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It's an old R.E.M. song. Thoughts on music, or whatever else is distracting me, can be found here.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Weird Al's latest ROFL laugh riot

More than 30 years after first grabbing America's attention by spoofing Michael Jackson with "Eat It," Weird Al Yankovic is still living the dream of every nerdy seventh-grade boy -- making a career out of meticulously wicked song parody, enhanced by even more meticulously funny videos.

Still in the process of rolling out eight videos over the course of eight days from his new album (and maybe his last release in the album format, if the reports are accurate), "Mandatory Fun," Weird Al deftly used YouTube (thankfully, no longer having to count on MTV for support) and blew up Twitter (where bad grammar runs rampant) with "Word Crimes," a Schoolhouse Rock deconstruction of Robin Thicke.

"#somecunninglinguist" ... high-larious!  I know I just used quotation marks for emphasis (snicker, snicker), but hopefully he doesn't read my blog post and comment that  I "write like a spastic." One of  the sly things that make this video terrific is the slipping in of a photo of the young Weird Al into the flipping dictionary pages, presumably by the definition of  accordion, a nod to Weird Al's recurring polka medleys of very random songs, and his accordion-heavy first album. And when he scolds those of us who incorrectly describe something as ironic, look for the image of "rain on your wedding day," taking a dig at Alanis Morissette. 

He also knocks it out of the park with the less cerebral "Handy," where HGTV meets Iggy Azalea. 
"Now let me glue 'dat, glue 'dat/And screw 'dat, screw 'dat/Any random chore you got, well I can do 'dat, do 'dat ... I got 99 problems, but a switch ain't one."
I'm crying with laughter just typing that.

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Monday, May 5, 2014

Canadian alternative band Royal Canoe playing Philly this week

Six-man Winnipeg group Royal Canoe bring the atmospheric textures of Death Cab For Cutie, '80s synth excess, and the beats and hip-hop sensibilities of Gorillaz. These South by Southwest and Bonnaroo Festival alumni are fresh off a Juno Award and touring behind a new album, "Today We're Believers." They're opening for Bombay Bicycle Club at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday May 7 at Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St., Philadelphia. Tickets are $22.

Oh, and they have a penchant for crazy videos!

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The dark horse at this year's Grammys?

2013 was a large year for Imagine Dragons. At Sunday night's Grammy Awards, they will be up for Record of the Year and Best Rock Performance, and even performing a duet with rapper Kendrick Lamar (!).
Guest blogging on Talk About the Passion is Brian Bingaman Jr. of Souderton Area High School's "The Arrowhead." This story appeared in "The Arrowhead" Dec. 20, 2013 (It has been edited by me for style). Since it's not easy to find the online version of the school paper ...

Over the past three years, the band Imagine Dragons has made a charge on the alternative rock and pop music industries.
Imagine Dragons started in 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada when lead singer Dan Reynolds met the band’s drummer, Andrew Tolman. Tolman got longtime high school friend Daniel Wayne Sermon to play guitar and various other instruments, like the mandolin. Sermon then added Ben McKee to play the keyboards and complete the band.
It all started coming together for the band during a small gig in a casino in Las Vegas. 
 During the six-hour set, Reynolds collapsed on stage. He came through and finished the set.
“Something about that moment bonded us and made us realize that we were building a connection with people from all over the country,” said Reynolds. 
“We got a standing ovation from all the people at this tiny little casino at 3 a.m. on a weekday in Las Vegas,” said Reynolds.
The band has only gone up since then. In 2010 the band got their start up with releasing two EP’s (Extended Play) titled "Imagine Dragons EP" and "Hell and Silence EP."
 After getting signed by Interscope Records, the band worked with producer Alexander Grant (known as Alex Da Kid) to put out their first major label release, an EP titled "Continued Silence." After its release, the single "It’s Time" came out, and peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard Top 100 list.  

