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The Great, The Good and the Ugly

You want to talk about a Flip-Flop! The new music that I haven’t expected to like has been great, and the releases that I thought would be great have been pretty bad. At least that’s the story lately.

I never thought I’d hear new music from The Presidents of the United States of America and I never thought I would care. But along comes a reunited P. of the U.S.A. with 3 new songs available exclusively on iTunes. “Some Postman (is Grooving)” has got to be one of the catchiest, quirkiest and just plain fun songs I’ve heard in a long time. All three of these songs are worth the download, and fall into that quirky power-pop category I love. This is P. of the U.S.A. at their very best. Whether or not you’ve liked them in the past, give these songs a try. They also do a killer version of Video Killed the Radio Star that’s a must if you can find it.

Another surprise is the new one from Chumbawamba called Un. Now, before you write me off completely and turn your nose up in disgust, give this one a listen. Especially the song “On Ebay.” No, it’s not a novelty song. The lyrics are incredibly intelligent and hard-hitting. Another great song from this release is “The Wizard of Menlo Park. Musically it’s hooky, but not annoying. They combine a number of different styles with keyboards, acoustic guitars, scratching, samples and more. Their incredible sense of melody along with some of the best lyrics you’ll find this side of Bruce Cockburn or Terry Taylor make this one of my best of the year so far.

As Designer Dave mentioned in the previous post, the 3 new tracks from the Finn Brothers, Neil and Tim, are very good. They’re available now exclusively through iTunes, with a full CD release coming hopefully in August.

That brings us to the hardest part of all, records that I had high hopes for but fell flat. There’s one in particular I want to mention and that’s the new Wilco. It’s called A Ghost Is Born and it’s crap. I really liked Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and was anxiously awaiting this new one. I could barely get through it. I thought maybe it would take time to digest, but it gets worse with every listen. The most promising tune is called “Hummingbird” with a Beatle-esque sound and the makings of a nice melody, but it seems half finished. It never really goes anywhere and ends up feeling kind of flat. Could it really be that bad though? Well, we’re talking about an album that has a 15 minute cut, 3 of those minutes being a light piano interlude, the other 12 minutes or so just ambient noise. Yes, it’s really that bad...a boring mess. There’s very little to enjoy here. This isn’t even a ghost of the band that gave us Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I could go on about this, but Andre at Tuesday Morning 3 a.m. does a much better and more detailed job in describing what went wrong with Wilco. Check it out here: Tuesday Morning 3 a.m.


There's a Finn in your Future

Three songs from the upcoming Finn Brothers CD are currently available on iTunes. I've been playing them this weekend and am happy to report that they bode good tidings. "Won't Give In," in particular, is an excellent track -- this one has Neil's fingerprints all over it, judging from the lyrics and the catchy hook. "Gentle Hum" is somewhat mellower, but it's a pretty song as well and is ultimately rewarding.

Tim's voice seems to be showing it's age (which has been apparent since 2000's Say It Is So), but that's more of an observation than a complaint -- the brothers still sound great as they sing together.

What I'm finding most remarkable are the lyrics -- very uplifting and positive, with gracious sentiments and intentions. That is, if I'm hearing and interpreting them correctly. "Won't Give In" seems to be about marital fidelity, keeping the family together . . . that's saying something, coming from a rock star who's been married to his first wife since 1982. Yet the song is not heavy-handed. "Say it once, then disappear."

How do these guys keep doing it? I'm not saying I agree with everything they write -- or that I even understand it all. But since the 1970s, they have managed to continue to express things that are worth hearing, sans shmaltz -- and they have avoided the sarcasm, bitterness, and jadedness that are so typical these days.