In Line for the Masquerade: A Review of 'Let's Rock' by The Black Keys

Adam Venrick, August 9, 2019

There are certain times when a work of art offers a provocation just in its very name, whether it’s Leonard Cohen challenging: “You Want it Darker?” Or David Sedaris suggesting “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls.” The Black Keys do the same thing with their new release ‘Let’s Rock,’ released just this summer. And really, though it may seem almost a cliché, the title really is suiting for the album. Not only is it an invitation, but in it’s stylized quotation marks, it becomes a rallying cry.

Looking at it objectively, one would almost have hard time believing that this was the same duo that came onto the scene in 2002 with The Big Come Up. The sound is so much more polished than their early records, perhaps even more so than on 2010’s Brothers. And certainly it’s different. The Black Keys of old were an almost straight up Blues band, much like Fleetwood Mac. And like Fleetwood Mac, they have come into a commercial peak in their career playing more album oriented rock. In fact, there’s probably more of bands like Fleetwood Mac (late 70s era), The Eagles, The Little River Band and possibly even Electric Light Orchestra in ‘Let’s Rock’ than there is B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf or Elmore James. Not that that’s a bad thing. In writing the past three reviews for this blog, I’ve covered artists that have (or purposely haven’t) evolved substantially throughout their career. And really, it’s not hard to see full-fledged rock and roll from the group. Turn Blue, El Camino (perhaps their best album) and Brothers all seemed more and more rockish, with Brothers (and its famed single “Howlin’ For You”) being the best example of Blues-Rock.

But ‘Let’s Rock’ doesn’t pretend to be like The Big Come Up or the wonderfully titled Thickfreakness. It’s title is more than just something to shout, it’s an invitation to something different. Like so many bands of our time that get labelled as alternative, The Black Keys has one foot in the past and one foot in the future. Nostalgia is a big part of their act, whether it’s in blues or rock and listeners here will be quick to find shades of the 1970s in this album. Even some of the song titles feel familiar. “Shine a Little Light” reminds one of “Shine a Little Love” by ELO and “Tell Me Lies” seems so reminiscent of the chorus to Fleetwood Mac’s “Little Lies.” But that’s not to say the band feels unoriginal, disingenuous or overdone (and there are certainly pleanty of bands today that do.) Rather than just a fetishism for music of years-gone-by, there’s a genuine love for the music that Auerbach and Carney were raised on.

Which brings me to another point. As someone born and raised in Ohio, a state which (possibly somewhat accurately) gets labelled as boring, static or otherwise “second run,” there’s something utterly thrilling about knowing that the kind of music which shapes out pop-culture is finally starting to come from here. (Admittedly, the album was recorded in Nashville, but still.) Some of the songs are truly wonderful, too. The leading single “Lo/Hi,” (a perennial favorite on the station’s “New Music Show” this past spring) is a strong foot forward, bound to be coming to a cell-phone commercial near you soon. “Eagle Birds,” is also a fantastic rocker, along with great slower songs like “Sit Around and Miss You” and “Every Little Thing.” “Fire Walk With Me” is pretty good (though perhaps a different song would’ve made a better closer.) The album’s best song, though, is not a single, but rather, the mid-album “Get Yourself Together,” which even now is stuck in my head as I type this.

That being said, the album doesn’t come without some problems. For one thing, the album does feel like a tailor-made comeback album. It’s designed to be catchy, toe-tapping and most importantly, profitable. Now granted, there’s nothing wrong with that, music is a career just like any other, it should pay the bills. The thing about come-back albums, whether it’s after five years or twenty, is that there’s a fine line between great and slightly underwhelming when compared with the things that came before it. For instance, when Steely Dan made their come back with Two Against Nature, it was great. When Bowie made The Next Day, it was underwhelming. This album is somewhere in the middle of great and underwhelming. It’s got all the right boxes checked. Most of the songs are really, really good, it flows nicely (in most spaces) and it’s not overly long. (It’s under forty minutes and doesn’t feel much longer or somehow shorter.) It has the same advantages that albums like Rumours or The Velvet Underground & Nico have. The difference being that those albums were pioneering the kind of music The Black Keys make here and, moreover, those albums had utterly fantastic songs, not really, really good songs. V.U. & N is fifty-two this year. Rumours, forty-two. Today, everyone can groove along to the jazzy bass of “Dreams” and every high school senior to ever read Naked Lunch knows “I’ll Be Your Mirror” and “Venus in Furs.”

Forty years from now, it’s probable that Lo/Hi might the one that survives. This, incidentally brings me to my last point. Remember when I said that the album manages not to be derivative? That’s true in every case but its third single “Go,” which sounds, not like a great classic rocker, or like a smokey, blues-infused tune, but like a million other subpar pop songs that receive so much extra radio play today. In that case, the song, which begins with the line “In the summer time, when it’s hot outside…” is designed to be just something that someone can crank up in their car while they ride down the highway. Nothing wrong with that at heart. But also nothing original. It’s a summer pop song, and to be fair, it’s a summery album, but I have to identify this song in particular as one of the weaker links.

So, to be fair, one should listen to The Black Keys and ‘Let’s Rock’ is a great starting point. It’s accessible to people who like pop and rock and who might be interested in something bluesier. Start here, work to their early stuff and then some B.B. King. And regardless of how I may disparage “Go,” I have a good amount of respect for this group. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are two Midwesterners who have shaped much of American pop-culture in the twenty-teens, (Carney composed the theme for BoJack Horseman after all.) I think that for all of it’s fault’s, ‘Let’s Rock’ is still a great album and proves that we should continue to pay attention to what the duo has to say.

