Friday, April 3, 2009

This Is Where My Heart Is - So's Ians'

I've said all I could say about Make Believe (both versions) here:

I still think it's a killer pop track.

This Is Where My Heart Is - Ian's Country Heart

Since "The Oaf" first stomped it's way into my head way back in 1997, I always knew Ian had a feel for classic countrified licks.

Not country like today, but country blues like those that inspired Jimmy Page. Originating in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia or Georgia. Ease My Mind was a little jug band workout on TPAG that gives us a direct clue but Ian's licks even in solos are influenced.

On the later tracks, it's a country music more reminiscent of early 60's country pop that Ray Charles was doing. Now granted the background vocals on the Ray Charles are over-the-top OLD school, but Zep was nickin' around with similar sounds on Hey Hey What Can I Do, the B side to the Immigrant Song. Listen to the end of the song when the rest of the band joins in on the harmonies. Very late 50's/early 60's.

Ray Charles - I Can't Stop Loving You

Led Zeppelin - Hey Hey What Can I Do

So TIWMHI is sweet old school country to me. It's so earnest.

As a rule, Ian write first person, as he said in this interview:

So, in one sense, I see TIWMH is an epic metaphor about his musical struggles and band experiences. To my ears, musically, this seems to be a sister song to Lost at Sea. It breathes like a legendary tale of a long gone adventure to distant land where Ian left his heart.

Lost At Sea

So a map is never wrong, they say

A map, as in a plan, a strategy; a map from, say for example, the record company - a marketing strategy. In a relationship, of any sort both parties have expectations. This is the crudest form of a map;the "where" we initially expect a journey to go. In romance the map is the initial "feelings" we get at first blush.

But it was underneath deceiving
Some of the lyric sites have this line as "but it was underneath the seat then" - not to my ears. There it was, sending Ian in the wrong direction; deceiving. The same holds true for personal relationships. Unless we understand that relationships ALWAYS changes over time, expectations are sure to deceive.

Just like your favorite song
We got lost deep inside the romance

Like that song in That Song is forever tied to a person or a romance, to an expectation of love "forever". It's original meaning gets lost to that personal event and That Song is forever tied to a bad time. In the metaphor of Ian's musical trek, the relationship of creative to commerce, his favorite song gets nixed/messed with by the record company marketing "geniuses" and the essence of a great song gets lost.

We always knew we were never going home
We always knew we were never coming home

A band, by nature, is a tentative arrangement. History is replete with examples of the ruthless nature of the business. Musicians know deep down, that when you sign with a record company, go commercial that things will never be the same. Deep down, we know, in romance we cannot re-capture that original chemistry. That's why, with some relationships, we want to remain in the moment. Alas, often they are only for that moment, never to be extended; never to be repeated. Perhaps this song is about Ian's relationship the writing process. Like he's singing to the song itself. From this point of view, the "We becomes Ian and the song. "We" always knew, that the moment Ian plays the song out, brings it out to public review, out from the confines of divine inspiration, it will lose some of the initial magic that a songwriter feels in the creative process. That is the compromise of communication and ultimately commerce. Coming or going, neither the song nor the writer will ever be at that moment of inspiration again.

I've always lived my life, opened up
Ian seems to be a genuine person, no phoneyness, no guile. With Ian it's all WYSIWIG! Even in his music, if you care to dig deep, although he'll never tell.

On a shirt that’s got no sleeves
The expression is that you "wear your heart on your sleeve", which is Ian's nature. He always throws his best cards in your face; He's got no poker face. He leads with his emotion. That's a tough ride in business. So Ian closes up, protects himself, develops defensive skills; wears a shirt that has no sleeves so his heart has no opportunity to be exposed. Hiding in plain sight; that sleeve-less-ness appear bare but gives no quarter to his sensitive heart.

Well this is where my heart is
This song, these songs, this music is direct, no filter, no market considerations; THIS is where his heart is. Here I am, no band, it's all on my shoulders, it's all my decisions, all me.

