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“DD Review: LIVE – Throwing Copper (25th Anniversary)/Woodstock ’94(Live).”

Score: 10/10

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Really, in all honesty, at some point in this murky quagmire, I’m planning on getting to the topic of music. But first I’d like to discuss white middle America. It’s the place that developed Viagra. It’s the place that started genetically modifying tomatoes and mass-producing coffee in Colombia, putting that country’s economy under. And sugar, it’s not done. Buckle up your seat belt, you’re going on a proverbial fu**ing ride.

You knew at some point, you have to admit, somebody would have the chivalry and visionary genius to come along and mercilessly tear into the attributes of a white male, accusing him of pomposity, accusing him of falsehood, of opportunism, of emptiness, vacuousness, vapidity, just in general sucking. Somebody had to step up and really take one on the chin. But this Steven Hyden of the A/V Club has to take the cake: he’s so full of bilious pollinated hatred for and jealousy of LIVE in “Whatever Happened to Alternative Nation: Part 6” that he reminds me of that person in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory whose head blows up and sends them floating up toward those spinning blades. Except I’m pretty sure this Steven Hyden person is safe in Wisconsin, driving his Volkswagon Jetta or sipping an overpriced dry-hopped IPA, listening to some carefully, culturally selected vinyl record.

My intention is not to bother him but rather to illustrated the crushing, diabolical sociological drag on the mojo of LIVE, which is the exact same cultural force that’s propelled umpteen douche bags over the last 20 years to declare “Collective Soul sucks” (NYU professor Tim Sommer then hilariously coming crawling back to them in classic form in “Collective Soul: Attention Must Be Paid”) [1].

A miniaturized version of what I am talking about can be viewed in the L.A. Times’ 1997 review of LIVE’s third album Secret Samadhi. Natalie Nichols makes no bones about unleashing a fully condescending, derogatory perspective on the band, referring to their “relentlessly poppy hybrid of alternative and heartland rock” (excuse me LIVE is way, way the fu** less poppy than the Gin Blossoms and probably even Soul Asylum… also are we supposed to know what the he** this “heartland rock” stuff is? Steven Hyden, in his self-rightous pot shot session on LIVE, insults not only the band repeatedly but the world, and humanity itself as well: he’s talking about the ugly landscape in the “I Alone” video and saying that “it looks precisely like the kind of godforsaken place where a record like Throwing Copper could sell 8 million copies.” So there. 8 million people, this guy says you’re all a bunch of idiots. You better take his word for it.

It so happens that “I Alone” isn’t even the best music video to spawn from Throwing Copper, an award which would emphatically go to “Lightning Crashes,” but that, nor the fact that he professedly hates it, stops this guy from droning on for two entire paragraphs detailing his scorn for the VIDEO ITSELF, at one point even insulting Ed Kowalczyk’s shirtless body, as if that has anything to do with the discussion. He says the singer’s body “screams to be covered in layers of clothing”? What, is like Anthony Kiedis’ “bare torso” more morally commendable than Ed Kowalczyk’s? Can some Volkswagon-driving expert please explain this to me? When can we expect some beach shots of this A/V Club dude [2] ?

Hyden goes on to endorse Guided by Voices, Yo La Tengo, Pavement and Built to Spill (wow, edgy) and despite actually admitting to going and seeing LIVE in concert in ’95 [3] and also acknowledging “all the time I spent listening to Throwing Copper,” he still just obstinately insists on saying they suck, basically, and writes not one complimentary word on them in the, I kid you not, like 10 paragraphs of narrative and opinion he unleashes on their subject. His last proclamation though is probably my favorite: “Our memories seem distorted by what we’ve retroactively decided is worthwhile,” this uttered of course in subsequence to a derision of what he factually spent “all the time… listening to.” Is it just me, or did he just retroactively decide that indie is more “worthwhile” than mainstream alternative, in this exact superficial and arbitrary manner he attempts to condemn?