Final Score: 85%

"A Drunk in a Midnight Choir:" Leonard Cohen's "Songs From a Room" at 50

(This Review Written by Adam Venrick)

Many times in the careers of famous musicians, there comes an album that can be classified as “the shrimp between two whales.” Bob Dylan’s Another Side of Bob Dylan, which fell between The Times They Are A-Chainging and Bringing it All Back Home is an example. So is Joni Mitchell’s For the Roses, which fell between Blue and Court and Spark. And Leonard Cohen’s sophomore album Songs From a Room is another good example. But the thing about these shrimp is not that they’re bad (most of the time.) And I would argue, not that they’re small accomplishments. They just happen to fall between works that overshadow them (often for reasons other than quality.) Another Side of Bob Dylan, for instance, was a border album between Dylan’s protest-song period and his famed (and hotly contested) electric period. For the Roses came between Mitchell’s two best selling works and, like the former album, represents an artist in the middle of evolving their style (in this case, folk to folk-jazz fusion) that hasn’t quite fully arrived.

But this doesn’t seem to be the case for Songs From a Room.

Indeed, Leonard Cohen did nothing drastically different between his first and second album. He did nothing drastically different throughout much of his career. He was a brilliant songwriter, well belonging in the company of Mitchell, Dylan and Paul Simon (but more on that later) as the four best songwriters of their time. And while Cohen is constantly (and I would argue, wrongly) compared to Dylan, I would argue he’s much more similar to the other two. It might be pointless (though I try) to argue that Cohen is a superior musician to Dylan. But I believe it’s true. He’s more thoughtful, less boastful and more concentrated on making music than notoriety. His sound is often more minimal, less charged and less turbulent. Maybe the best comparison is to say that Dylan is like Miles Davis and Cohen is like Thelonious Monk. They played the same genre at the same time, with similar people in the same places. End of similarities. Dylan, like Davis, changed his musical style considerably through his career either to experiment or to keep his consumers satisfied. Cohen, like Monk, updated his basic approach to music making very little. His style evolved a little bit as he went on, and his instrumentation modernized, but his basic principles stayed the same. He waited for the public to catch up to him, not the other way around.

But all of that’s to say nothing about the record itself. Songs From a Room was Cohen’s second album, coming two years after Songs of Leonard Cohen and two years before Songs of Love and Hate. It’s easy to see why, of the three, it may be the least respected. It lacks the sonic ambition of the latter and may not be as good (may) as the former. It’s a sparse, spare album, often with just Cohen’s guitar as accompaniment. His famous background singers are absent this time around. It’s just him. Even the cover should give you a sense of how lonely the album can feel. It’s a black and white picture of Cohen (almost totally faded), small against a white background. Indeed, there’s something almost hibernal about the album. It’s cold and lonely and is almost the sonic version of an Ingmar Bergman movie. And Cohen delves into similar topics as Bergman.

Unlike his first album, which mainly consisted of love songs, this album deals more with themes of God, war (and the god of war.) It is perhaps his most probing album into these topics until the much fuller Various Positions in the eighties. (The record that contained “Hallelujah” and “If It Be Your Will.”) But unlike Various Positions, Songs From a Room offers far less solace. It is no great, sprawling celebration. It is a whisper into a dark and all-consuming void. And yet, it feels almost as oddly comforting as it does truly desolate and haunting, like lullabies sung by a ghost. It’s an album that’s best enjoyed on a Winter day, with snow falling deeply outside.

What’s striking about this album is that, aside from all that, it’s oddly one of Cohen’s most accessible. It’s themes, while personal, mirror society’s psyche (especially in 1969.) The second track “Story of Isaac” is an anti-war (specifically anti-Vietnam and the draft) song. While “The Partisan” (adapted from a French poem) tells the story of French soldiers in the holocaust. “A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes” addresses the futility of societies misplaced worship of war, and the album’s possible best track “The Old Revolution” has themes that are as relevant in 2019 as they were in 1969. Other great songs include “Seems So Long Ago, Nancy,” the story of a tragic young woman looking for love through sex (and ending in suicide) and “The Butcher” a grappling with life, God, addiction and death. It’s worth noting that while Cohen wrote ballads through his entire career, this album contains possibly his most balladic songs. They are about people, often in the first person, but often not. “Seems So Long Ago, Nancy” is told both in the second and third person.

It’s also worth noting that, while I do think that this album is better than Songs of Love and Hate, I do think the the latter album contains Cohen’s most underrated (and possibly best) track “Avalanche.” While the former album contains one of Cohen’s most overrated and worst songs in “Bird on the Wire” (from which this article takes its name.)

So why does Songs From a Room get the short end of the stick. Aside from it’s opener, all of the songs are fantastic and it’s truly a good kick-start into themes Cohen wrote about throughout his long (and very poetic) career. Life, Death, God, Love, War and Being Remembered. These are primal themes told in a blunt (and bleak) way. Perhaps no other album in his catalogue is as beautiful in its bleakness as his last album, You Want it Darker, which dealt with the same themes in a similar way, at the opposite end of a career (and a life.) Cohen, who began his recording career in the mid sixties, was thirty-five when Songs of Leonard Cohen came out in 1967. At thirty-seven, well travelled and approaching middle-age, Cohen had a better handle on life than did Dylan, SImon, Mitchell or any of their contemporaries, (though Mitchell probably came the closest.) Moreover, Cohen does a kind of reverse of what Simon and Mitchell do. While they make ordinary topics poetic, Cohen makes poetic topics ordinary, and Songs From a Room is perhaps one of the best examples.

So it’s clear to me that the apathy directed towards this album stems from a very specific place. It is too spare in between two very rich albums that for whatever reason have become better known. Perhaps it’s because, as time has gone on, we’ve preferred richer albums. But with that said, this reviewer urges listeners to go out and see for themselves. I believe they will not be disappointed.

Final Score: 91%

Bringing it All Back to Town: The Velvet Underground's "Squeeze" Re-Evaluated

(This review by Adam Venrick)

When a fantastic group releases a subpar album, blame can usually be attributed to one (or more) of a few factors. Either poor communication by the members, poor supervision (or micromanaging) by the record company or poor management. Lack of talent is also a possibility, but for a band like The Velvet Underground, lack of talent appears not to be the sole explanation. After all, the V.U. is a fantastic group, and by most accounts, their 1973 fifth album Squeeze is a subpar album.