This is where my heart is
This is where my heart is
This is where my heart is

While we were on the breeze
Dark clouds, were somehow keepin' up

To me, being on the "breeze" is to be like a feather in the wind. It's exhilarating to be floating on the moment, not sure where inspiration, or the chemicals of fresh romance will take you. On the verge of success a band/a relationship/a song is overflowing with potential. Dreams dreamt are always sweeter than reality. The breeze also keeps the dark clouds chasing. Reality beckons.

And sifting through the sleaze, for so long
That's gotta mess you up

The reality of business, romantic encounters, the sharing of self, in any context is hard. The more you do it, the more calloused you become. We harden ourselves to rejection. Shut up or ignore/push down those feelings. It's gotta mess you up. It just seems to be a fact, that being out there in the sleaze of the music biz/road to success seems to ruin people.

We always knew we were never going home
We always knew we'd never be alone
Yet this is the deal that we make when we venture out of self. As an artist, partner, businessman etc. we lay it all on the line for the hope of of our expectations. The We is the couple, the singer and his song, the band or even the fans that choose to follow an artist. It's a decision we make that's fraught with equal parts excitement and disappointment.

And at least I know we’ve tried
We passed the test but never found a home

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. No record company success, again... do it anyway. She's gonna leave me eventually.... go for it anyway. When you've found where your heart is, you can't help yourself... you... just... HAVE TO! dance a jig.

This is where my heart is
This is where my heart is
This is where my heart is
This is where my heart is

Musically, TIWMHI from demo to CD cut is pretty faithfully translated. The demo sounds/felt more organic to me and from what I can discern it has to do with reverb/delay which in nature is the sound of the room. The final track is very close-miked with little "room"/reverb in the track. This allows pristine separation and clean tone, but IMHO it looses some naturalness.

Our Message Boarder/ Musician/Neal Pinto put it best.

"I think the Big Wreck albums had a very open, roomy sound to them. They were loud and heavy, but everything sounded like it was recorded off the floor in a big room with only a few microphones and the sound was allowed to mix in with the open air before it went to tape.

Both "Come Again" and "Tiny Pictures" have more of a closed sound, where it sounds like all the microphones were right up against each instrument... which is very typical of post-grunge, and nu-metal production.

Sure "Tiny Pictures" has alot of complex guitar layering creating massive walls of sound (similar to Rush's "Snakes & Arrows") but it's still very controlled in comparison to the more airy sounds on Big Wreck albums."

I've laid the two tracks on top of each other and cut between the two trying to find why I sense a difference. Some might call the demo muddy, but to me it has an more mysterious atmosphere. Take a listen:


I'm sad to say that some of the potentially tastiest stuff on this song, the outro instrumental just seems too slow/stiff to carry the joy that it had the capability to carry. To my ears, it should be faster in tempo, looser in play. It sounds like it was recorded by one precise musician.... oh yeah it was. And that's the stiffness that one of the message boarders objected to. It sounds digital. For all the talk of grit in the grooves, no portion of this CD needed a "tight but loose" approach more than this. The precise technique that works so well for the outro of All Fall Down falls flat, for me, here.

I know the concept is to build up to the heartfelt hoedown that ensues, but it never reaches escape velocity. Listen to Soul Singing by the Black Crowes! This outro is like a thoroughbred at a cantor when it just wants to gallup. I get that restraint builds tension, but Ian, let it go. Unleash. I always thought the same thing about the country jam section of Head In The Girl. In my world it would have been a 3-4 minute Dave Mattews-like joyful jam, right in the middle of the song. It NEVER was gonna be single, so why not go for it. BW nailed the TBL feel of it, but I wanted MORE of it.

I do LOVE the little noodle at the very end. I just want it to billow up into a full blown section someday. I guess that's the treat to leave you wanting. Thanks Ian. I want.