After "It’s Time," the band had nowhere to go but up. They started to work on their first album, which they released in the summer of 2012, titled "Night Visions." The album reached No. 2 on the Billboard top 200. 
After "Night Visions," the band started to release hit single after hit single.  
The second single the band released after "It’s Time" was "Radioactive," a song that features an almost electronic feel, with catchy lyrics and beats, the song hit No. 1 on Billboard's alternative rock, and rock charts. 

The third single released, "Demons," with meaningful lyrics and slow tempo, attracted much more than just the alternative rock fans. This single reached No. 2 on Billboard's alternative and rock charts, and also No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100.  

 Imagine Dragons' music has been known to feature various instruments, creating a new sound for alternative rock and pop listeners. 
“Their music makes me feel good and energetic,” said junior Gina Reitenauer.  
Imagine Dragons has also taken part in fighting childhood cancer. The band became close to a boy named Tyler Robinson, who at the time was a cancer survivor. Together with his family they created the Tyler Robinson Foundation, which raises money to help the families of kids with cancer to be able to make medical payments and help with bills. 
Unfortunately Robinson’s cancer came back unexpectedly and he died. Even with the loss, the band is still a big part of the foundation, and pays respects to Tyler at each concert. 
On the Tyler Robinson Foundation website, it says his favorite song was "It’s Time." 
The lyrics of the song tied into his story. “The path to heaven runs through miles of clouded hell” was his “theme” through his treatments. 
The band has made a solid impact on the music industry and its fans. They have branched off into the pop music scene and have reached out to listeners as well. 
Expect more to come from Imagine Dragons in the near future. 
Got an idea for a guest blog post? Email me at or reach out via or Twitter @brianbingaman.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Harleysville indie rocker takes to Kickstarter to make new album

Nathan Allebach, aka Earl, became an "artist to watch" for me ever since I stumbled onto the folk and indie shows he had been organizing at Rock Community Church in Vernfield, Lower Salford.
Since then, he's made the most of opportunities to perform his songs in some prime venues, such as Siren Records in Doylestown, The Note in West Chester, and Milkboy, the North Star Bar and The Fire in Philadelphia, and even playing live on WRFF-FM Radio 104.5. 
Allebach and his ladyfriend, Rachel Moyer, have started making beautiful music together in more ways than one, and are asking fans to help offset the costs of recording their debut album, titled "Repose," via Kickstarter.
Understanding that it takes financial backing to fully realize most major creative projects, Kickstarter was launched in 2009 (the same year as Talk About the Passion) to "crowdfund" the endeavors of artistic types of many stripes. It's a revolutionary game-changer for the arts! If you have enough supporters, it'll take a lot more than one Simon-Cowell-like naysayer to squelch your dreams.
The "Earl and Joy" album has been on Kickstarter since Jan. 6, and the goal is to raise $6,500 in a month. The itemized budget of how much is needed for what is posted to their page. With three weeks to go as of this post, they've received more than $2,000 of support, but still have a ways to go. Pledges of $1 or more come with a variety of thank-you incentive gifts, so check it out.
And meanwhile, here's a link to music by Allebach's Earl & Raine. 

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Mighty Manatees hit all their Bobs with "Medicine Show"