Before we dissect what it is that does (or doesn’t) make Squeeze a subpar album, let me first say that I have a tremendous amount of respect for artists that change their style over the course of their career. Fleetwood Mac did it, Miles Davis did it and the Velvet Underground did it, dramatically. In fact, I would argue that the group’s final aforementioned album probably sounds less like their first album, The Velvet Underground & Nico than albums by other bands. What started out as a combination of art rock, noise rock, proto-punk and possibly freak-folk (especially with Nico’s input) finished as something that almost feels like a knock-off of The Kinks or the Beatles (and not the tracks by either group that are particularly loved in most cases.) All of this took place, over five albums in a seven year period. And really, what led to such a dramatic change in style, was a dramatic change in membership (only two of the five albums bore the same main lineup and even so, the work done by each member was drastically different. The first album was the culmination of the psychedelic sixties. The group was formed with the help of Andy Warhol and with Lou Reed and Nico as the two front people of the first album, it seemed to go against any kind of commercial possibility. (Not surprising, given that the group’s original drummer Angus MacLise left the group before they began recording as he felt that making a record would be selling out.) After the first album, Nico left to pursue her solo career and co-founder (and my favorite Velvet) John Cale took a more front seat role on the grating (and largely overrated) White Light/White Heat. After Cale’s departure, Doug Yule joined as a vocalist to replace him and the group took a more folk-rock oriented sound on their second self-titled album and by 1970’s Loaded, they were working with full-fledged pop.

All four of these albums (though I might argue Loaded doesn’t deserve it, but for it’s fantastic A-Side) are today regarded as masterpieces. Squeeze is regarded as an embarrassment, often not included in any way, in box-set collections. Like a prodigal child, it has been cut off from the group’s otherwise immaculate family tree. I would argue, firstly, that this is a mistake. To write this article, I re-listened to Squeeze. Not a hard task, it’s a little over the thirty-three minute mark. Certainly good for a car trip or cleaning the house. And reflecting on the album, I have to note that, while it may not be exceptional, it isn’t that bad. Critics love to savage the 1973 album, with AllMusic giving it a star-and-a-half out of five and Rolling Stone only one. But I would argue that’s unfair. The album contains many serviceable tunes including “Caroline,” “Send No Letter” and “She’ll Make You Cry.” And two songs that probably deserve to be listed among the group’s best, the oft-covered folk-pop song “Friends,” and the album’s closer “Louise,” likely the last vestige of the original group (it concerns a burlesque dancer.) But even these two songs are flawed. The first is sentimental to a degree that John Cale likely never would’ve allowed and the second is not up to par with even some of the more mediocre songs on the first three albums by the group.

So what makes Squeeze so bad. I would argue: Nothing. Nothing is the general feeling one gets from this album. It leaves very little mark and seems unlikely to burn itself in one’s memory. But there’s also nothing technically wrong with it. It’s as good as some of the best albums by lesser bands. So maybe it isn’t that Squeeze is a bad album. Maybe it’s that it is not a good Velvet Underground album. If the band itself is an honors classroom, then the first four are students who showed up well prepared, while this one feels like the student who complains that his dog has eaten his homework.

But it’s regrettable to think what the album might have been. With Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison gone, the last vestige of the group from the first album was Maureen Tucker. But she was fired by the group’s manager prior to production. With no one but Yule involved, it puzzles one to think of why it was even called a Velvet Underground album. It likely would’ve faired better as Doug Yule’s solo debut. Throughout the album, he’s shown to be a capable musician (not of the inventive level of Cale) and a serviceable songwriter (not of the literary quality of Reed.) Had Tucker remained, or had Yule been allowed to lean more into himself, it could’ve been a fine (not perfect, but fine) album. Instead, it feels like a sort of Dr. Moreau type creature. Neither man nor beast. Neither good, nor catastrophically bad.

But perhaps the biggest complaint that can be made about the album is its length. As previously stated, it runs about thirty-three minutes, and yet it feels at least twice as long. It’s an album you can easily get through in one sitting and yet you’d be forgiven for not being able to do so. And truly, I can’t explain why it feels so long. Perhaps it’s because the album doesn’t feel like one cohesive thing, but rather songs that were made. It has no flow, just contents. That, and when it’s bad, it’s bad. Take it’s second song “Crash.” While this song is not even two minutes long, it feels like an absolutely mountainous affair. That’s the thing about the album, really. One can’t even say that it starts strong, ends strong and has its weakest few songs shoved in the middle. It’s thoroughly mixed and undecided all the way through.

So, finally I’m left to consider how Squeeze has aged. It’s a forty-six-year-old record and certainly worse records have been made since then (including Lou Reed’s Lulu.) And where it’s good, it is still good. I think it’s ultimate tragedy is that forty-six years later, it has not been memorable. The first album by the group sold practically not at all, but as the old saying goes “everyone who bought a copy started a band.” For Squeeze, the most memorable thing (aside from “Friends”) is the cover art, with a giant hand grasping the Empire State Building. And the tragedy is that there is no revanche for the band. No great studio album that re-united Cale, Reed, Nico, Yule, Tucker and Morrison. This was their last studio album, and should be the album listened to last. Let the other four wash over you (preferably in the order they were made.) But still, when taken on its own terms, with all of these provisions, Squeeze can stand on its own two feet. At least, for a short while.

Final Score: 64%

Over & Over: "Tusk" at 40; A Contemporary Review

As our friends and listeners know, we hear at 91.1 are dedicated to bringing you top quality broadcasting and access to terrific music, news and talk radio. As such, we have decided during our summer hiatus to begin bringing you reviews of albums, both current and classic. For our first review, we have decided to review a seminal album, turning forty this year: Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk.