When it's all said and done, I still love this song. I sing along and bounce in my seat. I hope to one day hear a live (not just acoustic) version of it in person. Maybe next week. See YA!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Your Song - Her Song

Your Song - Radio Rager

This one Chad definitely has his fingerprints on. Many have pointed out the pattern/structure of the "Nickleworld" music. I have to admit that I don't listen to modern rock radio, but I am no longer deaf to the formula. I've written about the tribalism in our insecure world of late and how fans hold to what they know and are familiar with. This profit driven sheeple chase has created vertical markets like pinpoints.

It's almost like gang colors. In order to move in certain neighborhoods you must join that gang, wear the colors.

To get on popular modern rock radio you must sport the components that let you communicate to that narrow audience. They seem uninterested in any of the legacy that feeds their genre. A precious few might be willing to look under the hood but fearing the admonition of their peers or some self imposed standard they quickly retreat to the familiar.

We see it in modern Hip Hop. The same corny casio sounds and vocal benders, used ad nauseam for 10 years now. No progress, no evolution, strip mining old melodies, old beats etc. The same product in a new package over and over. It's just the way our world is now.

Back to Your Song. Yes it's that familiar pattern. Yes it mostly predictable. The pattern doesn't affect my listening enjoyment so much.

It seems that the opening to all these songs is like a sacrificial offering. Ok here's the familiar opening, so we're all comfortable. Now I'm gonna stray by throwing some new sounds on you. Oh not too much, are you scared? Ok we'll be back on familiar ground. Here's your pre chorus. Ok feel better now. It's the price of admission.

All that being said, I actually love parts of this song. Lyrically it's the most "girl friendly" song Ian has ever written. It still has it's dysfunctional twist. It's all about how much pain he'll take. Like no other. That's an unhealthy position to be in a relationship, but the chicks dig it. Every woman wants to know how much pain you will take. Believe me I'm an expert (6 sisters, 2 wives, 2 daughters, 3 grandaughters). I know I'm REALLY winning female fans here, but I just gotta say it.

You have to strike a balance between bravado and sacrifice without becoming a doormat.

Musically the big riffs are standard, powerful with that good modern rock tone. The power chords cascade and crush. The drumming is basic rock track steady. yadayadayada.

There are some little snippets that add interest. The sitar sounding accents, and the little countermelody that ends that section. Then the sweet synth creeps up in the background. It' very reminiscent of Zep's "All of My Love". Syrupy sweet; too saccharine.

All of My Love was about Robert Plant's lost son and somehow with this earnest sentiment the sweetness didn't make me cringe. I'm just a corny old school fan. That's why I LOVE "All I Need". More on that later.

On second thought, maybe this is with his daughter in mind. As a father must be prepared to love his daughter through all that her growth will bring. Ian has stated that he must re-set his priorities away from the "me-an" to whom he must provide for.

The pinnacle of the song, the big soaring chorus, and the most clever bit of wordplay is the clue. His saving grace is his desire to love her because it takes him out of himself. The tidal wave of a young man's self absorption can drown him. Her presence is like a tiny island to swim for. It's that aaawwwee, moment that shows us the lovable Ian. Rock dad. I'm not goofing here. I admire him for it.

My saving grace
Is you from this tidal wave
Of me
'Cause I need just to see your face
With stones
These bones
Are yours to break
But that's nothing compared
To the pain I would take

The pain of interviewing for a guy as inner as Ian was always a stretch. We don't see it, but he's a really self conscious guy. An ego maniac with an insecurity complex. I only say this because I identify. He's forced into making moves to benefit his family, as all of us seasoned veterans of family life, and it's a good thing. The pain of compromise is crushing to a 'creative". A mans' gotta do what a mans' gotta do.

So he'll take the stones, let her "bust his chops", slay the dragons in spite of her, comfort her AND LOVE her through it, cause he's smitten. He sees her and beams like the sun. He's fallen for her like no other.

You could waste your time in the sunshine every day
But the sun doesn't shine on you like I do
The stars in the sky can fall for you night and day
But they're not gonna fall for you like I do

So Your Song is gonna be a big hit. It's gonna make big royalties for Ian. It's gonna provide for his family. It's Her Song.

All you ladies can write yourselves into the story because you all want a man who'll do what Ian sings about. Admit it.

