It’s snowing and blowing here in Wisconsin, so nothing could be more welcome than a shiny dose of jangle pop from The Vapor Trails. “Lonely Man,” from The VT’s upcoming album, is equal parts Rembrandts and Herman’s Hermits, and features a chorus that is both somber and uplifting.
This three-song outing includes “See You In The Next World,” from The VT’s last release, remixed by the always-brilliant Nick Bertling. With a nifty bit of Ringo-influenced drumming and a sitar-laden bridge, it’s simply irresistible to my ears. A quality live cover of George Harrison’s “Something” rounds out the release with a smile and a sigh. Well done, gents.
Since 2015, when The Force Awakens came out, Disney has supplement-ed its on-screen world of Star Wars with books. Referred to as the Star Wars Disney Canon on Goodreads, these books flesh out the wonderful world that George Lucas created over forty years ago. They follow characters that we love, and new characters that we have yet to meet on screen. As a fan of Star Wars, I am always happy to be in that world, so a few years back I started to read some of the books set in the world of Star Wars. The first one I picked up was Claudia Gray’s Bloodline.
Bloodline is the story of Princess Leia, now Senator Organa, and how she navigates the universe post Return of the Jedi. She has the struggles of a politician, but also that of the daughter of Darth Vader. Gray digs into feelings and themes not explored in the Star Wars movies. What would it be like to know your father is Darth Vader? What would it be like if people found out? Gray tackles the psychological side of Leia, and it’s very moving. Leia is obviously a great favorite among Star Wars fans, as she is a strong, powerful, and inspiring leader. It was really nice to get to see even more sides of her, and to get to know her better as a character.
The other main thing that has stuck with me after reading this book, is its focus on politics. I’m one of the (what seems like) few people who actually enjoy the prequel movies. Like I said above, any chance to be in the universe of Star Wars is a win for me. Queen Amidala was always one of my favorite characters, along with The Phantom Menace being one of my favorite movies. I always found the focus on politics and galactic relations to be fascinating. Bloodline delivers on that front as well, but with the beloved Leia at its heart. I also really enjoyed getting a closer look at the politics behind the new government that formed after the Empire was destroyed.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves Star Wars, wants to get to know Leia better, or just wants a good political thriller to read. May the force be with you.
When I was a kid, I’d tag along with my Mom to the bakery to get donuts. If they had smiley face cookies, and they usually did, she’d get me one. Even today, when I walk into a bakery, just the smell of the place takes me back to being a kid and getting one of those sweet, yellow beauties.
These days, I still come across this old friend now & then. I still pick one up, I still enjoy it, and I still marvel at how something so small and seemingly-insignificant can make me happier, completely turning my day around. When people say that you should savor life, I think this is exactly what they mean.
No, a perfect moment doesn’t have to involve baked goods, but it sure does help.
Michael Nesmith and Micky Dolenz should make a new album.
The two surviving members of The Monkees (Davy Jones died in 2012, and Peter Tork passed in early 2019) recently announced plans for another tour, and for release of a live album, The Mike & Micky Show Live, due out in April. That is welcome news, even though they’re still not coming anywhere near Syracuse. The mix of hits and deep cuts in the duo’s concert repertoire is intriguing, and they’ve assembled an absolutely crack combo to accompany them. It’s wonderful to hear that’s being preserved in official form; it’s further encouraging (and somewhat surprising) to learn that collaboration will continue for at least a little bit longer.
But man–they really should record a new studio album with their live band.
Why? Honestly, this particular combination of talents simply deserves an opportunity to do something more. The goal of a pop concert embraces familiar material, and rightly so; the audience may or may not be receptive to something new (a discussion for another time), but they for damned sure expect to hear some of the songs that made them fans, songs that made them wanna buy a ticket and throng to venues near and far. A live album documents that experience, both for those who were there and those who wish they could have been.
But an album of new material can expand our appreciation, and give us more songs to love. The Mike & Micky Show’s setlist includes “Birth Of An Accidental Hipster” and “Me & Magdalena,” two gems from The Monkees’ triumphant 2016 album Good Times!The presence of those songs amidst your “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and your “Listen To The Band” demonstrate the truth that great songs don’t care what year it is.
So why not add to that motherlode? Why not continue to create?
The pool of talent is there, and it starts at the top. As the once-common dismissals of The Monkees as a mere prefab pop product recede into the realm of a grumbling, myopic minority (probably otherwise occupied with yelling at kids to get off of their damned lawn), more and more enlightened fans and pundits recognize the gift and artistry the individual Monkees invested in their work. Dolenz remains a soulful, accomplished singer, Nesmith retains his well-earned aura of gravitas, and the two of ’em sound magnificent together. They always have.
But the magic of this combo goes deeper than that. Their live band is just killer, propelled in large part by Michael’s son Christian Nesmith. The younger Nesmith is a rockin’ pop force of nature, his guitar and vocals fueling the group’s driving, irresistible sound. Christian’s wife Circe Link–a well-respected talent in her own right–and Micky’s sister Coco Dolenz add heart and harmony to this family affair, and all of the players–all of ’em–know exactly what they’re doing and how to do it. The Mike & Micky Show band can kick any ass that needs kickin’.
And I would so love to hear what they all could do on a new studio album.
I don’t want them to do remakes. I don’t want them to do a tribute to Monkees songwriters like Carole King or Neil Diamond or Boyce & Hart. I’m sure they could pull off a few well-chosen covers for flavor–I’m particularly fond of the idea of Micky singing Gary Frenay‘s unrecognized pop classic “Make Something Happen”–but come on! Don’t you think the members of this band could come up with some great songs you haven’t heard yet, songs that no one has heard yet? For cryin’ out loud, Circe Link & Christian Nesmith’s “I’m On Your Side” was our most-played song on This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio in 2017, and I already know there’s more fantastic stuff where that came from. I wanna hear it, in the studio, with Mike and Micky. I bet you’d wanna hear it, too.
If such an album were ever made, I think I’d prefer that it not be billed as a Monkees record. While these two last surviving members of the group do have every right to call themselves The Monkees, the idea of a new Monkees album invites the idea of including recordings by the late Peter Tork and Davy Jones; many fans would want that, some would insist upon it, and I do not want that at all. We mourn those we have lost. We acknowledge our loss, and pay tribute when it’s appropriate. But we can’t live our lives trying to bring theirs back.
I know this is all a remote possibility. It’s a bit more plausible than my previously-posted fantasy of Micky Dolenz making an album with The Flashcubes. Frankly, I’m not even sure Nesmith or Dolenz would have the merest interest in doing something like this. But I’m still a believer, and I would very, very much like to listen to this band.
Here at Pop-A-Looza HQ, we’ve really been diggin’ The Pinder Brothers’ new song, “Driving You Home.” Michael Pinder’s voice, coupled with a recording full of classic songwriting cues, is a perfect combination.