Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Man | Lefsetz Letter

I got gas in the tank
I got money in the bank
I got news for you baby, you’re looking at the man
I got skin in the game
I got a household name
I got news for you baby, you’re looking at the man

David Krebs thinks rock died because of sexism. The acts he managed, Aerosmith, Nugent and AC/DC, could they say those things today? Sure, they’re all still touring, doing well, albeit with aged material, could the bad boys from Boston release “Lord Of The Thighs” from 1974’s “Get Your Wings” today?

I don’t think so, they’d be excoriated.

And the Killers have gone on record that “The Man” is parody, a look back to who they once were and are no more, but one thing’s for sure it’s CATCHY!

I got the memo but never spent any time with the band. But the endless tsunami of hype finally got to me, I decided to give a listen to their new album “Wonderful Wonderful.”

It doesn’t sound good.

As in the SOUND!

Once upon a time the goal was to get a big rig, a stereo with huge speakers and enough power to render the tunes in full fidelity. And to tell you the truth, vinyl was always compromised. But I come from the school that it sounded better, and acts competed for superior sound, Steely Dan being famous for this, so many other acts strived to transmit the studio to the listener, but something’s been lost in the digital era.

Most albums are recorded on computers. And reproduced on lame little speakers, with the sound oftentimes being transmitted via the range-decimating Bluetooth. In other words, the reproduction systems of today have impacted what we’re listening to. Rock just doesn’t sound good on today’s listening systems. Bass-heavy hip-hop does.

But in this case is it the recording or the mastering?

The album is tinny and lacks punch. I’ve experimented with different services, CD quality on Deezer, thousand dollar headphones via an amplifier, and still…the sound is thin, it doesn’t embrace you, it doesn’t punch you in the gut.

But “The Man” is great. If you were a fan of mid-period Queen you’d love it.

I was stunned to find out it was released to radio back in May. Even went to #1 on Adult Alternative, making the top five of Alternative, but I didn’t hear it, because I don’t listen to those formats.

Oh, I occasionally bump between them on Sirius, when Howard Stern doesn’t entrance me. But terrestrial radio is a no-go, life is too short for all those commercials, my life is ruled by Spotify’s Top Fifty, that’s how I know what is happening, and it’s rarely rock, but “The Man” does have 20 million streams on Spotify, nothing to sneeze at, but Post Malone’s ironically-titled “Rockstar,” currently #1 in the U.S. on Spotify, has 159 million streams, averaging 2,348,714 a day. Hell, the #50 song on Spotify, Liam Payne’s “Strip That Down,” has 356 million streams and is still averaging 406,277 a day. Sam Smith’s “Too Good At Goodbyes,” which certainly isn’t hip-hop and has only been out a month, has 126 million streams. Why is rock such a backwater?

So I decided to play “Wonderful Wonderful” like I owned it. You remember purchasing music, don’t you? You broke the shrinkwrap and played the LP through and one or two tracks stuck out, and then you played it over and over and over again until you got the rest, until you memorized them. But no matter how many times I played the title track, which opens the album, it didn’t reach me, it’s just not a hit. I mean the Stones established this paradigm decades ago, you open with a killer, but the Killers did not.

But you get “The Man” the first time through. But between the lyrics and the sound it comes across as neutered, even though the band is close to the best we’ve got, in the rock world anyway. The lead singer can actually sing, the songs are compact and digestible, but they’re interwoven with these modern sounds, is that the problem? The music doesn’t sound like a breakthrough, just a band trying to appear hip and modern.

But that first time through I found one other killer, “Some Kind Of Love.”

Now most rockers won’t attempt this sound anymore, you won’t hear it on Active Rock, where the bands are afraid to get close to the dreaded hair band sound of the late eighties, but “Some Kind Of Love” is not wimpy, but airy, it’s not made for a market, it sounds genuine, it’s what Coldplay does, only the Killers do it better. You’ll be nodding your head as it emanates from your listening device of choice.

So “Wonderful Wonderful” has two extremely good tracks. I know, I know, this is coming across somewhat negative, but I wouldn’t be writing it at all if it weren’t for these two tracks, and the fact that the more I listen to the rest of “Wonderful Wonderful” the more it appeals to me.

But has anyone got the time? Especially in this genre?

You can’t tell from the hype. Every week there’s a new SoundScan #1. Insiders ignore it, unless their act is atop that perch. And then most are forgotten. Unless you’re hip-hop, there’s little cross-pollination, everything’s its own vertical, unless you make a specific effort chances are you’ll never hear it.

But in the early seventies, before FM was codified, you’d hear stuff like “Some Kind Of Love” all the time, it was the essence of the format, before a hit was defined as something that was catchy and could play on AM Top Forty.

So what I’d like to hear is a remastered version of “Wonderful Wonderful,” one that sounded more human. Especially now that streaming services make everything the same level shouldn’t the loudness wars be over?

I’m not saying the Killers are the only act on the bleeding edge, but with these two tracks they show they’ve got gas in the tank, that there still is hope left in rock, but this sound never crosses over anymore, it’s a ghetto.

And that’s sad.

the Killers – Spotify

YouTube: “The Man”

YouTube: “Some Kind Of Love”


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