If you’re anything like me, you’ve just realized Christmas is less than two weeks away and you have no idea what you’d like for yourself, let alone what you plan to buy for anyone else. So, I’m here to help. Here’s a quick, easy guide, complete with linkage, filled with great gift ideas for that special rocker on your Christmas list.
MUSIC: A lot has been said about Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy, and its small nation of producers, engineers, and musicians who made this long threatened album a reality. What hasn’t been said a lot, is that it’s really not that bad of a rock album. Hell, I’ll even say it’s solid. Forget the millions of dollars, and the many, many years it took to make this thing. Forget that there’s six guitarists on this album not named Slash or Izzy. Songs like the title track and “Catcher in the Rye” are vintage Rose at his aggressive, cat wailing in heat best. Plus, there’s any number of tracks which are more than serviceable. They simply take a bit of imagination to get past all the digital production and pro tools shenanigans…If you’re looking for something with a bit more local flavor, two old time Cleveland bands put out great Rock ‘N’ Roll albums this past year: Prisonshake with the double disc Dirty Moons, itself an underground version of Chinese Democracy, and Cobra Verde with Haven’t Slept All Year, an album which contains the band’s most diverse work to date…Now let’s say you want to go local with your music, but you want something a little fresher. Maybe you want to prove to some Cleveland ex-pats that this town’s still got it. Then, I’d recommend the new discs by Bears, The Dreadful Yawns, or Jessica Lea Mayfield.
Reissues: When I picked up The Jesus and Mary Chain’s The Power of Negative Thinking, I was amazed by two things: One, how many of these tracks I’d already owned on various singles and b-sides collections, and two, how many of these tracks I’d never heard before, but absolutely blew my mind the first time they came through my stereo. Case in point, their deep and dirty cover of Prince’s “Alphabet Street…”If there’s one label besides Rhino, who knows how to do a reissue well, it’s Matador. Earlier this year they put out those fantastic Mission of Burma reissues (Signals, Calls, and Marches, Vs, and The Horrible Truth About Burma), then just this past week, they released their latest in the Pavement reissue series: The two disc Brighten the Corners Nicene Creedence Edition. There’s a cover of Echo and The Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon” on this one that is so much better than it has any right being…Prior to hearing the Clash’s Live at Shea Stadium, I could count on one hand the number of live albums worth a spot in my music library. Well, I can still count the number of worthy live albums on one hand, but now I have one less free finger. Joe Strummer sounds excited, almost amused, to be playing in front of a large arena-rock audience at Shea Stadium waiting to see the Who. At times, he instructs the crowd how best to enjoy a show by The Clash — if you don’t know what to do, just look at the guy next to you. The highlight of this long bootlegged set, has to be the medley of “Magnificent Seven,” “Armagideon Time,” and then back to “Magnificent Seven.”
Live Music: Hate giving gifts that sit in a closet, or end up being re-gifted? Why not give the gift of live music? AC/DC plays The Quickie on Januarary 5th, and Akron’s own Black Keys, play the Cleveland Agora on January 30th.
Books and DVDs: A book sure to be on the gift list of every hipster is The Pitchfork 500, the influential webzine’s guide to the best songs from the punk era through today. The great thing about this book is that every time you open it, you’ll re-discover a song you haven’t heard in years, or you’ll discover something new to you, something you just gotta hear. So, if you plan to gift this book, you’ll probably want to package it with iTunes, eMusic, or amazon.com downloads…Now, while I can’t vouch for the awesomeness of Hang on Sloopy – A History of Ohio Rock, it’s subject matter alone, a recounting of influential bands from Dayton, Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and all points all between, will appeal to many local music fans…Speaking of local, The Black Keys recently released a live DVD, The Black Keys Live at The Crystal Ballroom. It was shot during their last tour, and just like their music, a gritty back to basics approach to the blues, this movie forgoes fancy production and places the focus squarely on the shredding guitar work of Dan Auerbach and the powerful, room shaking drumming of Pat Carney…Have someone on your list who enjoys comedy, drama, action, and/or musicals? Then, a DVD of Dr. Horrible’s Sing A Long Blog is a must. It’s directed by Joss Whedon, of Buffy The Vampire Slayer fame, stars Neil Patrick Harris, there’s super heroes and super villains, a touching love story, and singing. Yes, it’s a musical, and it’s awesome.
Miscellaneous Music Related Gifts: What’s a Buddha Machine and why would it make a great gift? Well, it’s a bit like a Continuum Transfunctioner, a device whose mystery is only exceeded by its power, guaranteed to confound, confuse, and amuse anyone on your list…For the old school music geek, who likes new school technology, there’s the USB mixtape. It’s like those worn out mix tapes in packed away in your closet, complete with case and space to scribble your playlist, but instead of an old cassette tape, the case encloses a small usb drive…For the audiophile, I’d recommend a pair of Shure, sound isolating earbuds. Sure, they’re a little pricey, and like any earbuds, you’re bound to bust them at some point, but the sound quality is amazing, and the snug fitting, foamy ear thingies, make sure that you’ll hear nothing, absolutely nothing, but your music even at low volumes.
And If All Else Fails: Music Saves gift cards are available online and in-store.