This review written by: Adam Venrick

Released in 1979, directly following 1977’s Rumours and 1975’s second self-titled White Album , Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk represents a both a continuation and a departure of the styles and themes that had won them a Grammy on their last album. Conceptually, the album is a strange kind of a thing. It combines influences of Album Oriented Rock, Blues, Folk, Psychedelia, Punk, New Wave and Art Rock, and bares as much resemblance to the Velvet Underground and Vashti Bunyan as it does their previous two albums. Lyrically and musically, it doesn’t yield to same accessibility that Rumours or Fleetwood Mac yields. Listeners will find fewer personal hardships and romantic entanglements. (Fewer songs that might remind one of the plot of Gone Girl.) There are also fewer toe-tapping rockers to dance along to. (Though “I Know I’m Not Wrong,” “The Ledge,” and “Never Forget,” might bring out some pleasure.)

That being said, Tusk also offers a continuation of the five band members’ strengths. Stevie Nicks’ mystical lyrics shine through in each of her five songs, and though they occupy only a fourth of the album space, they are incredibly memorable, especially “Sara,” “Angel,” and perhaps the album’s best song, the tender folk-ballad “Storms.” Lindsey Buckingham shows his love for experimentation in the lyrically sparse, musically heavy songs and Christine McVie brings her tender soulfulness to soaring levels (especially in songs “Over & Over” and “Brown Eyes.”) Mick Fleetwood’s drums soar out in “Not that Funny” and “That’s Enough for Me” and John McVie’s bass playing is fantastic in “The Ledge.”

Looking at the now forty year old album through the lens of a 2019 listener, one can see that it more than holds water, and in fact, might be the album by the group (though one could argue for Rumours or Tango in the Night) that has influenced modern music the most. It is an album that makes its quirkiness accessible and its hour and twenty-minute run-time (as a double LP) fly by. Moreover, it is an album that, much like the group’s 1972 quasi-concept album Bare Trees deserves to be listened to in one sitting, preferably one overcast afternoon with a cup of coffee. Moreover, the album proves the merits of chance taking in a group that is nearly impossible to define stylistically. When the band began in 1967, under the direction of Peter Green (who makes a musical cameo on the song “Brown Eyes”) it was a British blues band. Since then, it has been shaped by Danny Kirwan’s freak-folk influences, Bob Welch’s jazz fusion influences (both in the early 70s), Jeremy Spencer’s rockabilly and the experimentation of albums like Then Play On, released a decade before Tusk. All of this before Buckingham/Nicks even got to the table.

Still, Tusk’s influence (whether consciously so or not) remains clear in this generation’s alternative music. And perhaps that’s what we can ultimately say of Tusk’s confounding nature. Though it was the group’s twelfth album, it was their third as a truly mainstream band, and rather than embracing the kind of confining safety of the popular music of the decade that would follow, the album longed to return to the group’s more experimental, more alternative roots - “back to the Velvet Underground,” as Nicks would later sing.

Finally, at forty years old (and as our station’s first review on this blog,) we must consider whether Tusk is truly a good album as well as a confounding one. I would argue that it is. Moreover, it is not just a good album, but in this reviewer’s opinion, belongs with its immediate predecessor as one of the most perfect albums of the last century. However, it is also likely that a casual listener would find it more alienating (the titular song was recorded at a USC halftime show, after all.) It is an album that can be both appreciated and enjoyed, provided that the listener approaches it, knowing it is (and being prepared for) an atypical listening experience. But here we are now: 40 years of Tusk and I would argue that not only has it held up well, it has aged into a position of musical apotheosis, dropped in the wrong time and awaiting a point where contemporary tastes were just so that it could truly be appreciated.

Final Score: 97%

Beating the Heat Mid-Summer

Well, here we are in late July. Summer is going by quickly (as always) and in just a little over a month, 91.1, WDUB (The Doobie) will be returning. In the mean time, we hear the Doobie want to keep our listeners and friends updated. We are still taking New Music inquiries, addressed to wdub@denison.edu, however, we will not be accepting new songs until Broadcasting resumes in the Fall.

We also wish to once again offer a profound thank you to all of the wonderfully talented artists that rocked out Doobie Palooza in the Spring. 2019 has been another stellar year for music, with new content by modern artists such as Beirut, Houndmouth and The Black Keys and classic rockers such as Santana and Melissa Etheridge.

Since we will be out of commission for at least another month, we wanted to provide our listeners with temporary relief. Please enjoy this two-hour Beat-the-Heat playlist featuring a summer-friendly assembly of modern-alternative, classic rock, yacht rock, surf rock and jazz.

Stay cool, listeners, and as always: Vibez,

Your friends at WDUB

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91.1 Signs Off For the Year

After a year filled with many on-campus changes, 91.1 WDUB (The Doobie) will cease broadcasting for the summer break starting May 15, and will return to broadcasting in early September (date TBD, but stayed tuned.) As usual, it has been an honor to serve as DJs and after a successful Palooza and finals, we are ready to bid out graduating DJs a fond farewell. Since its inception in the fall of 1953, WDUB has sought to bring quality radio content to our friends and neighbors in Licking County and we believe this has been a successful and innovative year, and that next year will certainly be the same. As always, as a station we would be nothing without our listeners and we’re profoundly grateful to all of you for tuning in.

Best,

Your Friends at 91.1

Getting to Know Your Artists (Topaz Jones)

Hailing from New Jersey, Topaz Jones’ love of music was apparent from an early age, with a musician father and an early talent. Since then, Jones has been carving his own place in the world of hip-hop, a feat in a time when hip-hop is available everywhere. But Jones has not only been able to rise through the ranks of rap, but also been able to maintain his own unique, artistic style in a time when music of all genres is increasingly pre-packaged, taking influence from his family’s encouragement, and according to one interview, the many funk albums he grew up around. With his debut album Arcade having been released in 2016, Jones has continued a steady output of singles since then including “Nectar,” “Toothache” and “Black and White,” which was released just last year. Topaz Jones will be taking the Palooza stage May 3rd and is not to be missed.