So not a song that grabs me in the musical gut but for the sentiment and lyric it is wonderful and I hope it touches the hearts of all the girls. After all, we do it ALL FOR YOU.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Man Overboard

I just had an exhilarating experience. I'm all coffeeed up on a Saturday morn. My wife is away and all the kids are too. It' 6:30 am and I've got the music cranked in my basement. None of the neighbors have called (I probably couldn't hear them anyway). It's been a couple of days since ingesting any Tiny Pictures. I decided to throw TP in a mix with the Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely (one of my latest faves, and destined to become a classic IMHO).

Consolers is a near perfect effort to capture that 70's sound and and to write in that style. The songwriting is loose, funny and a great collage of styles from the era. I know it was critically panned by White/Raconteurs fans alike as a uneven, subpar effort, but over time it has grown in stature and I really believe that when we look back at this decade this will be a standout record.

In a playlist I put TP and CoL. Now TP is nowhere as loose as CoL, but it holds up right next to it, sonically and creatively. The retro pieces all fit and the modern sounds, although a bit tight/polished for my palette, are tasty and controlled.

Listen to the song "Consolers" and the original Beautiful demo and you'll see that concept of smashing two songs together that Ian does so well. Jack White talked of taking two old tracks and slamming them together. Big Wreck's No Fault was this. The best part of the Raconteurs is their Tight but Loose approach to song writing/recording (Tight but Loose is a phrase coined in relation to Zeppelin's material/Jimmy Page's playing).

TP has a different mission. JW because of his incredible success has carte blanche to do what he wants. The Raconteurs is a bit of a vanity project that is an outlet to show that he can do more than just the simple White stripes stuff. JW is loose and free. Ian has to "bet the farm" on every project. JW has FU money and a commercial track record. He's loved or hated, but he gets attention and market. Right place at the right time. Providence, Providence, providence.

Man Overboard - Galloping Raver

MO is a really clever piece, lyrically, that again gives us a look inside (at least that's what I think). Like the legendary Lost at Sea from the supergroup show, Ian uses a seafaring metaphor. I love the duality of a man who goes overboard/extreme in a situation. Like you're overreacting or becoming an extremist. Like recording 5 guitar parts on this section or noodling a sound until your ears bleed. We can go overboard with passion. Or for that matter any emotion to excess.

We also can get off the bus; Off the boat; Into uncharted water. This is our guy. Dump the band, dump the relationship, dump the management. Dump the security of what's known and take that leap.

So life under water
Isn't all its cracked up to be
Not quite want i wanted
Well, it gets a little hard to breathe

There once was a time
When it seemed like a good idea
I'll keep this in mind the next time I go overboard

Having made the break, he's having second thoughts. Holy crap, it's way more difficult out here on my own. I know I chose this but... It's easy to bitch about your colleagues when you have some.

From the live versions with the long intro this song seemed to plod a bit and was overly angry/metal/heavy for my liking. I know most of those who heard it live crave the original power. The recorded version is still really heavy but is has bit lighter/pop-ier edge.

It opens with a variation of that Van Halen-esque chugging riff that appeared in Big Wreck's No Fault, but it's morphed into something more fuzzy, more modern metal. It's a bigger fatter animal and it sets up the breezy section to follow.

As he goes into the recrimination part of the verse the guitar parts go toward the dissonant; like on Found Another Way from Come Again. That "in your face" annoyance that mirrors the lyric. The music fits the words.

So leave, never believe, that I'd ever leave
You're making it so damn hard to breathe
Throw the line and throw me the rope
You're killing the bravest part of me

The recorded version is much more Police than Metallica. Daniel Adair does his best Stuart Copleand. It's still got some WOMP but lighter than the rest of the record. It shows Adair to have a subtlety I had not expected from the beginning of the track.

And I'll find a home
And I'll tip this boat

I do not get the people complaining about the chorus being annoying. It sounds very catchy to me and when driving in the car this is the most likely to get me a ticket. This really cruises along at a fevered pitch with all the cymbal and guitar in syncopated pattern.

