.

J. Freedom du Lac: Reminds me of the old Sesame Street bit: One of these acts is not like the others.


Sajak, Md.: Because we (and by we, I mean me) don't really know the extent of a producer's involvement or how a song would sound in another's hands, what are some of the best produced songs of recent memory? The Neptunes, Timbaland, and Rick Rubin have a style, but for the most part, I couldn't tell you a well produced song from a poorly produced song.

A tune that keeps popping in to my head is "Umbrella", which has really vapid lyrics and a somewhat uninteresting melody, yet was one of my favourite songs of the past few years.

J. Freedom du Lac: It really depends on the genre. A hip-hop/pop producer has a different role than a country producer, who does something slightly different than a hard rock producer. And Rubin sort of does his own thing -- he doesn't have a distinctive style anymore (though he used to, in the Def Jam days). You can usually tell a Timbaland or Neptunes production when you hear it, though they have plenty of copycats.

In the case of "Umbrella," you're probably responding more to the ella-ella-ehh-ehh hook than anything. That hook was written by The-Dream. (The song was produced by Tricky Stewart and Kuk Harrell.)


more fun with ticketb@stard: Saw this just now not $193 for four tickets as expected, but over $1K

J. Freedom du Lac: Hearing update: Seth Hurwitz NOT wearing a tie.


From the Tower of Song: Leonard Cohen, 5/11, Meriweather Post.

Be there.

J. Freedom du Lac: That's an interesting place to put him.


Now there's a yawn fest. Get those guys together with Bruce Springsteen and it's the Trifecta of Boring.: Well, there's no accounting for taste. I'll be there. I've seen them (actually, Bruce, too) several times when I lived on Long Island...

J. Freedom du Lac: Bring Bon Jovi, and you've got a party.


Muskogee, Oklahoma, USA: J. Free,

You're on across from Gene Robinson today - how about some dirt on his musical tastes?

J. Freedom du Lac: I've had conversations with him about everybody from Kanye (he likes) and Katie Perry (he doesn't) to some ancient Cuban musician whose name I don't remember.


the lads from Dublin got trapped in the lemon one night... : I wonder which Spinal Tap moment they thought of when it happened. The bass player getting trapped in his pod, or the entire band getting lost under the stage?

J. Freedom du Lac: Definitely the pod.


Washington, D.C.: Submitting early b/c I won't be around for the chat...I'm so annoyed at 930 club! They charge out the a$$ for drinks, the service is incredibly rude and they insist on continuing to do this double show in one night crap. Last night Mos Def wasn't even in the building by 8:45 (the first show was scheduled for 7pm) and and the second show was supposed to start at 9:30! Everyone at venue kept saying it wasn't 9:30's fault but I disagree, don't schedule two shows in one night just so you can pad your pockets. I realize Mos Def had transportation problems but when is it realistic to expect musicians to be on time. I left when the annoying DJ said "have a few more drinks and tip your bartenders". I didn't pay $40 for something I could've listened to on my iPod.

J. Freedom du Lac: The opposing view is that the first Mos Def sold out, so the club booked a second one to allow more of his fans to see him. I don't see anything wrong with that. It would've been just fine had he showed up on time.

I mean, if you're going to be outraged, why not rail against Mos Def, who agreed to do a second show? He could've said no.


Billy Joel: Is he still calling himself "an angry young man?"

J. Freedom du Lac: He's no Elvis Costello. (Or, for that matter, Graham Parker.)

Another hearing update/question: There's a Hannah Montana law in Minnesota?


Arlington, Va.: Hey J. - Does the new U2 album actually rock at all, or is it just more of the typical mid-tempo sludge on which they built their career?

J. Freedom du Lac: It does not rock like the Black Lips rock, no.


Zip City: I'll be sure to catch the "real" Drive-By Truckers the next time they come through town, but I had a great time at the (almost) all-Cooley DBT show on Saturday night. Don't know if I'll make it to Isbell's show this weekend, though ... what's the buzz on his new record?

J. Freedom du Lac: Here's our double-review of the Hood-less DBT shows here.

The Isbell album is very good. He's definitely missed by the DBTs.


Bring Bon Jovi, and you've got a party. : Boring Jovi...