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Getting to Know Your Artists (Active Bird Community)

With its founding members from Hastings-on-Hudson, and based in Brooklyn, Active Bird Community can only be described as a dynamic band. Coming from the world of Lo-Fi rock music that has come to define a generation of alternative musicians in the twenty-teens, Active Bird Community made its first mark on the music world with its 2015 album I’ve Been Going Swimming. Since then, the band has been an unstoppable force, consisting of four members: Tom D’Agustino (vocals, songwriting), Andrew Wolfson (lead guitar, song writing), Zach Slater (bass), and Quinn McGovern (drums). The three founding members (D’Agustino, Slater and Wolfson) have been together since high school, and with the collegiate add-on of McGovern, the band has only become stronger. In addition to their 2015 debut, they have released two more albums, their 2017 sophomore release Stick Around and 2018’s Amends. Their latest release came out just this year, a single called “Somewhere” featuring Samia. The band can be seen on May 3rd on the Palooza stage. We hope you’ll come join them.

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Getting to Know Your Artists (Cousin Simple)

Columbus’ “Youngest Alt-Rock Band” is upon us! Cousin Simple consists of five members: Vocalist “Harsh” Hoag, drummer Joel Lorenz, guitarist Ryan Ulibari and guitarist/keyboardist duo Mitch Whitaker and Luke Hammrock. Though currently students at OSU, Cousin Simple has already made its mark on the Columbus alternative music scene, with their 2017 debut album And We Would Never End, which featured the hit single “Song to Emma.” Since then, they’ve continued to record steadily, releasing several singles in 2018 including “This is a Robbery” and “Rockstar” and a new song just this year called “Honeybee.” Cousin Simple blends the old and the new, combining influences such as Mick Jagger and Coldplay. Cousin Simple will be storming the Palooza stage May 3rd and are not to be missed.

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Getting To Know Your Artists (Spice Lo)

At just nineteen, Spice Lo is one of music’s fastest rising talents, adding his own personal style of the world of R&B. With his debut EP Growth released in 2017 and his debut album The Cabernet Facade  released just last year, Spice Lo has been unstoppable, releasing a new single “Dothedash” a little over a month ago. We here at 91.1 are honored to welcome Spice Lo to the Doobie Palooza stage as our MC, guaranteed to get all attendees sufficiently pumped up between acts. And if you still can’t get enough Spice in your diet, you can catch him performing in the Palooza after party at the Bandersnatch.


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Getting to Know Your (Student) Arists

THE HA$H SLINGING SLA$HER

Putting the fun back in funky, The Ha$h Slinging Sla$her (aka, 91.1’s own tech director, Jeff Stevens (‘21,) will be kicking off this event with a soaring rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” played on - wait for it - electric Ukulele. You may know him as Jeff, but get ready to see him in a brand new light (and not see him at all under his shadowy cloak) as he becomes The Ha$h Slinging Sla$her. The lights may flicker, the phone might ring and no one may be there, and even a ghostly bus might stop by, but you will certainly be floored by the magic of the performance.  



CLEVER SPACE PLANTS

By their own description, “Jaden Richeson (‘20,) & Diego Rubey (‘19,) make the most of the default Ableton sounds by creating futuristic sound loops that layer in rich reverb and dense chordage by tapping into deep magicks of old to take you to a lo-fi 8-bit dreamworld full of chill beats to study and relax to and boppin' space jams to dance and bounce to.” By our description, this band will be an excellent addition to our Palooza line-up combining trip-hop and electronic psychedelia for a sound reminiscent of Tame Impala, recent Bon Iver and even the Pet Sounds era Beach Boys.


MEAT SWEATERS

This punk supergroup combines two of Denison’s proudest pre-existing bands (Cozy Sweater and The Kenyon Animé Club) into one for a remarkable sound. Featuring guitarists/vocalists Sam Rice (‘19) and Dan Timmerman (‘19), drummer/vocalist Alex Hughes (‘21) and bassist Oscar Maldonado (‘19), this four piece set will be playing both classic punk-rock covers and roaring originals. They’re not to be missed.


ANTI SOCIAL MEDIA

This hip-hop duo comprised of Evan Brooks (‘20) and Hunter Lewis (‘20) is one of Denison’s most promising singer-songwriter/rap acts, with their original songs combining smart, sharp-tongued and often humorous and ironic lyrics with pleasing beats, the group has been performing together for over a year and a half. We here at 91.1 are honored to have them as part of Doobie Palooza.


SAM MCPEAK (‘19)

Sam McPeak (‘19) will be taking the Doobie Palooza stage this May to perform his unique blend of hip-hop and electronica. A touring musician who studied at a performing arts high school, McPeak will be bringing his own style to Palooza, and we believe he will be a fine addition to the set list. He has two songs available on Spotify: “Lonely Summer” and “Backspace (Only a Matter of Time).”


With New Semester, Broadcasting Returns with a Passion

With a host of new DJs bringing innovative programming, coupled with the return of several perennial favorites, 91.1 WDUB has returned to Denison with a fiery passion. After a semester marked by heightened interest from the student body at large, WDUB returned to broadcasting in late January. A full list of semester showscan be found below, and suffice to say that with a program stocked with 42 shows, there will be hours of quality broadcasting throughout the week. Moreover, student outreach and promotion continues as Doobie tee-shirts are sold throughout the Slayter Student Union. The shirts, designed by station manager Rachel Weaver. The shirts are $20 and going fast at the time of this blog post.

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Shows Near School: December Edition

Here's your monthly look at shows in and around Columbus, including some over winter break for all y'all staying on campus over the holidays!

Jason Mraz / Tuesday, December 4th @ Palace Theatre

Bad Bad Hats / Wednesday, December 5th @ The Basement

The Japanese House / Thursday, December 6th @ A&R Music Bar

Flint Eastwood / Tuesday, December 11th @ Big Room Bar

The Castros / Friday, December 14th @ A&R Music Bar

The Devin Wears Prada / Sunday, December 16th @ Newport Music Hall

Cousin Simple / Friday, December 21st @ The Basement

 

Shows Near School: November Edition

More to check out this November!

Lake Street Drive / Friday, November 2nd @ Newport Music Hall

Fleetwood Mac / Wednesday, November 7th @ Nationwide Arena

Los Campesinos! / Friday, November 9th @ Ace of Cups

Yonder Mountain Song Band / Saturday, November 11th @ A & R Music Bar

Playboy Carti / Monday, November 26th @ EXPRESS LIVE!