Man overboard, man overboard
Can't take it anymore
I'm swimming back to shore
Man overboard, man overboard
Can't take it anymore
I'm swimming back to shore

The solo, short and tight, frames up the emotional bring down part.

So next time remember
How it was supposed to be

Then BOOM we're back to recrimination. Where the protagonist spews on the ship he took out there (then proceeded to jump off of) for not helping him out. Like a relationship that breaks up and the one that left bitches that it's tough out there... alone. Yeah no shit! You left!

Be kind, throw me the line
And throw me the rope
You're making it so damn hard to breathe
Throw me the line, throw me the rope
You're killing the bravest part of me

I know when I got sober that soon afterward I bitched about making the leap to a new life. It was really hard sometimes AND boring. Looking back I'm glad I tipped that boat and began to swim to shore. I hope Ian can feel the same about this venture.

I suspect it was a decision made out of good common sense. Like he said in one of the interviews, he's got kids and a family to consider. The balance of artistic satisfaction, full family life, making a living and managing expectations is no easy task.

I'm taking my time with these because the timing at this point is immaterial. When fans discover Ian they'll find this crap and react. I hope that sharing this can open eyes and ears to some of the depth that I hear in Ian's work. I trust some of you can add some of your own listening angles.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Somethin's gotta Change

Changes - Radio Rager (with a classic twist)

This is typical of this CD's sneakiness. It's a another obvious commercial track. The second single for sure. Having heard only a really poor quality live version of this from a couple of years ago, I had no strong opinion of the track going in. The Changes I know opens with a warbley guitar (Not sure if it was an effect or just a bad recording). The CD version is all twinkly 12 string goodness.

That said, it's got an immediate radio friendly structure up front. The expected friendly front end that lets the radio audience in and fits the format, but gets continually more and more adorned with classic textures. There's even some similar quoting "All Comes Out in the Wash" opening melody line after the self confessed George Harrison licks.

Now, who's gonna make those connections in the genpop audience (Ian talked about it in the interviews). Not many. THAT is not market driven. THAT's of no genpop value, but that makes Ian happy (and me too). AND it works.

The lyrics are not the deepest of Ian's offerings but almost everybody can relate. There's an unsophisticated side to us all longing to elevate ourselves; to break the inertia and achieve escape velocity. Kind of like Blown Wide Open or Keep a Good Man Down without the clever metaphor. We've gotta admit that most of that stuff was lost on the audience or Big Wreck would still be. Sad but true.

Maybe it's freeing to just state something simply. Straightforward, unambiguous, repetitive. Dave Grohl gets away with it and gets Grammys.

It's all glittery and sweet enough and the cool licks keep building. A GREAT pop song.

Gotta mention the drumming. Steve Gorman is one of the best drummers in this modern era. I've seen him numerous times with the Black Crowes. When he played with Jimmy Page and the Crowes he was the glue that held that tour together and he had the biggest shoes to fill. He's got range and swing. Not your ordinary rock drummer. I am incredibly heartened by the Crowes/Thornley connect. I know that Ian is a fan as he played a bit of Cosmic Friend at the end of the last Big Wreck show on the day the Crowes broke up and Gordie Johnson (Big Sugar - Grady - Ian personal friend) was a special guest for a Black Crowes album showcase in NYC for Lions. So.... the Crowes know how to be funky and swing; an area Ian needs to go IMHO.

I think the way Gorman is recorded, masks the subtlety of his playing. The radio friendly production tends to homogenize it all so it sounds cohesive. On first listen it's not much different than Adair. But listen carefully, the fills are more Keith Moon, the tempo is looser, it's bombastic without being so hard. It fits the song. My like it.

Let me also say that I like Ian's bass playing. It's a bit Big Wrecky in the spots when the music drops out. The more I hear it the more it grows on me. And I LOVE the tasty slide.

Then comes the 10 Years Gone influenced outro riffage. The counter verses "Some things can't stay the same/somethings gotta change" sweep you up and carry you above the frantic drumming.

