June 3, 2013
A quote from Trouser Press sums up Marshall Crenshaw's early career: "Although he was seen as a latter-day Buddy Holly at the outset, he soon proved too talented and original to be anyone but himself." All Music Guide captured Crenshaw's vibe perfectly: "He writes songs that are melodic, hooky and emotionally true, and he sings and plays them with an honesty and force that still finds room for humor without venom."
"His intelligence, integrity, and passion for the great song always show up in his music," wrote Robert Christgau in his Consumer Guide of Marshall Crenshaw. Over a span of 30 years, Crenshaw has released 13 albums, all of which have received the highest marks from critics and have earned him a fiercely loyal fan base.
"I wanted to think of a different way of working that would inspire me and keep me motivated," Marshall Crenshaw says of his newest endeavor: a subscription-only service that addresses the recent seismic changes in the music-industry landscape by cutting out the record-company middle man to distribute his new recordings directly to fans.
The subscription service, which the veteran singer/guitarist/songwriter/producer recently launched via a successful Kickstarter funding campaign, will provide fans with a steady stream of new Marshall Crenshaw music via a series of exclusive three-song 10-inch, 45-rpm vinyl EPs on Addie-Ville Records, six of which the artist plans to release over a two-year period. In addition to the vinyl discs, subscribers will also receive a download card for high-quality digital versions of the EP tracks.
Each EP will consist entirely of newly recorded, never-before-released material, encompassing a new original Crenshaw composition, a classic cover tune, and a new reworking of a time-honored favorite.
"I really do think that vinyl sounds best, and that playing a vinyl record is still the optimum listening experience," Crenshaw asserts. "And with the sound quality that you get at 45 rpm, I think that these things are going to deliver the goods, sonically."
The first subscription EP's A-side is the brand-new Crenshaw number "I Don't See You Laughing Now," recorded with longtime cohorts Andy York (John Mellencamp, Ian Hunter), and Graham Maby (Joe Jackson, They Might Be Giants). The record's double B-side features a memorable new reading of The Move's 1971 post-apocalyptic anthem "No Time," recorded with veteran New Jersey rocker and frequent Crenshaw collaborator Glen Burtnick; and a new version of "There She Goes Again," whose original version appeared on Crenshaw's eponymous 1982 debut album, recorded live with alt-country icons the Bottle Rockets.
All three tracks were mastered for maximum awesomeness by legendary engineer Greg Calbi, who will handle mastering duties on the entire EP series.
Earlier this year, fans made the subscription project a reality by pledging more than $33,000 to Crenshaw's Kickstarter campaign, above and beyond Crenshaw's original goal, in increments ranging from $1 to $5000.
Crenshaw is excited that his new subscription model allows him to embrace his love for singles, while allowing him to make music on his own terms, free of record-company politics and the emotional baggage that routinely accompanies the making of full-length albums.
"I've always put a great deal of care into the albums I've made," Crenshaw states. "But as a listener, I've always been a singles guy and an individual-tracks guy. I'm looking forward to creating a steady output of music in small batches, rather than being stuck in a cave for months and stockpiling a whole bunch of music and dumping it out all at once. Now, when I finish something, I get to put it out, instead of having to wait until I've got 12 more."
Over the course of a career that's spanned three decades, 13 albums and hundreds of songs, Marshall Crenshaw's musical output has maintained a consistent fidelity to the qualities of melody, craftsmanship and passion, and his efforts have been rewarded with the devotion of a broad and remarkably loyal fan base.
After an early break playing John Lennon in a touring company of the Broadway musical Beatlemania, the Michigan-bred musician began his recording career with the now-legendary indie single "Something's Gonna Happen," on Alan Betrock's seminal Shake label. His growing fame in his adopted hometown of New York City helped to win Crenshaw a deal with Warner Bros. Records, which released his self-titled 1982 debut album. With such classics as "Someday, Someway" and "Cynical Girl," that LP established Crenshaw as one of his era's preeminent tunesmiths -- a stature that was confirmed by subsequent albums Field Day, Downtown, Mary Jean & 9 Others, Good Evening, Life's Too Short, Miracle of Science, #447, What's in the Bag?and Jaggedland.
