Archive for September, 2012

bizarroMUSIC: Who is Shawn Smith?

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Shawn Smith:

The Forgotten Duke of

Washington State

Shawn Smith, singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist, is one of the lesser known proponents of the Seattle alternative rock scene of the 1990s, but by no means a lesser talent. While Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell ruled the airwaves, putting Seattle on the musical map, Smith through a number of great bands, some innovative and ahead-of-its-time collaborations and extensive solo work, quietly built up a cult figure status. Looking like a Dr John caught in the rain, armed with a fresh musical sensibility reminiscent of early Prince and a perfect falsetto that would make Curtis Mayfield cry, Shawn Smith has forged an impressive and prodigious body of work over the last twenty years.

His three main outlets, the more well known of his work, include the groups Satchel, Brad and Pigeonhed. Both Satchel and Brad are straight forward alternative rock, with extra helpings of soul and rock balladry, while Pigeonhed was a heady mix of rock electronica ahead of its time.

Satchel was Smith’s main outlet during the heady days of the so-called “grunge” explosion, and the group never really sat comfortably in the genre, with songs vying off into soul, funk and other experimental territories, that killed them at the box office, but earned them the respect of fellow musicians and critics alike. Their debut EDC (1994), infused with some hip Reservoir Dogs audio sound bites, featured some great songs, including Equilibrium and Trouble Come Down. It is a great atmospheric record, filled with emotional power ballads and brooding soundscapes. Their second album The Family (1996) went for a more commercial sound, but without compromising the song writing and production. The album featured some great uplifting songs like Without Love, as well as the brooding rock of Criminal Justice.

Brad featured Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard, and while that PJ hard rock element is there, it is Smith’s voice and song writing prowess that elevates the group from being just another supergrunge offshoot, as evidenced in the songs Buttercup and 20TH Century from their debut album Shame, and Secret Girl and Those Three Words from Interiors, their second album which enjoyed slight commercial success on the back of the Gossard/PJ connection.

Pigeonhed was a collaboration with producer Steve Fisk (Nirvana’s early recordings for the Sub Pop label), and both their self titled debut (that also featured Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil) and second The Full Sentence, has some innovative rock/dance hybrids full of intriguing electronica music, considering it was released in 1993, when dance music was a largely European trend and sampling a urban hip-hop thing, Pigeonhed was philosophically a million miles from the rainy streets of Seattle. Still infused with some intelligent lyrics from Smith, and loaded with a lot of funk, Pigeonhed’s moody funkrocktronica was not only ahead of its time, it was from an entire alternate universe.

Here is a description written by Andrew Male from Mojo Magazine’s Disc of The Day, featuring Pigeonhed’s 1993 debut album.

“…distorted post-soul minimalism, driven by ailing keyboards, hissing echo and Smith’s eerie Prince-on-Placidyl vocals? Listen to it now and you can hear fragments of Jeff Buckley’s Grace (especially in their ethereal cover of, yes, Amazing Grace) and a complete premonition of Portishead’s bad trip club groove, a year before Dummy emerged out of Bristol. Their next album, 1997’s The Full Sentence got the press and garnered a hit with The Lo Fidelity All Stars (LFAS) remix of Battleflag but this is the album that has lasted, still sounding weird, old, wrong and yards ahead of whatever exciting new soul talent is being foisted upon us this week…”

Battle Flag was Shawn Smith’s flagship sleeper hit, enjoying a bit of dance floor revival thanks not only the LFAS remix and other electronica re-workings and sampling over the years, but also being featured in episodes of Smallville, Queer As Folk US and, most significantly and much cooler, The Sopranos’ ground-breaking first season. It was not the last time Shawn Smith added some atmosphere to Tony Soprano’s postmodern gangster meltdown, having his undeniably cool funk dance track Shake It Like You Just Made Bail (a song that Prince, and many other neo-soul-funk pretenders, lie awake at night in their mansions wishing they could have written a song so dripped in cool), and Pigeonhed’s Like The Man Said featured in some of the series’ classic scenes.

Shawn Smith continues to release solo efforts via his website, and is also currently collaborating with a number of music’s free thinkers, such as the Twilight Singers with Afghan Whig Greg Dulli, and some new electronica musings with DJ Joey Veneziani as Fireside Gospel.

*for more info check out: http://www.shawnsmithsinger.com/

bizarroMUSIC: Remembering BONZO

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Remembering

JOHN HENRY BONHAM

Drummer

31 May 1948 – 25 September 1980

“On 24 September 1980, Bonham was picked up by Led Zeppelin assistant Rex King to attend rehearsals at Bray Studios for an upcoming tour of the United States—the band’s first since 1977. During the journey, Bonham asked to stop for breakfast, where he drank four quadruple vodkas (sixteen shots, between 400–560 ml). He then continued to drink heavily after arriving at the rehearsals. A halt was called to the rehearsals late in the evening and the band retired to Page’s house, the Old Mill House in Clewer, Windsor. After midnight on the 25th, Bonham fell asleep and was taken to bed and placed on his side. Benji LeFevre (who had replaced Richard Cole as Led Zeppelin’s tour manager) and John Paul Jones found him dead the next afternoon. Bonham was 32 years old.

Weeks later at the coroner’s inquest, it emerged that in the twenty-four hours before he died, John Bonham had consumed forty shots of vodka which resulted in him vomiting and subsequently inhaling his vomit causing asphyxiation. A verdict of accidental death was returned at an inquest held on 27 October 1980. An autopsy found no other drugs in Bonham’s body. John Bonham’s body was cremated and his ashes were interred on 12 October 1980, at Rushock Parish Church, Worcestershire. His headstone reads:

CHERISHED MEMORIES OF A LOVING HUSBAND AND FATHER JOHN HENRY BONHAM WHO DIED SEPT. 25th 1980 AGED 32 YEARS He will always be Remembered in our hearts. Goodnight my Love, God Bless.

On this the 32nd anniversary of the day John Henry Bonham almost put the Vodka companies out of business, we here at the Bizarrojerri Corporation choose to remember the Led Zeppelin drummer for what he did best. Giving the world’s greatest rock band ever a solid steel spine of rhythm and awe. Undoubtedly, any argument about who is the best drummer ever begins and ends with John Bonham. Even Dave Grohl says so:

“John Bonham played the drums like someone who didn’t know what was going to happen next—like he was teetering on the edge of a cliff. No one has come close to that since, and I don’t think anybody ever will. I think he will forever be the greatest drummer of all time”

Here are five moments of raw Bonzo power that defined rock music forever.

Kashmir

When the Levee Breaks

Moby Dick …10 minutes of pure drum solo perfection. Who plays with their hands these days? Brutal.

Whole Lotta Love

The last three minutes of Stairway To Heaven, turning a fairly mediocre Fairport Convention soundalike into the rock classic we know and love today.

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