I love the false ending (although some smell "radio edit"- probably rightly). It still breaks up the structure for a left turn not expected. The outro build up while kinda typical Thornley is still very old school in feel. It could go a few more bars but maybe that'll be the live version.

I must say that it ends awkwardly. The vocals and instruments mistime the end and fade too abruptly. This kind of stuff is what some deem as poor production, Ian sees as "character". In my mind it should end like Breakthrough (actually that was rough too but it worked somehow) What I wouldn't give to see Myles Kennedy and Ian double-team that one live! That'd be worth a trip to Canada alone.

The little piano tinkle is a nice touch and if you listen really close you can hear someone chuckle. The recording is pristine. Perhaps a bit too at times but it does really make you pay attention.

I have a mix list in my iTunes so all Ian's studio music can shuffle. The new tracks definitely jump out at you sonically and add nicely to the whole collection. Tiny Pictures keeps growing on me.

See ya soon.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Radar Blip

As a disclaimer, I am in no way connected to the band and have no real insight into what Ian writes about. This is pure fanboy (yeah a boy still lives in this wrinkled old carcass) musing.

Well here goes. I've had a few weeks to ingest, digest, regress and progress.

I've a had a real up and down relationship with Tiny Pictures to date. Some of the message board comments and the meager internet reviews, I think, are founded in some valid points. There is some surprising unevenness to aspects of this recording that bug me. To me it's a mixture of raw artistic integrity, meets ready current market, meets high expectations. That's a lot of pre-conception going in.

The demos were pure, unadulterated, unfettered, unadorned genius. I really liked the more raw production on some numbers. One day Ian will release those demos in a cleaner form (If I say it, it will happen). Perhaps I'm leaning on two years of familiarity. I LIKED the uneven echoey drumming. I LIKED the sweet old style backing vocals. I LOVED the warmth. We trade that in on the "known" tracks for the crisp polished sheen of the new CD. Shiny, spikey modern production has it's pluses and minuses. Instruments seem to "pop" in where on the demos they swelled from background to front. The edges of the envelope are sharp. The vocal harmonies sounded "40's - 50's old school" where now they sound current. The demos were more live/cohesive and now they punch. Neal made a great point on the message board when he described the recording as "close mic'd". Everything is right up to the mic. This is as clear a nod to a modern audience as I've seen. I know most radio listeners could no more get into the demos style of music than say, bluegrass, but to me they represent where Ian's inspiration lives and this is where I know he shines. It's just not commercially viable now.

So lets' get it on.

There are four types of songs on this CD as far as I can tell. A good formula I think. Each suffers/benefits from market driven decisions. There's the Radio Ragers, Galloping Ravers, Ian's Country Heart and Retro Classic Rockers. They all have a current rock radio shine on them to make a more cohesive package. It is a business that inherently demands compromise.

I'm gonna try to look at this from the seed/inspiration/intent to the final product. From a design standpoint, does it accomplish it's intent?

Nick's involvement; Daniel Adair's involvement; the entire solo-in-the-studio move seems to be a corporate move to sell. DUH; business IS business.

Underneath the Radar - Radio Rager
The reviews call the "electronic" opening odd for Thornley. To anyone who's heard the "Oaf" it's nothing new. It's just that guitar delay that we're all so familiar with in a clipped form. When I heard Under at the Gage Park show I was not really a fan of this song. It seemed disjointed and quirky. That being said, the opening track (does that even matter anymore to the ituned generation?) has grown on me.

I always read some psychological nonsense into what people say. I'm a REAL JOY to live with; just ask my wife. So Under sounds to me like a guy angry with someone NOT in the spotlight with a lot to say in the shadows. Record co exec? Manager? Bandmate? Chirpy wife? In the latest interviews Ian says he struggles with trying to write a non-personal lyric that he can "sell". That's why I always sense a personal angle to his lyrics.

