The Michael Lyon Experience

Michael Jackson Dies, & A Piece of Music With Him.

I'm not quite sure how to begin this, because I'm not really sure what to think. What I know is this: Michael Jackson, in his prime, had a talent that was absolutely prodigious and captivating. What I also know is that Michael Jackson was the portrait of the twisting nature of fame. Piece by piece, the public watched Jackson slip into a bizarre state of reclusive distortion, marked by ugly incidents of alleged child molestation and bankruptcy, and saw his music disintegrate into a somewhat pitiful stab to try and recreate some of his early brilliance. 
Brilliance is exactly what Jackson was in his early days, though. From the work in his youth, to his groundbreaking solo album "Off The Wall", Michael Jackson was one guy who could really bring it. His music was strong and passionate, and his vocals were so unique and fitting, that it made Michael Jackson an entirely separate entity. There was music, and then there was Michael Jackson. 
Then came "Thriller". The greatest pop album ever. And don't think it still doesn't resonate in the world of music. Turn on 107.5 and digest some of that Hip-Hop, then go to "Thriller" and listen to any song, and tell me if you can't hear the origins of modern music in that album. "Thriller" was absolutely unreal, and forever unmatched in its magnitude. 
Live, MJ was superb. Youtube "Human Nature Live" and I guarantee you will be impressed. The way he moved will never be recreated, and his revolutionary dance moves progressed the Hip-Hop dancing movement like nothing else could. In short, without Jackson, stuff like Usher wouldn't be here. 

While, yes, Jackson was a complete disaster in the later stages of his life, he will forever be remembered by fans as the king. While his popularity had certainly changed, you cannot deny the fact that he was still popular. Proof? 50 straight sold-out shows in London, scheduled to happen a few months after his untimely death. 
So I suppose we just move on. Remember him for his work, not for his decay, and forever recognize his musical contributions. 

Depeche Mode Triumphs, Again.

            I feel like a clichéd fan boy saying this, but I can think of no other way to do this: I’m in love with Depeche Mode’s latest work, Sounds Of The Universe. From the band that released such classics as Music for The Masses, Songs of Faith and Devotion, and Violator, comes another powerful, profound, and addicting lesson in electronic rock.

            In many ways, Sounds Of The Universe is a summation of Depeche Mode’s work. It combines the instrumental depth of Music For The Masses, the emotion of Songs of Faith and Devotion, and the lyrical strength of Violator. Yet the album separates itself from past Depeche projects in several ways, and finds the perfect harmony between blending classic sounds with modern movements—an ingredient that is essential to the progression of an electronic band.

            Before describing the album, you have to understand Depeche Mode itself. It is a trio of guys, all of whom are mad scientists of alternative music. They are pioneers in the industry, and held in the highest esteem amongst modern artists. You would be hard pressed to explore the alternative scene and not find at least five artists whose sound is greatly influenced by DM; everyone, and I mean everyone, is shaped by Depeche in one way or another. They have a massive following of fans from all backgrounds and ages, and posses a deity like presence to their fan base. In short, these guys aren’t a band, they are a way of life.   

Depeche Mode’s engine is lead singer Dave Gahan. His voice is strong, resonating, and a perfect compliment to the barrage of synthesizers and electric guitar riffs that are laced throughout Depeche Mode’s work. In Sounds Of The Universe, Gahan is again at his best—just as he was with the release of all of DM’s albums, even when he was so drugged out that he could hardly put together a comprehendible sentence. Gahan is a beast in SOTU, and truly shows the music world that he remains a vocal force. While Gahan is DM’s engine, keyboardist/sound wacko Martin Gore is the glue. Gore constantly pushes the envelope electronically, and is a master of innovation with keyboards. These two, added with multi-dimensional Andrew Fletcher, make up the sounds that are entirely unique to Depeche Mode.

In Sounds Of The Universe, the trio is brilliant. From the opening track—a heavy, consistent song called “In Chains”—to the final, 8 minute experiment known as “Corrupt”, they assemble a masterpiece that is both old school and modern. From the start, they simply kick ass. I will never forget the grin that spread across my face after hearing the rising noise, “bbbwwwaaAAAHHHHH”, intro to “In Chains”, followed by complete silence that is deliciously pierced by Gahan’s resonating voice singing, “The way you move, has got me yearning. The way you move, has left me burning.” From there, the song is solid, although it does drag on a bit towards the end (but it’s no big deal because we’re all still reeling from the righteous intro).

