Celebration Rock Podcast

Celebration Rock Podcast

ABOUT:
Rock Critic Steven Hyden (“Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me”, “Twilight Of The Gods”) talks with rock stars and the country’s biggest music writers about what’s happening in rock.

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RECENT EPISODES

Fantasy A&R: How To Make a 12-Track Version of the Beatles’ “White Album”

In the week’s episode of Celebration Rock we introduce a new game called Fantasy A&R, where we take a classic album and attempt to improve/mutilate it by making our own stupid suggestions, such as adding or subtracting songs, swapping in alternate versions, and other probably ill-advised ideas.

The first album up for discussion is ripe for editing: The Beatles self-titled 1968 double-record, popularly known as “The White Album.” This masterpiece turns 50 on Nov. 22, a milestone recently commemorated with a pricey box set. But we’re not interested in making “The White Album” even longer. Instead, we’ve posed the opposite challenge: What would a tight 12-track version of this classic look like?

To help me figure this out, I’ve invited my friend Rob Mitchum to play Fantasy A&R with me. To be clear: We both agree that “The White Album” is better as a sprawling experience, in which weird curveballs like “Wild Honey Pie” sit next to undeniable bangers like “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” However, it’s still fun to imagine what a shorter “White Album” would look like, if only because it’s our chance to finally wipe “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” out of existence. Or is it? That song is kind of good, isn’t it? Let’s find out!


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Dive into the archives and catch up on episodes you may have missed!: Celebration Rock archives

Contrarian’s Canon: Dave Matthews Band’s The Lillywhite Sessions

In the late ’90s, the Dave Matthews Band was one of the biggest bands in the world. Each of their first three albums went multi-platinum, and their improvisational live shows made them a stadium headliner. And yet this hippie-friendly collective couldn’t just put out any album that it pleased. In 1999 and 2000, they gathered at a house outside the band’s hometown of Charlottesville, Va. to record songs that were eventually shelved in favor of a much poppier record released in 2001, Everyday. But when those songs, subsequently dubbed The Lillywhite Sessions — after the band’s producer, Steve Lillywhite — leaked on Napster, they were adored by DMB’s hard-core fans.

In this episode, I revisit The Lillywhite Sessions wth one of those fans, indie-rock artist Ryley Walker, for another installment of our Contrarian’s Canon series. Unlike other albums discussed in Contrarian’s Canon, Ryley and I disagree sharply on The Lillywhite Sessions — he loves the album so much that he covered it in its entirety for an upcoming record due out Nov. 16, whereas I … can’t stand this album or DMB in general. But I am willing to be persuaded! Can Ryley pull off the impossible make me actually like the Dave Matthews Band, the scourge of my late-’90s college years?


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Dive into the archives and catch up on episodes you may have missed!: Celebration Rock archives

October’s Top Indie Albums by Kurt Vile, Cat Power, and Pinegrove

On this week’s episode of Celebration Rock I invited Pitchfork senior editor (and now friend of the podcast) Stacey Anderson to discuss this month’s most notable indie-rock albums. Our discussion began with Pinegrove, who’s latest album Skylight is an affecting alt-country-leaning album that’s a worthy follow-up to the band’s 2016 breakout Cardinal. But much of the discussion of this band — or conspicuous lack of discussion — stems from the charges of sexual coercion levied against frontman Evan Stephens Hall that prompted Hall to voluntarily push back the album’s release and reschedule tour dates. Stacey and I explored whether it’s possible to set that baggage aside when listening to the music — or whether it’s even right to do that.

In the second half of the episode, we talked about two of the most reliable legacy artists in indie rock. Chan Marshall, who has put out records since the mid-’90s as Cat Power, returned in early October with her first album in six years, Wanderer, which ranks among her very best. As for Kurt Vile, he’s been putting out consistently strong albums on a regular basis for a decade now. While his latest Bottle It In doesn’t radically reinvent his formula of languid and meditative guitar jams, it suggests that his craftsmanship and lyrical insight are only growing richer with time.

Finally, Stacey and I share some recent recommendations: Robyn’s pop confessional Honey for her, and Colter Wall’s country throwback Songs of the Plains for me.


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Dive into the archives and catch up on episodes you may have missed!: Celebration Rock archives

Twenty One Pilots vs. Greta Van Fleet

In the past few weeks, two of 2018’s most anticipated rock albums have been released: Trench by Twenty One Pilots and Anthem of the Peaceful Army by Greta Van Fleet. In my review of TrenchI noted that Twenty One Pilots have created a deep and fascinating mythology that extends over several albums, while also creating mild, kind of bland music that’s been hugely successful on streaming platforms. If Twenty One Pilots epitomize the trends that dominate pop in the current moment, Greta Van Fleet is a conscious throwback to the classic-rock past. The group is shamelessly derivative of Led Zeppelin, but is it possible to be good at imitation? For this episode, I invited my friend and Celebration Rock producer Derek Madden to discuss these albums. Turns out that we don’t quite see eye-to-eye: Derek likes Twenty One Pilots more than I do, and he also can’t quite excuse Greta Van Fleet’s “borrowing” of Zeppelin’s sound. Who’s right? Listen to us politely disagree!