Area band The Mighty Manatees used to have a mission statement of sorts -- which has since disappeared from their website -- that they were equal parts Bob Dylan, Bob Nesta Marley, Bob Weir, etc. So longtime fans of the group, no doubt, instantly got a chuckle out of a song titled "Yesireebob" on their latest disc.
According to The Mighty Manatees Wikipedia page, "Medicine Show" is their 17th album since 1988. That's counting the cassette-only releases and all of the live recordings.
Stylistically, the Manatees can expertly switch between reggae, country, folk and rock. On this collection of Will Hodgson songs, they even dish a dollop of jazz! They channel The Grateful Dead throughout the album. The opening track "My, My, My" is like something out of -- yesireebob -- Robert Hunter's lyric book:
"Free to play on Mothers Day/on a Sunday afternoon
We while away the month of May/leaving it too soon
Grooving through the universe/living a life of song
 Searching for another verse/that we could sing along."
The Dead's fingerprints are also all over "I'll Let You Know" and "Rainbow."
They get their Bob Marley on with "Yellow Sun, Yellow Moon" -- with a singalong-friendly "hey, hey, hey/what I say" refrain -- and a reggae re-telling of a Gospel parable in "Samaritan's Day." Hodgson turns into the protest storyteller-wordsmith Bob Dylan circa 1962-63 in "Ballad of Leonard Peltier." The song makes you want to look up the story of the incarcerated Native-American activist, and wonder what really went down June 26, 1975.
The Manatees are known for being a fluid musical cooperative that can be as small as an acoustic duo or as large as a 10-piece orchestra. Adding to that mythos is an arsenal of guest musicians on "Medicine Show." The female blues/gospel lead vocal on "I'm On My Way" is a standout moment. Also noticeably augmenting the Manatees' core band are the album's producer, Jason Crosby, on violin, marimba and xylophone; Walter Tates Jr. on saxophone; Brian Herder on pedal steel and dobro; and Chris DelSordo on flute. There are sone tasty solos on "Medicine Show," gutiar and organ in particular.
Hogdson turns a few attention-grabbing lyrical phrases. "Gonna do it for the money" from "Fast Money" seems out of character for the hippie Manatees ethos. In that song, he also sings:
"She's smoking a pack and a half a day
And after the first shot/the shaking will stop
And that's when all the night was over/and everybody was gone
She sat alone
The winter came too soon."
From "Hold On To Your Dreams":
"It doesn't matter whatever they say
They sure do change their minds after Election Day ..."
"So many futures being bought and sold (which has a double meaning that could be a reference to stock futures) ..."
"I read the papers/and I watch the news
But I don't believe that they're entirely true ... do you?"
 Listen to the tracks from "Medicine Show."

And don't forget, local bands, you too can get your music reviewed here on Talk About the Passion. Email me your Soundcloud, etc. links to, or mail your CD to:
The Reporter 307 Derstine Ave. Lansdale, PA 19446.

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Friday, October 11, 2013

One bad MFSB to be honored by Philadelphia Music Alliance

The Philadelphia Music Alliance Walk of Fame induction ceremony is set for Oct. 24 along the Avenue of the Arts.
This year's inductees are MFSB; The Salsoul Orchestra; John Davis and the Monster Orchestra; WXPN folk DJ Gene Shay; Grammy-winning producer Joel Dorn; arranger, producer and conductor Vince Montana Jr.; songwriters, producers and artists Madara & White; songwriter, producer and record label entrepreneur Jerry Ross; and Wanamaker organ maestro Peter Richard Conte.
For a couple minutes I got to chat with a drummer that was a member of not one, but three, of these inductees (the first three listed) -- Charles Collins.
As part of MFSB (Officially that stood for Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, but was rumored to also be a profane acronym) he played on this hit song, which became the theme song to "Soul Train."

"We were like the Funk Brothers," the 66-year-old Collins said of his fellow '70s pop orchestral brethren. "In most cases we played on all the (Philly R&B recording sessions)." Collins' playing can be heard on recordings by The O'Jays, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass' first three solo albums, Ashford & Simpson, Herbie Mann, and Bobby Eli.
Collins' distinctively active percussion part on this hit by mellifluous Philly singer Lou Rawls came from rapping on the rim of his floor tom drum.

 When orchestral arrangements in R&B reached a zenith in the '70s, Collins lived in Princeton, N.J. because it was a midway point between the two cities he was called upon to travel to for recording sessions -- Philadelphia and New York.
In the '80s, when drum sounds could be electronically programmed, "that cut into our workload quite a bit," Collins said.
Now living in north Texas, and still drumming, Collins says today's recording technology "is finally catching up with the creativity." In fact, he even has an endorsement deal with Yamaha.
"I'm very, very fortunate to be surviving in what's going on now," said Collins, adding that he's willing to "work with anybody that can send a Pro Tools session." Musicians can reach out to him at
Follow the Philadelphia Music Alliance on Facebook.

