Real Life Rock Top 10: The Sound Of Ambition

Corin Tucker’s voice leads Filthy Friends into the fun zone, plus sarcastic poetry surprises, lameness flashbacks, and more


1. Filthy Friends, Any Kind of Crowd/Editions of You (Kill Rock Stars 45)

With guitarists Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney, Peter Buck of R.E.M., and the always airborne Kurt Bloch of the Fastbacks in front, both the A-side original and a Roxy Music number taken away from Bryan Ferry come across as pure fun. What’s new is a certain deepening in Tucker’s tone. From the start, she’s had the most ambitious voice in pop music. Now, with the burden of the singer saving her own life and maybe yours lifted, you hear the sound of ambition realized.

2. Jacob Jordan and Jeff Martin, Musician Col. Bruce Hampton collapses at 70th birthday concert and dies (Associated Press, May 2):

ATLANTA — When Col. Bruce Hampton slowly fell to his knees during the finale of his star-studded birthday concert, fans and musicians alike thought it was another one of his quirky performance acts.

Fourteen-year-old guitar phenom Brandon Taz Niederauer tore into a blistering solo as the 70-year-old man lay motionless just feet away, his arm draped over a speaker — and John Popper and Warren Haynes and John Bell kept on playing “Turn on Your Lovelight,” which has always wanted to be played all night. “It made me want to teach a course in jam band CPR,” said a friend of a friend. “OK, so, like, you see somebody who’s not moving or breathing, the first thing you’re going to need is an electric guitar…”

3. Ellyn and Robbie, Skywriting With Glitter (

An L.A. poet who makes sarcasm feel like love and an L.A. keyboardist and singer who makes the music the poet thinks she can’t. There’s not a moment you can anticipate; everything is a surprise.

4. Particle Kid, Particle Kid (Hen House Studios)

One minute into the first song on this album — “Forever is my best friend,” Micah Nelson sang — I thought I was back in 1971, experiencing the Platonic form of lame: James Taylor’s little brother Livingston on the radio, singing “Get Out of Bed.”

5. Ayron Jones, Audio Paint Job (Sunyata)

From Seattle: He says he plays rock ’n’ roll. Like he knows it’ll confuse the people who are sure he has to call it something else.

6. Taiwan Housing Project, Maintenance of an Application, from Three Song Record (MLady EP, 2016), and Veblen Death Mask (Kill Rock Stars LP)

From Philadelphia: Kilynn Lunsford sets an almost always set-myself-on-fire lead in front of a Captain Beefheart saxophone and feedback that’s all bad weather when it isn’t thoughtful — asking itself what it’s for, or trying to translate the cold humor of a housing project submitting an application in the form of a song. The band is weakest when it finds itself trapped in conventional structures, strongest when they don’t hear them. This is the kind of stuff you have to listen to until you decide you love it or hate it, or at least until you can hear if it’s really Mr. Theory of the Leisure Class they’re talking about.

7. In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs, edited by Andrew Blauner (Blue Rider)

It’s not a shock that Gerald Early, in a quiet voice, dives deepest. Here, music on TV teenage dance shows “altered its authenticity,” and the authentic was not music unfettered by capitalist imperatives but AM radio: “White youth music was for me exotic but also the sound of the mainstream. To know this music, to appreciate it, gave me, in some strange way, total access to my culture, to my society — in effect, total access to my own life.”

8. Emma Silvers and Sarah Hotchkiss, A Broken Record,, reviewing The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll at the de Young Museum (San Francisco, through August 20):

“We are not convinced that any of this summer’s grand retelling is necessary.”

9. Bob Dylan and the Band, As I Went out One Morning, Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, January 10, 1974 (

Apparently the only time he’s ever performed the song. It’s like a fragment of an old tale with all context gone, a song that doesn’t explain itself, so that its tone becomes its subject: regret.

10. Historian John Shaw (This Land That I Love, on Irving Berlin and Woody Guthrie) writes in:

“Had Andrew Jackson been a little bit later you wouldn’t have had anybody put the bomp in the bomp ba bomp ba bomp. He saw what was happening with regard to the bomp, he said there’s no reason for this. People don’t realize, you know, the bomp, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why did anybody put the bomp in the bomp ba bomp ba bomp, why couldn’t that one have been worked out?”

With thanks to Andrew Hamlin, Steve Perry, and Steve Weinstein.