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Now that Summer is officially over, I’m back from my spell of blog laziness, and starting things off with more music news (aka “Mews”)…

– Peter Jager, a German spider expert, recently discovered a new species of arachnid found mostly in Malaysia. Apparently a glam-rock fan, Jager chose to name the rare spider “Heteropoda davidbowie.” No joke.

– Michael Jackson’s body was officially laid to rest this past weekend at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles.  With recent news of his death being a homicide, it’s safe to say that Jackson’s passing is officially the biggest media event, music or otherwise, of ’09.  NYTimes

– On the eve of the release of The Beatles Rock Band game, Bill Wyman (former Rolling Stones bassist) went on the record with some negative words about the popular video game. “It makes less and less people dedicated to really get down and learn an instrument,” said Wyman.  Of Rock Band’s popularity, Wyman stated, “I think it’s a pity.”  NME

– Madonna, upon finishing her recent 85-show world tour, has landed the title of highest-grossing tour EVER by a solo act.  $408 million grossed, more than 3.5 million tickets sold, and 32 countries hit.  Meanwhile, U2 is also neck-deep in a huge tour, and personally, I would probably have more fun at one of U2 show.  I’m just saying.

– The new Pearl Jam record is apparently somewhat of a return to the old-school Pearl Jam.  Read an interview with front man Eddie Vedder and guitarist Stone Gossard

This week in “Mews”…

– Radiohead has begun work on a new album.  Colin Greenwood: “It’s at the stage where we’ve got the big Lego box out, and we’ve tipped it on the floor, and we’re just looking at the bits and wondering what to build.” Nigel Godrich is once again in the production chair.   BBC

– A remix album of the new Depeche Mode record is in the works, but Sigur Ros and MGMT (artists not known for “remixing” anything) are among those tackling the tracks.  Might be more of a cover/tribute album?

– The new Frank Sinatra biopic will be directed by Martin Scorsese.  Sinatra + Scorsese = rad.  NPR

– Jeff Ament (Pearl Jam’s bassist) was assaulted and robbed a few weeks ago outside the Atlanta studio where the band is working on their 9th album.  Apparently the thieves made off with over $3,000 in cash.  (The obvious question at this point: “um, who carries that much cash?”)  Meanwhile, Pearl Jam has been booked for the debut of the new Conan O’Brien show on June 1st.

– The Rock Band people are working on a country version of the video game, to be released this summer.  The new game will no doubt contain heavy doses of patriotism, instrumental parts that require immense precision to perform, and be relentlessly mocked by fans of every other kind of music.

– Editorial: A band I really love, The Posies, have reunited and are playing two NYC shows in a few weeks.  The shows are rumored to include a performance of their amazing 1993 release, Frosting On The Beater, from top to bottom.

I’m somewhat of a music news junkie. Every now and then I post something here that is especially interesting to me, and I thought I might turn that into a more frequent venture with a new weekly “music news” series. Some of it will be drum-oriented, but most of it will just be about the music world generally. I’m going to call it “Mews,” in honor of everybody’s favorite Radiohead cover band.

This week’s music news so far…

– In case you haven’t heard, legendary producer Phil Spector was convicted of murder earlier this week.  BBC

– A new legal download service just launched called Free Music Archive.  The site features indie tracks selected by various music critics and available for download at absolutely no cost.  The tracks are completely restriction-less and available by permission from the artists.

The Beatles Rock Band game is in the works, and GameStop recently revealed some of the contents of the “bundle” that consumers will receive when purchasing the video game.  It includes a vintage Ludwig Super Classic replica as the controller for the drums, complete with a metal kick pedal and “pearl” finish (um, black oyster!?).

– Pearl Jam, the band that first helped me realize that music was something to be passionate about, has a new record due out this fall.  The record will be produced by Brendan O’Brien and released independently (without a label!), as the trend of huge bands leaving the world of record labels continues.

– Ziggy Marley has an album of his dad’s songs lined up for a children’s record due out this summer. Hopefully this “Reggae for kids” will have minimal marijuana references.

– No joke… Justin Timberlake is planning on climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise awareness for the African water crisis.  Sheesh.  MTVnews

– Ben Folds is soon releasing an album of “a capella” versions of some of the big BFF hits.  Folds discovered via Youtube various college vocal groups that were using his songs in their repertoire, and he hand-selected 14 of the groups to arrange and perform the tracks for the record.  Despite what you might think, Folds is excited about the record for more than just comedy reasons.

– Internet radio AccuJazz recently announced a new line-up of streaming stations: Jazz By Composer.  The stations feature original compositions by history’s great jazz composers, performed both by the composers themselves and by other jazz artists.  So far the site has stations for Duke Ellington, Thelonius Monk, and Bird/Diz.

– Editorial: Chris McHugh puts on a freaking clinic with his playing on the new Keith Urban and Rascal Flatts albums.  I’ve been listening to them on Rhapsody for the past couple weeks.

I’m going a different direction for Album of the Week this time around. Instead of a record I’ve been listening to lately, I want to turn everybody on to an older album that had a huge role in shaping me when I was younger: VS, by Pearl Jam. I got this album when I was 13, and even now (15 years later) I still love it.

VS was Pearl Jam’s second record. Ten, their debut recording, was a huge international success, selling over 12 million copies. In line with Eddie Vedder’s typical “anti-establishment” style, the band went a completely different direction for their sophomore release, recording an album with much more raw and aggressive songs and a less “produced” sound. Compared to Ten, the VS album had no real radio singles, and the band produced no music videos for any of the tracks. It is all the more impressive, then, that VS sold over 7 million copies and is commonly cited as the “fan-favorite” in Pearl Jam’s discography.

The best part of this record is the energy. I actually can’t think of a rock record that has more “pump-up” from track to track, and yet keeps the songs somewhat diverse and artistically interesting. The drum performances on this album, recorded by Dave Abbruzzese, were the single most prominent influence on the early formation of my view on what a “rock” drummer should sound like. The most notable examples would be “Go” (track 1), “Daughter” (track 3), “Rats” (track 9), and “Leash” (track 11). My all-time favorite Abbruzzese track is a B-side from the VS sessions, called “Alone” (which can be heard on the Lost Dogs B-side compilation).

I should say at this point that, after studying the drumset for 15 years since first hearing VS, I don’t think of Abbruzzese’s performances on these tracks as perfect. In fact, I find new “flaws” every time I listen to it. That’s the way it works – you grow as a musician and, over time, things that once seemed amazing become less and less impressive. However, I will still always cite this recording as a huge part of my early development as a drummer.

For those of you who haven’t seen Episode 4 of the video lesson series, “Go” (the opening track of VS) gets a shout-out as a great example of the “4 on the snare” groove.

Sidenote: I have a love/hate relationship with Pearl Jam’s drummers. “Ten” was ghosted by studio drummer Matt Chamberlain, and Abbruzzese played on both “VS” and the third Pearl Jam record, “Vitalogy.” I am a big fan of both Chamberlain and Abbruzzese, and these guys really helped to shape Pearl Jam’s sound. But then, after the Vitalogy record, Vedder fired Abbrusseze and got ex-Chili Peppers drummer Jack Irons. Then, after Soundgarden disbanded, Vedder picked up Matt Cameron, who remains the Pearl Jam drummer today. In a rare moment of printed criticism, I will boldy state that both Irons and Cameron are awful… in fact, I can’t decide who sucks more. Probably Cameron actually, who has been in Pearl Jam for ten years now and has only gotten WORSE.

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