Dave Matthews Band / Tuesday, November 27th @ Schottenstein Center

Shows Near School: October Edition

Some more shows to check out in the month of October! 

Trophy Eyes / Monday, October 1st @ Big Room Bar

Melodime / Wedesday, October 3rd @ Rumba Cafe

Andy Grammar / Wednesday, October 10th @ Newport Music Hall

Owl City / Sunday, October 14th @ Newport Music Hall

Hippo Campus / Tuesday, October 16th @ Newport Music Hall

lovelytheband / Friday, October 19th @ The Basement

Hey Ocean! / Saturday, October 27th @ Big Room Bar

 

Shows Near School: September 2018

Some shows to check out in September! 

Car Seat Headrest / Sunday, September 9th @ Newport Music Hall

FIDLAR / Monday, September 10th @ Newport Music Hall

Japanese Breakfast / Wednesday, September 12th @ Skully's Music Diner

SALES / Thursday, September 13th @ Ace of Cups

Mom Jeans / Tuesday, September 18th @ The Woodlands Tavern

Diet Cig / Thursday, September 20th @ Union Bar & Grill

Young Thug and J. Cole / Sunday, September 23rd @ Value City Arena

Shows Near School: August 2018

Look forward to getting back to life on the hill and consider checking out some of the upcoming shows around Granville in August! 

Monolord / Monday, August 27th @ Ace of Cups 

Future Islands / Tuesday, August 28th @ Newport Music Hall

The Moms /  Tuesday, August 28th @ Big Room Bar

DoobiePalooza Headliners!

We are so excited for the artists coming to this years DoobiePalooza!

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Kweku Collins

Kweku Collins is a 20 year-old rapper, producer, and songwriter from the Chicago suburbs who is the paradigm of DIY rap and hip hop. His unique and catchy hits like “Stupid Rose” from the 2016 album “Nat Love” combine a grounded melody with lyrics about teenage life and love through the lens of an old soul, perfectly expressing the emotions of his young audience. Mixing rap-ballads and grimy punk-rap with acoustic guitar chords, Collins has pioneered a genre and sound all his own to stand out from the countless other big rap names to come out of Chicago. This hip-hop misfit is working to create lyrics that can play to the emotional roller-coaster that is coming of age, while pairing them with a somewhat melancholy musical backing, to produce a soundscape entirely unique to himself and his brand. Collins’ newest single “Home Tree” was released on December 1st, 2018 and his music is available on Spotify as well as other platforms. We are incredibly excited to have Kweku Collins co-headlining Doobie Palooza this year and anticipate an energetic and amazing performance!

 

 

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Crumb

This Tufts University-bred band may still be underground, but they’ve got a signature sound that is bound to light up the Doobie stage. Consisting of singer/guitarist Lila Rimani, synth/keyboardist Brian Aranow, drummer Jonathan Gilad, and bassist Jesse Brotter, this four piece band specializes in jazz-infused psychedelic rock that is often mellow and laid back, but bursts with sprawling and lush choruses and trippy production. Their sound pays homage to 60’s psych pop, loose jazz, indie rock, and bedroom pop in a refreshing way. Drawing comparisons to bands like BadBadNotGood, Mild High Club, Drugdealer, and Hoops, Crumb is a group on the rise, having only released seven tracks in total. Nevertheless, the four-piece band has made a name for themselves with their “Locket” EP and self-titled three track single, which displayed the band’s soul, funk, and jazz influences on their sleeve. The band was also listed in Nylon Magazine’s guide to “All The Brooklyn Bands You Should Be Listening To” in October of 2017, and received a glowing feature article in Paste Magazine, which called the band’s sound “undeniably original”.

 

 

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Sarob

Local Columbus rapper and Denison alumni, Sarob, will take the stage on Friday at Doobie Palooza. The singer-songwriter started his musical career in late 2013 with his track, “high noon.,” a well-known to Denison flip of Kankick’s classic instrumental, “Seeing Spirits”. In April of 2014, Rob released his first official mixtape titled "noon", which garnered international acclaim as well as praise from veteran artists such as Homeboy Sandman. Rob recently released an album in 2017 called, “Seeing in the Dark” which has many great tracks on it. 24 hrs, Crystal Clear, and others are definitely worth listening to. On his website, you can find a handful of singles, including a track with Portland band, Fine Animal, titled “Imitator,” which can also be found on Sarob’s Soundcloud. This will be Sarob’s 5th Doobie Palooza performance. We are looking forward to his mesmerizing lyrical talent and his ever-present crowd involvement again this year!

 

 

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Mungbean

Mungbean is comprised of Emma Swysgood, Sean Gleeson, and Joel Blaeser. Based out of Columbus, this trio mesmerizes with their otherworldly synths, shoe tappin’ drumbeats, and groovy guitar riffs overlain by Swysgood’s irresistible and powerful vocals. Although a fairly new band, arriving on the scene in 2017, all members have been making music for most of their lives and have substantial experience: Blaeser was the drummer for the cutting edge Columbus band Turtle Island and Swysgood did vocals for the up and coming rock outfit, The Worn Flints. In being such a new band they are constantly experimenting with unique sounds but could probably be best described as spacey electronic dance pop. Inspired by artists like The XX, Caribou, and the National, Mungbean makes infectious and danceable music with each members sound complimenting the others; creating a technicolor dreamcoat of magical and positive sounds. With only about six songs released on a series of three two song EPs Mungbean is set to be one of next great acts out of Columbus and we’re very excited to have them play at Doobie Palooza this year!

DoobiePalooza Student Performers 2018

We are super excited to have so many talented people from Denison performing at this years DoobiePalooza!

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Simone X Telease

Simone Telease goes by the stage name Simone X Telease. Born and raised in Oakland, California, she is a graduating senior studying women and gender studies; but, eats, sleeps, and breathes music. Telease has been singing since she was 6 years old and writing songs since the age of 8. She says “Being a Black woman is my inspiration for music”. She is an R&B singer with a self described “jazzy flavor”.
 