They move on to the weird little number “Hole to Feed”, which is basically a tribute to Gore’s electronic mastery. In the formulating stages of SOTU, Gore spent hours scrapping eBay in search of potentially useful electronic equipment in order to find the perfect sounds for the album.  (Can you imagine the guy selling the equipment receiving an afternoon call being told that Daniel Gore from Depeche Mode wants to buy his junk? I’m sure there was more than one interesting reaction). Where SOTU really lifts off is with track #3, the single “Wrong”. Upon hearing “Wrong”, listeners will likely pause, hesitate, and then hit the back button to listen to this beauty one more time.  It is nearly perfect both instrumentally and lyrically. The song is based off the simple feeling of being wrong beyond repair. It is framed by this consistent, bell-like synth that plays in the background underneath a synth bass guitar that adds infinite depth to the song. Gahan delivers gems such as “There’s something wrong with me chemically, something wrong with me inherently.” that provide emotion and a sense of despair and anger to the song.  After “Wrong” comes “Fragile Tension”—my favorite on the album. It is another golden display of song writing, and finds perfect harmony, as does this entire album, between new and old sounds.

At song #7, we find the instant classic “Peace”. This is the best of electronic music, right up there—seriously—with “Enjoy the Silence” and “Personal Jesus”. Nothing I could say could ever provide “Peace” any sort of justice. If I had to try, however, I would say that the rapid-fire synth beats leading into the chorus—you’ll know it when you hear it—are the best sounds I’ve ever encountered out of DM. This song is as addicting as crack, and will most likely be running through your head for weeks after you hear it. After “Peace”, there are several songss that demonstrate Gore’s abilities with his eBay-scalped toys.

 The tail end of the album possesses some of the most thought provoking instrumentals you’ll find, and gives the album backbone. “Spacewalker” is a particularly awesome instrumental with a catchy rhythm. In addition to “Spacewalker”, enjoy the great chorus in “Perfect”, as well as the trip that is “Jezebel”.

SOTU is also a progression for the band, but in more subtle ways than the obvious. While the immediate thing that a DM fan might notice is the incorporation of more layers and sounds, consider something that struck me: the album is actually a reversal on the way in which DM operates. Keep in mind that this is merely my opinion, but it seems to me that with prior Depeche albums Gahan’s vocals have driven the electronics. That is to say, Dave’s voice and choruses shape how the electronics will sound. In SOTU, however, this order was reversed. It was constructed in Hip-Hop fashion: beats first, vocals second. As a result, we find tracks like “Come Back”, slower songs that are five layers deep with hooks, loops, beats, and ticks. What this has created is the beats enhancing Gahan, rather than Gahan enhancing the beats. Something that DM has always succeeded at is creating music that is truly cooperative. It works perfectly, all pieces of the machine working together. This cooperation, more than even Songs of Faith and Devotion, shines in SOTU.

What SOTU ultimately displays is Depeche Mode’s superiority in the realm of electronic rock. It is yet another masterpiece from the band that seems to never fail. It is a very worthy addition to the discography of DM, and an album that fans will find both inspiring and addicting. It shows the depth of DM, and separates itself from other works like it with its’ depth and multi-layerdness.

So, here we are. Everyone buy it, listen to it, and then hang it on the shelf right up there with Violator, because that is exactly where Sounds Of The Universe belongs. It is going to take one hell of an effort to top this for album of the year in my books. 

Seeing Sasquatch

It was 4:40 in the morning when I was kindly awoken by my phone alarm. I rose, showered, got dressed, and departed my unclean room unaware of the magnitude of the day I was soon to experience. 

I drove into Portland, picked up my brother and his three friends, and began the trek for The Gorge Amphitheater in Eastern Washington, where the Sasquatch Music Festival awaited us. The boys had just finished a night of intense partying, and looked to be in the condition of, say, a train wreck. I frowned as I assumed that I would make the five and a half hour drive in complete silence as my comrades slept, but was pleasantly surprised to find that they stayed awake and maintained a good conversation for the duration of the journey. The scenery on the drive was majestic and beautiful, and made the driving time far more enjoyable. We passed many landmarks of the Northwest, each time awestricken by the pure beauty that we Oregonians too often take for granted. As we made our way towards The Gorge, my excitement built in anticipation of the massive music festival we were about to experience; I'm sure my comrades felt the same way, especially since their favorite band, Nine Inch Nails, was headlining that night (these guys are hardcore Nails fans, combined they have now seen roughly 50 Nails concerts). 