J. Freedom du Lac: Oh, this game again?


Falls Church, Va:. Speaking of producers, Bruce's has really really hurt his sound. Bruce's albums sound terrible.

J. Freedom du Lac: I'd argue that "Working on a Dream's" sound is vastly superior to its lyrics.


hearing: Ooh. I do want to watch this, but I fear the LiveNation/Ticketmaster weasels are going to be bad for my blood pressure. "We're just doing it for the employees and artists and because we're altruistic frustrated musicians!" Feh.

J. Freedom du Lac: Live Nation's Rapino said that they're in the artist-development business.

Azoff said his first-ever concert featured ... the Beatles. (Damn. I think mine was, like, Ricky Nelson or something, though I don't remember any of it. My parents took me.)


Fav. U2 producers: Steve Lillywhite was my fav. U2 producer though it seems appropriate for bands to move on to new producers as their sound/talent/experience mature and its interesting to me that the band has stuck with Eno and Lanois over the years.

J. Freedom du Lac: Lillywhite was brought in to do most of the mixing on this album, actually.


Philadelphia, Pa.: "Does the new U2 album actually rock at all, or is it just more of the typical mid-tempo sludge on which they built their career?"

Not to get defensive, but the career was built on Sunday Bloody Sunday, New Year's Day, Pride, Bad, I Will Follow, With or Without You, Mysterious Ways, Desire, I Still Haven't Found...I just don't see the term mid-tempo sludge as being applicable. Walk On? Yes, but that's an after-thought and proof of how much more relevant the new album is...

J. Freedom du Lac: Good point.

"Sunday Bloody Sunday" - such killer drumming.

The rhythm section is fairly on fire throughout "No Line on the Horizon," btw. Those guys are very, very, very good.


Man, the chat is boring today: U2, Billy Joel, Elton John...who cares anymore?? Where's the Animal Collective chitchat I've come to know and love?

J. Freedom du Lac: Right, I need to go off on a Silver Jews tandem so that the person complaining about the "trite" indie acts we're apparently always talking about here crawls out of the woodwork to complain.


Philadelphia, Pa.: Re: the new U2. I think it's likely that at least 7 songs will be to your taste if you like U2. What's interesting is that those 7 songs will differ, based on what type of U2 you like -- the atmospheric Unforgettable Fire/Zooropa sound or the more straightforward sound of the last two albums. There are certainly a lot of folks who really like the songs you've panned. All in all, if you've bought the past 3 or 4 albums, there's no reason not to buy this one. It's the best album since Pop, at least, and for most fans will stand just down from Achtung Baby and The Joshua Tree.

J. Freedom du Lac: This is a very good point.

Though I like bits and pieces of all of the various U2s, except maybe the recent iteration (pre-"No Line on the Horizon," anyway).


Decatur, Ga.: Today is the day that "Mountain Jam" showed up on shuffle play. I don't know why I keep it on my iPod.

J. Freedom du Lac: I don't hate the Allmans, but I kind of like them best when they're playing actual songs.


Game On..: Band on Michael Phelps' iPod: Bong Jovi

Oscar Winner's Music: Sean Jovi

J. Freedom du Lac: We're NOT doing this again.

(Parody band: Shaun of the Dead Jovi.)


J. Freedom du Lac: Seth Hurwitz opening statement. "Apparently it took something as simple as not being able to get Bruce Springsteen tickets to wake people up."


Richmond, Va.: Wow, there really is a Hannah Montana law.

J. Freedom du Lac: Who knew, right? (Besides the people of Minnesota, I guess. And law professors.)


Bethesda, Md.: I'm glad to hear the U2 album is good, since I already pre-ordered it. I'm not a total, no-matter-what fan, but I've liked most of their stuff (they lost me briefly pre-"Achtung Baby"). So, am I the only one who actually LIKES "Get On Your Boots"? And if I like that one, which you clearly don't, should I expect to really, really love the rest of the album?

J. Freedom du Lac: Based on its poor showing on iTunes and at radio: Yes, I think you ARE the only person who likes that song!

If they'd made that the iTunes jingle, we'd all be listening to music on our Zunes.