 

 

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Sheldon Freeman

From: Atlanta/Nashville
Class of 2018
Vocal Artist
Shel got involved with music at the age of five as a drummer, but began to focus on his skills as a vocal artist at the end of high school. Primarily he raps, and he also has experience singing. Currently he has a few features on other artist’s songs, however original content is coming before graduation! He’s been inspired by Kendrick Lamar, Tyler the Creator, Kanye West, Young Thug, and even the Strokes, so expect to be entertained by a vast array of vocal styles during his performance. He’s super stoked about this year’s Doobiepalooza and is looking forward to hanging with y’all. 
Feel free to listen to these tracks to get a feel for his sound!
JOSE x Shel – Butterfly Effect Remix
JOSE – Backwoods (Ft. SimoneXTelease, Shel)
Charlie Burg – Formula Ft. Pius

 

 

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IDM

IDM Hip-hop crew was brought to Denison’s campus to create a space for various styles of dance that we, as dancers, felt were underrepresented on our campus. IDM stands for Inspire, Diversify, and Move which we embody through our unique blend of dancers, each with a different genre of expertise. Although our main focus is hip-hop, the blend of movements generated through our creative practices has brought every members individual movement styles into one collaborative product. IDM was founded by Ericia Bramwell and Vaval Victor. Along with them we have a crew manager, Natalia Duarte, and six crew members:

Ericia Bramwell(2020): Newark, New Jersey

Vaval Victor(2020): New Orleans, LA

Natalia Duarte(2020): Skokie, IL

Jirah A. Morales(2018): Chicago, IL

Fiona McNichols(2020): Chicago, IL

Isabelle Karlik(2020): Darien, CT

Alex Drumm(2020): Boston, MA

Mo Murray (2021): Detroit, MI

Julia Baggio(2021): Belo Horizonte, Brazil

 

 

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The Moonberries

The Moonberries are junior Steve S. Wright (bass), first year Andrew U. Burklow (drums, vocals), junior Daniel C. Timmermann (guitar), and freshman Alex C. Hughes (guitars, vocals). All four members hail from Pine Point, Ontario. The band was brought together by junior Michael Angelo in late 2017. The band is inspired by artists like Meatpile, Two Hands, PUP, Twin Peaks, Deathgasm, Outkast, Five Skin, Beastie Boys, Blink-182, Willy Nelson, Robosapien, Dixie Chicks, and Drake Bell. Steve’s favorite food is pastrami. Andrew has never pet a goat. Alex is always losing something. Dan is always playing Sonic on his PSP. Check out the Moonberries’ music @ whohitrne.bandcamp.com. 

 

 

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Jose 

Jose, class of 2018, is a rapper, mixing engineer, and cinematographer from Worcester, MA with huge influence from the hip-hop genre. He grew up listening to Artist like Drake and J. Cole, and sees a lot of their styles in his own work. In February, Jose dropped his first project entitled DISTRACTED, available on all major streaming services and SoundCloud. You can also check out his YouTube channel with several music videos out for a few songs off DISTRACTED and some of his earlier work

 

 

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Count Spacey

Count Spacey is a garage rock/jam band formed in our very own Granville, OH. The band consists of Denison students Chase Whipple (guitar, vocals), Marcos Arnett (bass), and Zach Litchman (drums), as well Clay White (guitar, vocals) who joined the band shortly after the trio’s first jam session. The group got their start in September of 2016 when they met playing jazz together and immediately took to jamming at several locations on and off campus. Shortly after, they debuted at the Running of the Bears Festival and began performing around the Granville area and at various fraternity philanthropy events and university events, making an appearance at last year’s Doobie Palooza for a jam-packed set of fan-favorite covers like “Psycho Killer” and “Hey Joe”. Count Spacey is best known for their wild energy and loose improvisation, hard-stomping grooves, and distortion-heavy guitar solos. They recently played a boppin’ pajama show at Shep Basement, which debuted an original song, and the band has hinted that they’ll be back in the studio this spring. You can find their live and studio recordings on SoundCloud.

 

 

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Fritz & SHEL

Christian Fritz-Klaus ‘18 of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, turns to music for guidance and tranquility. His musical career began as a percussionist at age 14, now his voice is his main instrument. At first he created music for fun with his friends, but over time it turned into something more meaningful. The young artist loves music because it brings together all types of people to celebrate life and express themselves. Rock, rap, folk, indie, bossa nova, and alternative pieces, are genres in which he has written and performed. He’s always searching for new ways to combine different genres to complement his musical taste. Fritz has performed with others and as a solo artist in Ohio, Wisconsin, and South Africa. He will release an
EP on May 19th. You can find him on Sound Cloud and YouTube @ctFRITZk. Shel got involved with music at the age of five as a drummer, but began to focus on his skills as a vocal artist at the end of high school. Primarily he raps, and he also has experience singing. Currently he has a few features on other artist’s songs, however original content is coming before graduation! Inspired by Kendrick Lamar, Tyler the Creator, Kanye West, Young Thug, and even the Strokes, so expect to be entertained by a vast array of vocal styles during his performance. We are incredibly excited to welcome this lively due to the stage at this year’s Palooza. 

 

 

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Diego Ruby

“Jamie Ver.m1llion” was written by Diego Rubey, directed by Maggie Chamberlain and Sophia Menconi. In summary, Jamie Ver.m1llion is an internet band performing on the night the world ends, it is A fast paced musical journey through time and space in which Luddites destroy textile machines during the industrial revolution, and humankind begins their great migration away from the uninhabitable earth to a new planet. Diego Rubey '19 is a theatre major, an officer for DITA (Denison Independent Theatre Association), and a DJ on WDUB 91.1. He lives at the Homestead, where he cooks tasty meals on Friday nights. Rubey is accompanied by a band consisting of Anna Mae Murphy '21, Aidan Iannarino '20, Camron Alten-Dunkle '21, Maren Clark '21, and an ensemble of Evan Joslyn '19, Maggie McCann '21, Maria Hollobaugh '18, Maddy Bellman '18, and Sarah Wilson '20.