Along the way, Crenshaw's compositions have been successfully covered by a broad array of performers, including Bette Midler, Kelly Willis, Robert Gordon, Ronnie Spector, Marti Jones and the Gin Blossoms, with whom Crenshaw co-wrote the Top 10 single "Til I Hear It From You." He's also provided music for several film soundtracks, appeared in the films La Bamba(as Buddy Holly) and Peggy Sue Got Married, and was nominated for a Grammy and a Golden Globe award for penning the title track for the film comedy Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Crenshaw also wrote a book about rock movies entitled Hollywood Rock 'n' Roll, and has assembled compilation albums of the music of Scott Walker and the Louvin Brothers, as well as the acclaimed country-and-western collection Hillbilly Music . . . Thank God! Since 2011, he has hosted his own radio show, The Bottomless Pit, on New York's WFUV, Saturday nights at 10 p.m. ET.
But it's writing songs and making records that remain at the center of Marshall Crenshaw's creative life, and he's distinctly excited about the potential of his new subscription service. "I still think that recorded music is a great art form, I still love it and believe in it, and I'm still always striving for excellence. The fact that the Kickstarter thing was a success, and that people responded so well to the concept, felt like a good validation of that."
"This is a really inspiring situation," Crenshaw concludes, "and I think that it's gonna be a good way for me to proceed into the future."
In a country where interstates don't take you to new places, but to the same places, where everywhere you go you've already been or you've just left, The Bottle Rockets' new album absolutely nails a sound and a vibe with a palpable sense of place. Lean Forward is suffused with the determination and resilience of their distinctly midwestern roots; theirs is a celebration of pragmatism and tempered optimism, not the delusions and exhortations of glassy eyed zealots--they aren't going to fall for that. Oh, it's a flat out, smoking rock record, too.
Lean Forward continues the Rockets' creative resurgence ignited by 2006's Zoysia. Reunited with producer Eric "Roscoe" Ambel (who ran the knobs on the Bottle Rockets' seminal albums The Brooklyn Side and 24 Hours A Day), the Bottle Rockets do what no other band does better -- look into the hearts and minds and faces of the dying small towns in America and crafts populist anthems with the sympathetic eye of Woody Guthrie and sonic stomp of Crazy Horse. They are songs that demand the windows be rolled down and the volume turned up. And with the hooks, you'll wonder how they make such problems sound so good ...
Lean Forward is stacked with a sharp lyricism and gritty fatalism that looks off the front porch for inspiration, and has the locked down groove of a band on top of its game. "The Long Way" looks on the bright side of the path not intentionally taken and works into a joyous song-ending jam. Songs like "Done It All Before" and "Get on the Bus" shine with an irresistible buoyancy, as does "Shame on Me" which gets to the meat of the relationship matter that, despite our best intentions, we're all gonna screw up. "Hard Times" whips up a ZZ Top-inflected boogie with effortless mastery and a dual guitar attack that'll put some much-needed flare back in your jeans.
On "Kid Next Door," the lyrics bypass protest in favor of simple commentary on a war coming home, making it a far more powerful song no matter where one stands on the issue. It's a stone cold classic and handled with the deftness and conviction that speaks to the Rockets' sober-minded realism. To see that they've still got scruffy punk moxie to spare, look no further than "The Way It Used To Be" and the channeling of Bo Diddley via the Stooges on "Nothing but a Driver."
With their 15th anniversary now in the rear view mirror, the Bottle Rockets show no signs of letting up. Lean Forward is an album that celebrates the forces of erosion not earthquakes, of the marathon not the sprint. Honed in their towns and on their back roads, it is distinctly the Bottle Rockets. Rather than be confining, this identity broadens the appeal and strength of their music far from their backyards into our own. Their specificity speaks universally and the message is a simple one: Lean forward, man, because it beats falling back.