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259 minutes | Jun 21, 2021
Episode 98: Jeff Dufour / Neil Young [Part 3]
Scot and Jeff discuss the third part of Neil Young’s career (1980–2021) with Jeff Dufour. Introducing the Band: Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by guest Jeff Dufour. Jeff is the editor in chief of National Journal. Find him on Twitter at @dcdufour. Jeff’s Music Pick: Neil Young (Part 3) If you need a podcast to sample and hold or feel rockin’ in the free world, then settle in and prepare to devote a full four hours of your life to the gang’s account of the final (to date) 41 years of Neil Young’s career, from the dawn of the ’80s and the Reagan Era all the way to the present day. Thirty-eight albums! And somehow we manage to discuss a full thirty-four of them in depth. This is the period where Neil started zooming all over the map stylistically, from trad country music to synthpop to rockabilly to horn-soaked nightclub blues to just good old-fashioned Neil Young-style hard rock and folk. These 40 years had incredible highs and legendary lows, but we’re here to explain to you why it all makes much more sense than it might have seemed at the time, and why so many of these albums are actually hidden gems. (Trans, my friend. Trans.) Buckle up as we drive you through one of the more remarkable musical journeys in rock history.
208 minutes | May 31, 2021
Episode 97: Jeff Dufour / Neil Young [Part 2]
Scot and Jeff discuss the second part of Neil Young’s career (1973–1979) with Jeff Dufour. Introducing the Band: Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by guest Jeff Dufour. Jeff is the editor-in-chief of National Journal. Find him on Twitter at @dcdufour. Jeff’s Music Pick: Neil Young (Part 2) Grab a bottle of tequila, an inflatable palm tree, and a rack of honey slides to prepare yourself for our discussion of Neil Young’s latter Seventies career, which begins after the early 1973 Harvest/Time Fades Away tour with a plunge straight into darkness, despair, and alcohol-sodden musings on death and redemption. Yes, we’re talking about none other than the infamous Tonight’s The Night. The album was so disarmingly bleak and bizarre that he decided not to release it for several years after recording it (even though he toured it across the world!), and instead turned around to record On The Beach (which Jeff argues may well be the most stoned album of the Seventies, and perhaps coincidentally also Neil’s greatest ever work) and reunite with a re-formed Crazy Horse to play on and off with for the rest of the decade. This was also the era when Young began to record so prolifically and become so indecisive about his material that no less than three “lost” albums were prepared for release and then shelved. But what he did release was the most sterling work of his career: from Tonight’s The Night to Rust Never Sleeps and the canonical Live Rust, this era represents Neil Young’s undisputed, where his creative winds are blowing like a hurricane. Please take my advice, come along with us, and try not to stub your toes on any garbage pails as we take you through one of the most impressive explosions of creativity from any popular musician of the last 60 years.
167 minutes | May 17, 2021
Episode 96: Jeff Dufour / Neil Young [Part 1]
Scot and Jeff discuss the first part of Neil Young’s career (1963–1973) with Jeff Dufour. Introducing the Band: Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by guest Jeff Dufour. Jeff is the editor-in-chief of National Journal. Find him on Twitter at @dcdufour. Jeff’s Music Pick: Neil Young Step aside and open wide as we begin a long journey through the past of the profoundly great career of The Loner himself, Mr. Neil Young. The opening episode of this three-part series covers the first decade of a career that continues to this day. Young traveled a vast distance from obscurity to fame during this period, from his early Sixties origins as Canadian surf instrumentalist to a failed Ontario folkie, to playing lead guitar for Rick “Superfreak” James, to co-founding one of the Sixties’ great “lost” bands in Buffalo Springfield, to a solo career that began as a quirky oddity and then turned him into #1 chart-topping superstar after his profile was raised to household-name status by spending time in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. And then, just as he had conquered America, he intentionally took an immediate hard left turn into the ditch. This is a tale of a man who almost always refused to compromise, who only bothered to make music that personally pleased him, and yet who somehow managed to amass a worldwide following and a musical influence that lasts to this day. Rest assured, we’ll be back for more next time to continue covering his career – this is not our last dance.