We'd never make it anyway
We never were that real
with everything we've done
you think that there'd be something
left for you and I

Is this a band that's struggling for commercial success with no answers why? An awfully fatalistic viewpoint. Maybe it's revealing of his move to solo. He's the blip on the radar. The one to keep an eye on. He's always in the driver seat creatively (funny he has no license). He's the one who takes the hits. He's the insecure megalomaniac driving the decisions and fretting the consequences (more on that later).

Musically the song is pretty dry. To my jaded ears it's just standard dynamics that populate the radio today. Processed chorus, predictable explosions, tight down tuned riffage, overwrought throaty vocals. A perfect radio package with just enough quirk to get noticed. "Hey it's that song with the haunting kids choir." I hear some synth sounds that sound like some of Eleven. That maudlin Euro-synth that echoes more Edith Piaf than anything of today. The influences/peices seem to fit more and more.

I bristle at the obvious decisions made to market at first. But given repeated listens like you would in high rotation on the radio you can see why it works. You cannot get it out of your head. I listened to Make Believe 1000 times and skipped Under before it was released. But while writing this I listened like 10 times with no fatigue. It's a pretty damn good song.

Sometimes I get the impression that Ian's released songs are like cryptic messages smuggled out of the prison of his target market cell. Notes undecipherable by the corporate guards. Disguised by Finger Eleven/Three DaysGrace/Saliva multi-voiced choruses and fat grindy riffs, with just enough twists and frills to satisfy some of the deeper proggers willing to wade through.

By the immediate reaction of some it doesn't pass the test. IMHO Ian suffers from too many cooks massaging the hooks... but upon further inspection... maybe they are right.... something cool is happening.

Sometimes I just need to take a holiday from being overly critical of what I think Ian should do and just enjoy his music. I feel more better (as my grandson would say).

Some VERY exhilarating joyful noise on this CD. This is gonna be fun. See you in a few days.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Audio Autoplay has changed the settings on their embed. I do not know how to turn off the auto-play function on the files linked. I am looking into it. Before you navigate the blog please go through and turn them all off. I am sorry for the inconvenience.

The Big picture on "Tiny Pictures"

There has been a shit storm of dashed expectations expressed on the Thornleyfans message board. I've really enjoyed the passion that has been on display, both positive and negative. It is evidence of an artist that affects people.

Longtime Ian fans kinda know how Ian's music works. Ian is like the elephant in the old proverb:
"Six blind men were asked to determine what an elephant looked like by feeling different parts of the elephant's body.
The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar; the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope; the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch; the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan; the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe."

Depending on when you have gotten a taste of Ian, the expectant listener has an opinion of who he is as an artist. When a new CD arrives you have expectations. There's a lot going on AND a lot to digest. On first listen, the flavor of the track may be all you can get. We try to categorize it. "Feel" it. You might dismiss it, as "Ok, this is a standard rocker, or this is a country song... " but that would be to sell your own listening experience short.

I did this with the latest Black Crowes - War Paint and Chris Cornell's - Euphoria Morning. Quick dismissal, only to return later to find some great stuff. It'll just pop up in an iPod rotation and bing! a new fave, a new discovery.

Even as a staunch Ian fan (some say obsessive) I had high expectations going into this CD. MY view of Ian, of course is the PROPER ONE. Why can't the record company just GET him like I do and just let him produce the ART that I hear inside Ian. I'm sure it's EXACTLY what IAN would want to do. We all fancy ourselves movers and shakers in the music world. We would be wrong.

When some expressed dissappointment I thought it would reflect some of my own initial trepidation. However, the complaints/reviews were from all sides of the elephant. Ian is not "hard enough". Ian is too formulaic. The recording is too hot. The songs are too mellow. The lyrics are dumb. Each camp seemed to have had their personal ox gored.

It all goes back to how each of us experiences Thornley. Like I wrote before. Ian, being many things to many people, is not a premeditated contortion. He is so incredibly talented that he CAN be quite extraordinary in many milieu.

Come Again fans found him to be a breath of fresh air in the nu-metal. HARD Ian was where it was at. Bright, over-the-top, in-your-face, extremely compressed recording was where modern rock radio was in 2004. In many ways it's where it's at today. The casual listeners love it as witnessed by the popular radio that dominates the spectrum. It's where the money is.