Bethesda, Md.: So I had never actually heard the Jonas Bros. before (I'm well beyond their demographic, but not a total old fogey if stuff is good) -- but are they really as awful live as they were on SNL, or were they yet another victim of the often-lousy SNL sound? It was absolutely unlistenable.

J. Freedom du Lac: Just about everybody is lousy on SNL. I haven't seen their performance, though; it's sitting in the DVR. Their skit with Alec Baldwin was kinda cringe-inducing, though.


J. Freedom du Lac: Seth talking about making beds. The money point: If the merger happens, his biggest competitor will have access to his business/customer data. "This will be like Pepsi forcing Coke to use its services as a distributor."


Resubmitting in case it didn't make it before...: In your review of the U2 album and in you review and subsequent comments about "Working on a Dream," you comment a great deal about lyrics. Have lyrics become a new focus for you? Something that is always part of what you listen for with a record? Just curious. After all, the lyrics to 'Cabinessence' on "Smile" contains in still indecipherable, "Over and over, The crow cries uncover the cornfield." Whatever the !@#$% THAT means!

J. Freedom du Lac: I've always been kind of obsessed with lyrics, though they're less important in some projects than others. If you earn a rep as an Important/Meaningful Lyricist, though, you can't just start mailing it in.

I never have been a big fan of those Van Dyke Parks lyrics, btw.


Arlington, Va.: I don't like U2, but I like to wear boots. Will I like "Get On Your Boots"?

J. Freedom du Lac: Only if you feel like giving the future a big kiss.


C-SPAN 3: I liked Seth's comment about how Ticketmaster wouldn't be able to help themselves, any more than sharks can't help eat people.

J. Freedom du Lac: He was pretty good.


Just One More, Please..: Music for Tonight's Speech: Obama Jovi

J. Freedom du Lac: Marginal. Very marginal.


Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: Cover band made up of delinquents: Bon Juvey

J. Freedom du Lac: Better!


Baltimore, Md.: J Free: I'm the guy who asked last week why venues such as Verizon and Nissan Pavilion don't just say the hell with Ticketmaster and start vending their own tickets, as halls and clubs did in the old days. Did anyone ever follow up with a reasonable answer?

As for Band Whose Members are Living Who I Would Most Like to See Back together: The Byrds, just to see if they could do it. (But I wouldn't ask David Crosby to try to wear those old Hullabaloo era costumes, because I value my sight.)

J. Freedom du Lac: Nobody did, no. Seth noted that he uses an alternate service for the 9:30 club. Didn't explain why he uses Ticketmaster for Merriweather, though. Just that he does. And that competition is good.


U2 and other artists' unispired lyrics: When Bono or any other songwriter of mention get lazy or less inspired with their writing, my friend and I have labeled this as "attending the Adam Duritz School of Rhyme" ie: Long December = Elevation = lame 3rd grade level rhymes

J. Freedom du Lac: Lame lyrics are especially inexcusable when you take four years and three months between albums. It's not like Bono was out saving the world. (Oh, wait...)


Wait: I thought Bon Jovi Pun Day wasn't until July?

(Band at seafood restaurant: Prawn Jovi?)

J. Freedom du Lac: Prawn Jovi has been used before.

As has its Indian counterpart, Naan Jovi.


Washington, D.C.: This talk of boring artists reminds me of the supergroup for artists who need to go on tour and never come back:

Vocals - Rod Stewart

Guitar - Eric Clapton

Bass - Sting

Drums - Phil Collins

They can open for the Rolling Stones, who have not done anything musically interesting since 1972.

J. Freedom du Lac: Funny thing is, that would be the top-grossing tour of the year, if not the decade.


hearing questions: Speaking of sharks, let the feeding frenzy begin. This ain't gonna be pretty.

J. Freedom du Lac: Depends on your definition of beauty. I'm sure the anti-merger folks are anticipating a beautiful bloodbath.


Me Again: " Music for Tonight's Speech: Obama Jovi

J. Freedom du Lac: Marginal. Very marginal."

Agreed. I guess my creativity is Gone Jovi.

J. Freedom du Lac: Haha!


Yawn Jovi: See ya.

J. Freedom du Lac: Perfect send-off. I'm going to watch the rest of this hearing.

Thanks for the chat, folks.

See you all at the White House tomorrow for Steviepalooza.


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