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Monday, August 5, 2013

Taking "Mean Mr. Moyer" to task for bashing The Beatles

I get it that not everybody likes The Beatles. But seriously -- who took a dump in Justin Moyer's breakfast cereal?

An unfocused and laughably uninformed hatchet job by the Washington Post "Outlook" section writer harrumphs that The Beatles need to be sent to the historical scrap heap, a la the Model T.
That's as ignorant as saying Van Gogh, Da Vinci and Picasso are irrelevant because "there's an app for that."
It's like saying Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron don't matter because Barry Bonds hit more home runs than they did; never mind that Bonds achieved his record by methods that have forever tainted the integrity of baseball.
The true greats always stand the test of time. 
It's mind-boggling that Moyer, who by virtue of being a musician automatically has a discerning set of ears, doesn't have a better appreciation for The Beatles' accomplishments (setting the standard of rock bands writing their own songs; pioneering experimentation with recording techniques and instrumentation; starting their own record label, etc., etc.), all the while maintaining commercial success. 
Moyer wrongheadedly states that The Beatles are obsolete because the primary format for their music was the album. Sloppy research!
The Beatles released a notable number of songs in the single format, which thanks to the mp3, is once again the consumers' format of choice. Please see "Past Masters," Volumes 1 and 2, albums created in the '80s to cull EPs and singles into a tidy package. 
Moyer declares The Beatles unfit to have a third generation of fans ("Something is either wrong with pop culture or wrong with teenagers," he writes), while suggesting tongue-in-cheek that Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Kanye West, or even Psy, might be this generation's uniting musical icon.
I'll say it again: true greats always stand the test of time.

Moyer moans that Radiohead will never be as big as the Beatles simply because of marketing. As a musician, he ought to know better that it all comes down to the quality of the songs. Sorry dude, Radiohead has only two good songs. What I've heard of the rest of their catalog is boooorrring. 
The Beatles' melody-driven songs are accessible and fun. At the same time, they were trail-blazing tricksters that compelled you to listen closer to what they were doing. The Beatles were also adept at switching up their sound in compelling ways to keep their listeners and those pesky bourgeois writers (ahem!) guessing.
Also notable for their ability to switch up their sound to keep it fresh were The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Doors and The Velvet Underground -- '60s bands that Moyer claims are just as good, or better than, The Beatles. While all important and wonderful in their own right, Moyer fails miserably to connect the dots.
Lennon/McCartney gave The Stones "I Wanna Be Your Man" to record as a single, which became an important moment in getting The Stones' mojo working. Without The Stones' making the edge of rock 'n' roll sexy, does anybody outside of L.A. hear The Doors?
Without The Beatles, there is no British Invasion, and it becomes much harder for The Who to get noticed in the U.S.
In the early '60s, adults still viewed rock 'n' roll as a teenage fad. Without The Beatles' influence in legitimizing rock 'n' roll as an art form, The Velvet Underground would be little more than an experimental footnote in the Andy Warhol story.
Moyer does have a point when he wonders why U2 doesn't have the same iconic status, since Bono took the social conscience element in rock -- which The Beatles started, by the way -- and took it to a more hands-on activism. I say give it time. The reason could simply be that The Beatles had more hits -- an unduplicated 20 U.S. No. 1's (and numerous other hit songs) in a span of just six years.
For some reason, the grumpy scribe also takes a non-sequitur potshot at Bruce Springsteen, calling him a "codger in a youth-dominated field."
This is worth mentioning as Springsteen was recently named the top current live act by Rolling Stone, with fellow "codgers" Paul McCartney at No. 15, Prince at No. 2, Neil Young at No. 5 and Tom Petty at No. 13.
Repeat after me: true greats always stand the test of time.
"Aren't there other musicians from other communities -- perhaps New Orleans or Nigeria ... that every kid can adore?," he wonders, questioning whether a generation needs a definitive musical icon at all.
Be that as it may, we have yet to find another band with the same enduring universal appeal, but I'm willing to keep an ear open.
Meanwhile, as one member of Moxy Fruvous blurted out in that group's musical interpretation of Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham": "Hey, you lay off The Beatles, buddy!"

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