Nickleback has become the whipping boy "brand" of the entire scene for anyone not liking this format. Isn't it weird that the big dog that opens the door for Ian is the one that taints his "art". To me Nickleback is the Bon Jovi (I HATE BonJovi -yet I respect their musicianship and craft) of this generation in that they are the formula that all seek to follow. Within this framework there was a sub-genre "flavor of the moment" such as those produced by Gavin Brown. I know this music like I know Rap which is to say, not at all. It just all sounds the same to me. It probably has nuance and value, I just don't hear it beyond the initial adrenaline hit. Like a candy bar, the first bite tastes real good but I couldn't make a meal of it.

I was perplexed by anyone can/could think of Big Wreck and Thornley's first Come Again as a logical progression. Come Again was, to me, as about as hard a right turn as possible. The two are sonically diametrically opposed. I completely balked at most of Come Again initially. I'm an old guy so I am like an alien looking in. I thought, "Where are all the "roots" leanings, all the Zep references, the clever 70's rips, the virtuouso guitar runs?" Only Beautiful and Lies fulfilled this for me initially. Ian was soooo much more.

But, upon stepping back and giving it some time there were clever twists throughout, lyrically, and musically that thrilled me. I never really liked "So Far So Good", yet it became pop gold for many of you. I get the need for a young artist to carve out his niche, but I longed for a return to a more organic Thornley. Big Wreck was ORGANIC. Big, warm tones, choruses, VERY obscure personal yet clever lyrics etc., the Zep structures throughout. ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC musicianship and GREAT songwriting. Probably too rich for most people. It took years to be digested and STILL satisfies.

Come Again, on the surface, just seemed too dumbed down for me. And yes the Uncle Chad hand (I needed to blame someone, correctly or not) seemed all over it. But, it worked. On some level, MANY new young fans came aboard. It's these fans that seem the most disappointed by Tiny Pictures. In a market full of screaming, multi-tracked and processed vocals, nu-metal guitar how can Ian stand out? By "ROCKING HARDER"? The dial only goes to 10.

The 5 years between Come Again and Tiny Pictures has been interesting. Living vicariously through all of my Canadian friends who post vids of local shows (A Thornley headline Canadian club show vs a 40 minute set as an opener for NB is no comparison) and ingesting every drop of info I can on the guy, has been an up and down journey. Ian still seemed to be short of a breakthrough.

Then when I heard the tasty work he was doing with Casey Marshall (Fairfield), I was hearing Ian as rootsy session player minus the spotlight. When the demos came out on Ian's myspace page I was ecstatic! All I Need, MBTE, Fall Down, Good Son, Brit Pop, Fred and all the rest. They were creative gems just looking to be polished up. I figured that they would have no commercial hope of ever being realized so I accepted them as they were. THIS was the amazingly unique, eclectic Ian Thornley I am privileged to follow.

The demos done with the help of Jeff Dalzeil had a warm natural quality to them. Perhaps too organic, too odd, but very Ian. I have LOVED this collection of demos for the better part of two years now. In continual rotation you memorize every tiny detail. With that as a starting point there's bound to be expectations unmet and some exceeded.

His time with Nick Rasculinecz was, by Ian's account, a match made in heaven and Tiny pictures is the evidence. A very clean, crisp recording, fully realizing Ian's vision. I hope over the next few weeks to be able to review each song ad nauseam, like I used to do on the message board (now it's on a blog -- oooo) going in depth with composition, lyric, recording and performance. I think each song has stellar qualities even if not every one moves me to tears.

I also want to commend Thornley fans who write on the message board. They are NOT your average music fan. Both musically knowledgeable, articulate, savvy listeners who demand the BEST from Ian. I learn a lot from reading the criticism, both positive and negative.

I am REALLY enjoying Tiny Pictures, hope for worldwide release and GREAT SUCCESS! After 90 plus unique songs Ian seems to have many more facets to be revealed.