Album Review: “Boarding House Reach” - Jack White

One of the most influential and most talented musicians and producers of the 21st century is back, and he’s proving that he still has it. Jack White, best known for his role in legendary Detroit garage rock and blues rock duo The White Stripes, and his creation of one of the most immediately recognizable guitar riffs in rock history (which has since become an anthem for sports fans everywhere) has returned with a new solo album. His third LP is a deliberate and noticeable step away from his previous two, and finds him in a zone of forward thinking and highly ambitious experimentation. 

For what is dubbed as a rock album, “Boarding House Reach” plunges into many different sounds, most notably hip hop. The album has constant influences from legends like Afrika Bambaataa, Public Enemy, and Rage Against the Machine, and features break beats that jump around and are jaunty as all hell. The album is a blend of all sorts of different genres, and the production somehow makes it mesh in a scattered but beautiful way. For the first time in his career, Jack White used Pro Tools, the digital audio workstation he once called “cheating”. This is the first clear difference, as the record sounds futuristic, rather than digging from the past, which he did (quite well too) on “Blunderbuss” and 2014′s “Lazaretto”. While “Blunderbuss” was a very mature record that introduced a dark and somber blues and folk sound to Jack’s repertoire, “Lazaretto” was a very inconsistent album with a number of very forgettable performances. With “Boarding House Reach”, Jack has brought out a wide assortment of influences and has stripped any barriers he once had. The frenetic energy, frenzied arrangements, and distorted guitars, organs, synths, and drum machine beats make this record one weird stew of sounds that even has a slightly psychedelic taste. 

The energy of this record is so off the wall, so chaotic, so dizzying, that it becomes an experience to listen to. The first track, “Connected By Love” proves to be a compelling rock ballad with buzzing synths to back it, and a impassioned vocal performance by White, who croons with a certain nervousness. As a single I wasn’t crazy about it, but in the context of this record, the track really comes to life. Even my favorite thing about this track, the wild and distorted organ and guitar solo on the second half of the track, plays so much more powerfully as an opener, and really helps this record take off. From there, we get a laid back and very somber blues tune titled “Why Walk A Dog?”, which has some very dark lyrical themes and hooks the listener with its rough and sinister synth tones, as well as a pronounced bassline and minimalist beat. We quickly shift from a slow sludge to a confident, funky, and Meters-style jumpy beat on the standout “Corporation”. This track has loads of swagger, from the bouncy synth leads, to the funk bass, to the well-mixed percussion, which all come together for an infectious rhythm. Jack shouts and wiles out on vocals, talking about his goal to start a corporation because “That’s how you get adulation”, and his plans to take it all the way to the top, with the recurring question, “Who’s with me?” It strikes me as a theme for his forward-thinking self-made label Third Man Records, as well as the theme for “Boarding House Reach” and the album’s forward-thinking sound. “Corporation” ends and after a short interlude and the incredibly odd “Hypermisophoniac”, we’re taken into the equally confident funk strut of “Ice Station Zebra”, which is too tightly packed a track to really explain. What is clear is that Jack channels his inner Beck on the track, spitting the lyrics in a rap and rollicking over some “Odelay”-era synth stabs, and makes some excellent statements about technology. Through it all, there is this undeniable energy and power that only Jack White can bring to the songs, and this couldn’t be more true than on the following track “Over and Over and Over”. This song is the definition of a badass garage rock banger, and Jack crafts yet another gut punching beat and immediately lovable guitar riff that is reminiscent of Rage Against the Machine. He even rewrites the rock playbook, playing hip hop DJ on his own album with the inclusion of drum machine and bongo grooves, throwing an assortment of different rhythmic surprises into the track to give it an old school hip hop quality to it. This track, as well as “Corporation” and “Ice Station Zebra” exhibit Jack challenging himself, pushing himself to new limits, and doing it with apparent ease. 

The wonderful flow of the album continues on the second side, which opens with the unsettling dystopian interlude “Everything You’ve Ever Learned” which I get immense joy listening to as it goes from a futuristic advertisement for “everything you’ve ever learned”, and builds into an angry and head-banging mosher with White shouting “shutup and learn!” It’s just an interlude and it is one of my favorite moments from the record. Following this is the playful and fun “Respect Commander”, which takes clear influence from old school hip hop legends like Afrika Bambaataa and features these 80′s synth hits that pop with the rapid ticking drum beat, then transitioning into a slow, heavy, psychedelic, and slightly sexy instrumental that sets a very dark scene for Jack’s vocals about respecting a woman and being at her command. Jack closes the track with a signature squealing guitar solo, giving a usual trope of his a new vibrant energy in a track that is very new to his musical palette. 

The fun doesn’t stop on the track “Get In The Mind Shaft”, which features some bubbly synths and warbled vocals that sound like something from The Flaming Lips’ “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots”. The album closes with two new instrumental directions on the country ballad “What’s Done Is Done”, which includes drum machines that surprisingly sound great with the vocal harmonies, acoustic guitar, and various keys, ranging from grand piano, to organ, to synths. The album then ends peacefully with “Humoresque”, a folk and jazz ballad that has a beautiful structure and piano outro. It brings the album to a full circle, as each track draws into the next, and the album’s highest highs come in the middle, with the beginning and the end taking it down a notch and showing the versatility and success of White’s experiment. “Boarding House Reach” is an album that many longtime fans might hate, and many critics might hate too, but to me, this album is a sign of the future of music. A dense blend of genres, influences and styles. If anyone was to put out a record like this, it would be Jack White, and for as big a Jack White fan as I am, this album significantly surpassed my expectations. He truly threw out the rule book, eliminated his limitations, and made one of the most forward-thinking and ambitious rock albums I’ve heard in a long time. Kudos, Jack. You really pulled it off.

9/10

Favorite Tracks: “Corporation”, “Over and Over and Over”, “Ice Station Zebra”, “Get In The Mind Shaft”, “Respect Commander”, “Connected By Love”, “What’s Done Is Done”, “Everything You’ve Ever Learned”