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Dive into the archives and catch up on episodes you may have missed!: Celebration Rock archives

Contrarian Canon: Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell

Last month, I invited great indie-rock guitarist and hilarious Twitter user Ryley Walker on the podcast to talk about an album that impacted both of our lives as teenagers, dc Talk’s ’90s Christian-rock opus Jesus Freak. It was so much fun that it inspired a new semi-regular series that I’m calling Contrarian Canon, in which Ryley and I will discuss an album that we love that hasn’t gotten a ton of love critically over the years. The latest record that we’re adding to the Contrarian Canon is 1994’s The Division Bell, which might very well be the least well-regarded Pink Floyd album ever. At the time, The Division Bell was controversial because it was made without Pink Floyd’s long-time leader and principal songwriter, Roger Waters. Over time, it has come to be regarded as an afterthought in Pink Floyd’s catalog, an empty artistic shell made by a once-great band. But Ryley and I both really like this record! While it’s true that The Division Bell doesn’t compare with indisputable classics like Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and The Wall, it does a surprisingly good job of restoring Pink Floyd’s classic sound, with extra emphasis on David Gilmour’s majestic guitar playing. At the very least, we had fun revisiting the album recently while hanging out backstage and drinking Maker’s Mark out of plastic cups.


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Dive into the archives and catch up on episodes you may have missed!: Celebration Rock archives

A Tribute to The Stills and Other Overlooked Bands of the Post-Strokes Boom

This month is the 15th anniversary of Logic Will Break Your Heart, the debut album by Montreal quartet The Stills, one of many scruffy, post-punk bands that followed in the wake of the Strokes in the early ’00s. For a while, any band that sort of looked like the Strokes or sort of sounded like the Strokes had a shot at a major-label record deal. Many of those bands are now forgotten, but there are a handful of groups, like the Stills, that had at least one really good album in them. In this episode, critic Ian Cohen joins Steve in remembering some of those post-Strokes bands, including Secret Machines, Longwave, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Hot Hot Heat, and The Bravery.


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Dive into the archives and catch up on episodes you may have missed!: Celebration Rock archives

The Status of Tom Petty’s Legacy

Last Friday, a career-spanning box set called An American Treasure was released delving into the work of Tom Petty, in time for the one-year anniversary of the venerable rocker’s death on Oct. 2.

Unlike most retrospectives, An American Treasure largely eschews hits in order to illuminate some of the lesser known corners of Petty’s music. But does this approach serve the man who wrote some of the best rock singles ever?

I called up Steve Kandell, a writer and journalist whose work has appeared in SpinPitchfork and Buzzfeed, to talk about An American Treasure, and how our perceptions of Petty have changed (and in some cases improved) in the time since he passed.


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Dive into the archives and catch up on episodes you may have missed!: Celebration Rock archives

How Michael Beinhorn Shepherded Superunknown & Celebrity Skin

If you’ve spent any time reading the liner notes of classic ’90s rock albums, there’s a very good chance you know the name Michael Beinhorn. As one of the era’s top record producers, his credits include some of the best and most popular records of the decade: Soundgarden’s Superunknown, Hole’s Celebrity Skin, Marilyn Manson’s Mechanical Animals, Soul Asylum’s Grave Dancers Union, and many more.

In a way, it was all a happy accident for Beinhorn, who got his start in New York City’s avant-garde music scene in the early ’80s. But after he co-wrote Herbie Hancock’s electro-jazz smash hit “Rockit,” Beinhorn became an in-demand producer, getting his big break in rock by working with the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their commercial breakthrough, 1989’s Mother’s Milk.  From there, he worked with some of the biggest personalities in alt-rock. Beinhorn is a warm conversationalist, and he was happy to tell stories about the making of some of his biggest projects. He discussed the struggles of making Superunknown, the awkwardness of dealing with drummer-related drama on Celebrity Skin, and whether the chaotic party atmosphere of Mechanical Animals ever got in the way of work.

Recent Under The Radar faves by Low, the Lemon Twigs, Ruston Kelly, and more

Last month, I did a Celebration Rock episode on my favorite sleeper albums of 2018. This week, I figured that the need to talk about lesser known records is so great that it could sustain a semi-regular series of episodes. So, I called up my friend Jeremy Larson, the reviews editor at Pitchfork, and asked him if there were three albums from the past month that he thought could merit some extra conversation. Fortunately, he came up with three great choices: Low, Yves Tumor, and The Necks. And I had three picks of my own: The Lemon Twigs, Ruston Kelly, and Tomberlin. Between us, we came up with quite a variety of music, from a glam-style rock opera to confessional country to a mind-bending electronic to improvisational jazz. I guarantee you’ll find something you love in this episode that you haven’t already heard about.


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Dive into the archives and catch up on episodes you may have missed!: Celebration Rock archives

Can Liberals and Conservatives Still Bond Over Music?

There used to be an old saying about how you should never talk about politics or religion in friendly conversation, because those are the topics guaranteed to make any interaction decidedly un-friendly. However, in the past few years, it’s been seemingly impossible to avoid the most pressing social issues of the day, even in traditional sanctuaries like sports and pop culture. For this episode, I wanted to explore whether it’s still possible for people who disagree ideologically to come tougher as music fans and geek out over a shared love of particular songs and albums. I also wanted to delve into a question I’ve long found fascinating: Given that pop music generally is dominated by liberal-minded artists, how do conservatives put that aside and enjoy the music?

I figured a good person to discuss this was Jeff Blehar, host of the Political Beats podcast, which features journalists and pundits from the left and right expounding on their favorite artists, including MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and National Journal‘s Charles C.W. Cooke. A “Never Trump” conservative, Blehar regularly listens to bands who don’t adhere to his personal viewpoints, including Radiohead and the Clash. Given the struggles that liberals have had in 2018 reconciling Kanye West’s apparent support of Donald Trump, is it really possible to “separate the art from the artist” in terms of politics? It’s a hard question, and Blehar and I had a great conversation trying to figure it out.

 

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