Your musical past and future both await you this week.
Witness Robbie Robertson and Ray Davies, who are keeping classic rock dreams alive. Then behold the Ravonettes and the Kills, who are bringing new ones to life.
It's enough to make you think that the generation gap is just another conspiracy theory concocted by the same bozos behind the "Songs for Japan" CD. Man, talk about manmade disasters.
SKIP: Various Artists, "Songs for Japan"
Doesn't Japan deserve better than this? Haiti's earthquake was met with a telethon and a soul-stirring CD release of majestic newly recorded music. Apparently, no one answered the call this time around. Japan — while suffering from a 9.0 earthquake, a massive tsunami, and ongoing radiation leak — gets a compilation CD of warhorses like "Imagine," "Walk On," and a bunch of songs we have in our music collection ten times over. Does anybody even buy albums like this anymore? "Songs for Japan" is a full display of complete creative apathy and a totally wasted opportunity to produce some meaningful new music while making a measurable difference. Skip this disaster and just give your money to directly to the Red Cross.
PLAY: Robbie Robertson, "How to Become Clairvoyant"
Robbie Robertson left the Band 35 years ago and gave us his last solo album in 1998. Not much has changed for Robertson. He's still guided by the blues and tales of longing. And he's most comfortable in the spirit world, conjuring ghosts of the past to lead him the way forward. On "Clairvoyant," he keeps company with a cross-generational army of musical heavyweights. Eric Clapton, Tom Morello, Robert Randolph, Steve Winwood, Rocco DeLuca, and Trent Reznor all answered Robertson's call and help paint the album's many textures. Robertson goes from the lush soundscapes of "She's Not Mine" to the acoustic blues-pop of "Fear of Falling." Some of the music feels like it could be pulled into focus a bit. Still, a partially out-of-focus Robbie Robertson album every 13 years is better than half of what crosses my playlist weekly. Play "How to Become Clairvoyant," and let the spirit take you where it will.
PLAY: Ray Davies, "See My Friends"
A cynic — such as Ray Davies — would say that "See My Friends" is a cheap bid to cash in on some old song copyrights by giving them an obligatory duets-style makeover. However, a lover of the Kinks and Davies' singular song catalog would argue otherwise. And a Ray Davies fan would cheer for any chance to introduce such gems as "Waterloo Sunset," "Better Days," and "Tired of Waiting" to a new generation of fans. If it takes Paloma Faith singing a dolled-up version of "Lola" or Metallica bringing the rage to "You Really Got Me" to keep these songs alive, that's fine by me.
PLAY: The Ravonettes, "Raven in the Grave"
Denmark's Ravonettes exist in that alternate universe where Russ Meyer is making a "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" sequel set to Cocteau Twins playing Velvet Underground covers. The Ravonettes make music where the gutter meets wide open spaces. "Raven in the Grave" is full of prom king and queen vocals sung to droning, reverb-laden layers of feedback, topped with haunted house guitars. It will lull you to sleep and haunt you until you reach your final resting place. I presume you like to play that kind of thing.
PLAY: The Kills, "Blood Pressures"
The Kills are another duo that piles on the post-punk noir. "Blood Pressures" is their first release since singer Alison Mosshart's Dead Weather diversion with Jack White. The time away did her good. "Blood Pressures" is urgent, sinewy rock music. There is almost nothing holding these songs to their skeleton, except for Jamie Hince's razor-sharp guitar and Mosshart's apocalypse-widow vocals. The Kills make music with a single-minded mission to drive a six-string right through your broken heart. I have been slain.