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Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Second Coming of the Seattle Music Scene

For those who embraced the Grunge movement, otherwise known as the Seattle Music Scene, which saw its peak during the 90's, prepare yourself for the second coming as a trio of the biggest bands of that era could all be releasing new music this year.

Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains are all on schedule to have new music ready this year, an assumed unplanned but very exciting alignment of their individual timeline. In 2011, Pearl Jam celebrated the 20th anniversary of the release of their massively successful debut album "Ten" in fine style by headlining a series of shows featuring many guest appearances. During that year, the band also began working on a new album to follow their 2009 release "Backspacer". The band also released reissued versions of their second and third albums, Vs. and Vitalogy, respectively, in 2011 as part of the celebration. They had previously reissued "Ten" in 2009, in a number of fan-friendly and budget-friendly variations. Before that, at the dawn of 2010, Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell announced that the band's hiatus had ended, and new music was being written. The band played several shows and worked on new material, which is tentatively scheduled for a 2012 release. Back in 2007, Alice In Chains returned with an impressive album, "Black Gives Way To Blue", its title track a stunning tribute to founding member and singer Layne Staley who died tragically 5 years before. After touring for the album, the band returned to the studio and has been working on new music, which could be released this year as well.

Another band of that area, widely recognized as the most popular, was Nirvana, who disbanded following the death of singer/guitarist/lyricist Kurt Cobain, the result of an alleged suicide. Drummer Dave Grohl formed his own band called Foo Fighters, with Dave on lead guitar and vocals, and Foo Fighters released "Wasting Light" in 2011, nominated for album of the year at the 54th Grammy Awards.

While Soundgarden took a hiatus and Alice In Chains and Nirvana both disbanded due to the tragic loss of their frontman, Pearl Jam remained active and is one of my all-time favorite bands. Over the last couple of years, through the reissues of their early albums and Backspacer and their anniversary shows, it's easy to see that these guys are really grateful to have lasted and are more solid than ever. With an album already behind them since their return, and a positive outlook on the future, the second chapter in the career of Alice In Chains may prove to be a lasting one as well. Only time will tell if the return of Soundgarden will last, but fan reaction to their first shows since reforming have been very positive.

There are many highly anticipated albums being released this year, but for me, none more highly anticipated than the ones from these three bands. Please share your excitement for new music from these bands, or any other releases you're waiting for.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Rock N Roll Train(wreck)

After years of silence, Van Halen has finally given their fans something to "Jump" about!

On December 26th, the official Van Halen website posted a video showing new footage of the band rehearsing at the Roxy, as details of a new tour scrolled along the screen and classic Van Halen tracks played. Just before New Year's Eve, a promotional image of a train with the vintage Van Halen logo showed up on several websites, and was seen on New Year's Eve in Times Square, indicating the release date of their new album as February 7th, 2012. Tickets for the upcoming tour go on sale January 10th, which also marks the premiere of the first single and video from the album.

The biggest news for Van Halen fans is that this is the first full album recorded with original frontman David Lee Roth in 28 years. Two tracks were recorded with Roth in 1996 for their "Best Of Volume 1" hits collection, but a heated exchange backstage at the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards ended any reunion possibilities, until 2007. Unfortunately for fans of the original lineup, bassist and founding member Michael Anthony was replaced by Eddie Van Halen's son Wolfgang, which Anthony had not been told officially and learned while reading news about the tour online. The 2007-2008 tour is the band's most profitable tour to date despite the lineup change, although it's been widely speculated that the band used recordings of Anthony's backing vocals.

Former frontman Sammy Hagar (1985-1996) has been very vocal about how poorly Anthony was treated by Eddie, first in 2004 when he forced Anthony to take a significant pay cut and sign away his rights to any future earnings, and again by replacing him as retribution for playing with Hagar during Van Halen's silent years. Hagar also slammed Eddie's decision to use his son on tour, stating that the current lineup is not what the fans want to see. Judging from comments on sites like, the Red Rocker is exactly right. Meanwhile, since being ousted from Van Halen, Michael Anthony and Sammy Hagar have been busy enjoying the success of their band Chickenfoot, whose debut was certified Gold. They are currently touring in support of their second album, titled "III", which Hagar calls "the best album I've ever made."

Despite his unflattering remarks towards Eddie in his tell-all memoir "Red: My Uncensored Life In Rock", Sammy maintained confidence that he and Michael Anthony would be in Van Halen again, going as far as calling it "inevitable", mostly due to his disbelief in the possibility that they could actually finish an album with Roth. With the arrival of news of the upcoming Van Halen album, it seems that the least likely reunion at this point is one that involves Anthony or Hagar but the steady success of Chickenfoot compared to the slow progress of Van Halen proves that they're right where they should be.

For fans of Van Halen, the wait is finally over and January 10th will either be a day of excitement or disappointment. While I agree with Van Halen's most loyal fans that the true Van Halen sound exists in their early days, I favor Sammy's vocals and prefer the music made during his tenure. Either way, it's not the same without Michael Anthony in the band and that fact is made clear on Chickenfoot's second album, in which Anthony's vocals are more present than ever as he and Sammy are locked in like never before. Like Sammy, I hope that for the benefit of Van Halen's fans that this new album is nothing short of spectacular. If not, I'm sure Chickenfoot would be honored to let Van Halen open for their next tour.

**UPDATE 1-12-2012**

The first single is "Tattoo", which can be seen and heard on the Van Halen website, and the title of the album is "A Different Kind of Truth". The song "Tattoo" is actually a reworking of a track performed live in '77 called "Down In Flames". Another track on the album, "She's The Woman", is also an older song, it first appeared on the demo that got them their first record contract.

Monday, January 2, 2012

"Making Time" in 2012

I'd like to start by wishing everyone a Happy New Year. To those who made a resolution, I hope you achieve it, and for those who don't believe in them I hope you enjoy some unplanned success. As with every year, I'm always hoping to expand my audience so if you enjoy something you've read here please refer others, and I encourage everyone to leave comments.

With the arrival of 2012, despite the doomsday hype, I find myself unusually empowered and optimistic that I can make some real positive changes in my life; changes that will help me overcome the obstacles that left previous years feeling unfulfilled.

I think there is one theme that everyone can relate to regarding the balance between work and home life, and that theme is "making time". While everyday life should never feel like something that "gets in the way" of spending time with family and friends or doing what makes you happy, it is easy to slip into a routine without realizing how much time has passed since you saw a friend or did something outside of that routine. In order to balance it all you need to "make time" to fit everything in. Being part of a large family means that I have a lot of people to make time for, including friends. The responsibility to "make time" is never for one person to carry, but shared by both people in any relationship, whether it's between spouses, siblings, friends, anyone. It's easy to feel left out or ignored or even insignificant to someone if you always rely on that person to make time for you. I know that I can do much better to make time for the people in my life, and I'm sure many others would agree that they could as well.

Another change I'm hoping to make is to feel better about myself than I have before by eliminating some bad habits and characteristics, and improving myself physically. I think the ability to make others happy starts with being happy about yourself, not to say that overall I'm not pleased with who I am but most of us would agree there's always something we can improve.

I'd love to hear some feedback from those who agree or disagree with "making time", as well as what resolutions you may have and what obstacles may stand in the way.