A common criticism I get on Twitter about this column, other than that I hate Europeans, is that I’m stuck in the past and hate modern music. Which is true. Modern music is garbage. But presumably those people missed that the column is called “RIFF Rewind” or they’d pick up what I’m putting down, conceptually speaking.
That said, I should probably make an effort to be more timely. Man cannot live on ’90s alternative alone, I guess.
Fortunately this week has seen quite a few album releases from musicians with a long history, which means I can stick to the whole Rewind conceit but also tie it in to something current. Best of both worlds! That should shut you people up.
So please enjoy these throwbacks from the artists behind this week’s new releases.
Madonna — “Like a Prayer”
All my new European fans know this is the case because she performed at Eurovision for some reason, but apparently Madonna is still a thing. Her global tour of adopted nationalities has reached Portugal so her 14th album, Madame X, supposedly includes Portuguese influences. RIFF has a review running tomorrow so until then you can judge for yourself.
Someone really needs to tell her that Lady Gaga both exists and is a better version of her, so she can retire and nobody would mind.
(Update: Called it. Madonna is the Joe Biden of music; there was a point where she could have just stopped and been a legend, but then she didn’t and now we’re here.)
That said there was a time when she was very good! “Like a Prayer,” for example, is a great song. It’s not as aggressively ’80s as some of her early work, and it doesn’t have that “middle-aged recent divorcee trying to convince people she’s 28” vibe that her late ’90s work had. So let’s just focus on that.
Bruce Springsteen — “The Ghost of Tom Joad”
Springsteen is definitely still around, and there’s no way I’m cracking any jokes about him because his fans will hunt me down and kill me where I stand.
His 19th album, Western Stars, is his first collection of original songs since 2012. As of this writing I haven’t heard it; if there’s a Springsteen fan in your life I’m sure they’ve already given you their review without being asked.
The best, though? This specific version of “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” with Tom Morello. I’ve gone over it before, but Morello adds the amount of rage (pun absolutely intended) that the song needs to really drive home the meaning of the lyrics. You should listen to it twice.
Oasis — “D’You Know What I Mean?”
Oasis obviously hasn’t come out with a new album. If the Gallagher brothers were even in the same city the casualties would be in the dozens. I don’t think I’ve ever hated anyone as much as they hate each other (or at least as much as Liam hates Noel).
Which is a shame because they’re capable of complex beauty like 1997’s “D’You Know What I Mean?” It’s a genuinely amazing song, ironically because of the perfect harmonies between Noel and Liam. It’s a shame they’re like oil and water; or like oil and open flame.
They are releasing music individually though, like this week’s new EP Black Star Dancing from Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. It’s not as good as Oasis. They’ll never be as good individually as they were together.
Sleater-Kinney — “One More Hour”
Ok, so Sleater-Kinney didn’t release a new album. But they did release a single from their upcoming album, and it’s my column so I make the rules. If you don’t like it write your own column.
Breakup songs are a musical tradition, but the truly great ones are performed by the people who broke up. It’s a short list; Sleater-Kinney’s “One More Hour” and Fleetwood Mac seminal album Rumours, basically.
This one is about the breakup of band members Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein, and they harmonize together on the song, which had to be just brutally awkward. But possibly more brutally awkward for drummer Janet Weiss who had to perform with them despite being the third wheel.
PS: Yes, Carrie Brownstein is the one from Portlandia. She’s primarily a musician.
PPS: No, not the Janet Weiss from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. She’s fictional. This is the nonfiction one.
Taylor Swift — “You Need To Calm Down”
This is the Taylor Swift song that was released this week and it’s also the best Taylor Swift song.
Remember last year when Swift made a gentle suggestion that people maybe not vote for a man that proudly hates women and the world jumped down her throat like she’d just set a flag on fire? Well now she released a full-blown protest song mocking Twitter trolls and right-wing protesters. And it’s wonderful. Hopefully the Taylor that said the old Taylor is dead is dead and this is the new one.
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis and tweet column ideas to him at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.