As we entered the amphitheater it struck me just how massive this event had become. I knew that it would be enormous, but I had no idea that it would be this big. The campsites spread as far as the eye could see, and the people poured by the thousands down the hill towards the gate. I licked my lips in anticipation of what would surely be an awesome time. 
 The first band we watched was Viva La Voche, a group of Portlanders who have turned themselves into a pretty big small band. Second was The Street Sweeper Social Club, a band that includes "Boots" , the MC from the Hip Hop group The Coup, and Tom Morello, mastermind guitarist formerly of Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, and the Nighwatchmen. This concert was what I expected from a Morello project, it was upbeat, loud, rebellious, and laced with incredible electric guitar riffs. Although Morello could not be accused of great diversity in his music, the Street Sweeper Social Club was a good show, and elicited a strong crowd reaction

The next five hours were a blur. We saw TV On the Radio, Calexico, The Avett Brothers, and--holy hell-- The Muder City Devils. Now, a word on The Murder City Devils. If you want to see true punk rock, not some pansy ass black suit and eye makeup stuff, go to a show put on by The Murder City Devils. We're talking guys making out on stage, insane stage presence, things getting broken, and a host of other stuff that was just wild. TV On the Radio was also satisfying. They played a show that was funky, instrumental, and multi-layered. I truly enjoyed myself during the show, but got the sense that if I was more familiar with their work I would have loved it. In terms of pure musical ability, TV On the Radio shined.

After this, Nine Inch Nails came on around sunset. NIN is known for their amazing live performances, and lead man Trent Reznor has indicated that this is the bands' final hoorah, so I got the sense that I was witnessing something somewhat legendary in the NIN Canon. I was never a huge fan of their music, but always liked it enough to know the words to their most popular songs, so I felt a bit ashamed to be standing twenty feet from the stage knowing that there were probably far more hardcore fans stuck on the hill 100 yards away. My grief quickly evaporated when they began playing. I have to take my hat off to Nine Inch Nails, they truly delivered a knockout show. The sound, lights, and atmosphere all combined to make one of the best concerts I've ever seen. NIN led the audience on a roller coaster ride, full of intensity and thrills. The music was so raw, so powerful, and so emotional that it was almost enough to bring me to tears. The pure energy that flowed through the atmosphere was so thick that you could almost feel it. The final song we got to hear was "Hurt", a NIN classic that is difficult to describe to a person who has not heard the song. It is a slow track, that more or less captures the essence of emotional pain. Trent Reznor has an uncanny ability to inflict a sense of agony on an audience with his voice, and that is exactly what he did in "Hurt". Following NIN was legendary band Jane's Addiction, the show I had been looking forward to the most.

A song I've been listening to lately is "Heaven at Nite" by Kid CuDi. As I stood in the crowd, eyes fixed upon Jane's Addiction's electric light show, breathing in the clean air of Eastern Washington, I felt as if I had, in fact, found my heaven at night. 

Written 5/25/09, Posted: 5/25/09

Time is Endless, For Some
Yolande Gendron

It's the simplicity that I miss. It's the happiness that came from the ever-present smell of wood smoke in the fall. The joy of the cold air painting my cheeks red on Friday nights, my breath rising as I cheer for the blue and gold. It's the beat up trucks, the boys wearing hickory shirts and suspenders, the quick stop for ice cream in a now closed diner. I miss the aloneness of running on an empty highway, the strain of stacking firewood, the laziness of the sunny walk home through the leaves.

That's the life I used to have. I used to have friends that were like family, I had a town that cared about the individual. I was close to life; I smiled in the face of happiness. Now I sigh in the face of sadness, as I finish what are supposed to be the best years of my life.

I want to go back to those days, the silly games and the pealing laughter. I want to see my life-long friends. I want to feel safe walking home in the dark. I want to steal the Asian Pears off of my cross country coach's tree. I need to see the salmon struggling up the river in the fall. I have to push myself up Lincoln Hill just one more time, pumping those arms and raising those knees.

Life should not have many regrets, but it seems I have too many. I don't regret meeting new people, or being employed. I don't regret learning new things that only a city can teach me. I want to let my regrets go, and accept the life that has been given to me. I have never been scared of life, or what comes after, but I am scared of forgetting who I was, and forgetting how I was. I was happy.

Most of all I want to step back in time, I want to travel back to October 2007, before the world went mad. But I won't step on any butterflies… I promise.

Yolande Gendron is a senior at Valley Catholic High School. She transfered from Vernonia High School due to the tragic flooding of the town in 2007, and quickly became a beloved member of the Valley Catholic community. She will attend Southern Oregon University next fall. This is her first entry on the website