Eh, maybe this stuff’ll add up all day. In the meantime, while Guided by Voices seem pretty much like goof-offs, LIVE’s and Collective Soul’s albums SOUND way better and make awesome Sunday evening soundtracks at work, my favorites probably being Collective Soul (1995) and the underrated, mainstream-rebutting Secret Samadhi (1997). The general knock on these bands, as Hyden fumbles at, is that they have “superficial aesthetics of… down-tuned guitars, downbeat melodies, frowny-faced (but still telegenic) stars.” Didn’t he just get done trying to call Ed Kowalczyk ugly, which happens to be an equally moot point? Also, melodies don’t have “beats.” I recommend a fifth grade music theory class. Also, seeing as the music is inherently melancholy, soundtracking a world of calamity that had lost Kurt Cobain and seen a devastating bombing of Oklahoma City, a “frowning face” would be perfectly appropriate and in fact a relieving sidestep of pretentiousness, not the alleged descent into it. Steven Hyden is attempting to claim that the real, meaningful music of the ’90s encompasses cutesy indie acts and thereby, in insulting and extraditing the consensus of the masses, exhibits basically the very dictionary definition of snobbery.

It just so happens that since I sat down to write this review, about 10 or so songs from Throwing Copper have played (the final 10), and now I’m on “Hold Me up,” the first bonus track which features a raucous energy, a key change in the chorus and emphatic distortion pedal. It sounds perfectly at home on Throwing Copper. “We Deal in Dreams” is markedly lighter, treading along lightly at about the tempo of “I Alone,” subbing in plangent chord change for the frenetic energy, but still not a setback in vision. Also, “We Deal in Dreams” also contains a key change, following the second chorus, a theoretical tactic I’m guessing Steven Hyden would refer to as “pretentious” or the work of an “overeducated fart,” as Tim Sommer referred to Pearl Jam as. (Interestingly, as far as my knowledge goes, none of the members of Pearl Jam even went to college at all, and most of their songs are about people looking insane and domestic violence, whereas Tim Sommer would seem to be the NYU dude, now wouldn’t he?) “Susquehanna” aptly caps off the re-released incarnation of the Throwing Copper disc with a gentle, jazz-informed verse of ambience igniting into a chorus approximately aping “Ghost” from Secret Samadhi in tempo and energy.

Woodstock ’94 (Live), from what I’ve gathered, seems not to be bundled in the Throwing Copper (25th Anniversary) package but rather a separately-released companion piece, as it’s interfaced apart on Spotify and not included in the Amazon package for Copper. A veritable search nightmare for obvious reasons, this album I’ve found is most easily accessed on Spotify by proceeding to the general band page and then scrolling down to it under “all albums,” or on the first screen, however it plays out in the particular instance.

It should be immediately noted that the band’s Live at the Paradiso issue is excellent, with powerful, gut-busting sound and a spirited, inspired set list that uproariously captures the lightning in a bottle of a memorable concert, so the listener has every reason to expect good things from Woodstock ’94 (the band would then also be invited back to play Woodstock ’99, which they’d do… it doesn’t look like they’re on the “50” lineup of this year, maybe because of their Altimate tour with Bush). In terms of set list, Woodstock ’94 offers seven songs from Throwing Copper and two from debut Mental Jewelry, something I as a Secret Samadhi nut find a little displeasing but that I obviously would have known by the date of the performance.

On Woodstock ’94, a deep, snarky, seemingly accidental bass stab is the first thing you hear, making you know this thing was mixed with ferocity. The drums, however, seem to generally take the forefront, pummeling away with a visceral sort of physicality that gives this project an undeniable energy and vibe. First Mental Jewelry selection “The Beauty of Gray” (a song title Steven Hyden thought fit to call stupid for no glaringly apparent reason) features a more ambient sort of sound scape but a polymorphous and inspired vocal that perfectly compliments this downplay in background noise. Kowalczyk is emoting on the mic like a beat poet transmitting an emotion that’s barely even conceivable, let alone describable. “The Beauty of Gray” at the end of the day is a quintessential LIVE tune and some people might not like that it roughly mimics the sound of grunge, but at the same time it’s light music on its feet, with constant ebbs and flows and changes in mood, thus defining the band’s curiously deep and rhapsodic m.o. fully characteristic thereof.

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[1] Of course when he realizes how influential and cathartic Pearl Jam were it’ll really be time for a second weed grass smoothie.

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[2] Excuse me if I’d had to grow up in York, Pennsylvania I’d definitely have a bigger beer cut at 21 than Kowalczyk seemed to manage… granted, this was before the days of IPA, thankfully enough.

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[3] The guy also went and saw R.E.M. on the Monster tour, which should give you some idea of his music taste.

 

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