180 minutes | May 3, 2021
Episode 95: Helaine Olen on Rilo Kiley/Jenny Lewis
Scot and Jeff discuss Rilo Kiley/Jenny Lewis with Helaine Olen. Introducing the Band: Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are with guest Helaine Olen. Helaine is an opinion writer at the Washington Post. Find her on Twitter at @HelaineOlen. Helaine’s Music Pick: The Afghan Whigs/The Twilight Singers So it turns out Hannah Nefler from Troop Beverly Hills and Ronnie Pinsky from “Salute Your Shorts” aren’t played by just talented child actors after all. Those actors, Jenny Lewis and Blake Sennett, went on to form one-half of Rilo Kiley and were responsible for writing the music and lyrics for the band. And it all started out because actor/comedian Dave Foley offered to pick up the tab for recording a group of demos. While Rilo Kiley never sold a ton of albums, they became a successful and artistically interesting group that made waves in the indie rock community. Jenny Lewis began her solo career before her band officially ended its run, with the superb Rabbit Fur Coat, released in 2006. Rilo Kiley produced one more “grab for the brass ring” album, titled Under the Blacklight. By that point, though, it was clear Lewis’ talent meant more solo albums were on the way. Rooted in a California/Laurel Canyon sound, Lewis rarey repeats herself on record. Her voice has matured over the years to become a true musical weapon. Many of her friends, like Beck, Elvis Costello, Jonathan Rice, Benmont Tench, and others pop up on songs here and there. Whether you’re new to this music or simply taking a deeper dive, be more adventurous with us and listen to the Political Beats take on Rilo Kiley & Jenny Lewis.
215 minutes | Mar 29, 2021
Episode 94: John J. Miller on The Afghan Whigs/The Twilight Singers
Scot and Jeff discuss The Afghan Whigs/The Twilight Singers with John J. Miller. Introducing the Band: Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are with guest John J. Miller. John is director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College and national correspondent for National Review, plus host of the NR podcasts The Great Books and The Bookmonger. Find him on Twitter at @heymiller. John’s Music Pick: The Afghan Whigs/The Twilight Singers Your attention, please. We haven’t got all night. And these three gentlemen hosts of Political Beats wish to sell these bands to you. The Afghan Whigs and The Twilight Singers are the vehicles for the music of Greg Dulli, chief songwriter and singer for both groups. The Whigs were in operation from 1986–2001, at which point Dulli launched The Twilight Singers. That band created music for about a decade until a reunion of the Whigs led to new music from Dulli and bassist John Curley. While never tasting mainstream success, the bands developed a devoted following. The dark, angst-ridden narratives of bad relationships and addictions of various kinds lent an uncommon edge to the music. Dulli thought and wrote in cinematic scope; his recorded aren’t recorded, they are “shot on location.” Musically, the Whigs found influence from the great ’60s soul and R&B acts. The band created a fusion-rock sound that manifested itself in different forms on each album. The Twilight Singers, meanwhile, largely de-emphasized the waves of guitar that marked the Whigs’ sound in favor of a keener sense of rhythm and groove (though neither were previously in short supply). And while the hosts are “meh” on one of the two reunion albums, the other gets a very big recommendation. If you missed them the first time, we’re here to fill you in. Black out the windows, it’s party time with The Afghan Whigs and The Twilight Singers.
189 minutes | Mar 15, 2021
Episode 93: Christopher Scalia / Spoon
Scot and Jeff discuss Spoon with Christopher Scalia. Introducing the Band: Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are with guest Christopher Scalia. Christopher is co-editor of Scalia Speaks: Reflections on Law, Faith, and Life Well Lived and On Faith: Lessons from an American Believer. He’s also the Director of Academic Programs at the American Enterprise Institute. Find him on Twitter at @cjscalia. Christopher’s Music Pick: Spoon This band from Austin has a case as one of the greatest American rock bands of the past 25 years, but we suspect there are some music lovers who might not be familiar with them. The guys attempt to remedy that situation in this episode. Spoon, essentially, is vocalist/guitarist Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno, the only consistent members of the group. And there’s that word: consistent. As you’ll hear during the show, it’s perhaps the best description of Spoon’s output. They’ve never released a bum album. They’ve never taken a wrong turn sonically and continually put out interesting music. Over the years, the band has evolved from early efforts with clear Pixies/Pavement influences to clearly identifying a “Spoon Sound” — songs constructed with only the most essential elements, featuring shifting rhythms, tight drums, and rock-solid bass lines. Daniel’s skill as a lyricist is in finding couplets and phrases that rattle around your head weeks after you’ve heard a song. Since GIRLS CAN TELL, the band has subtly added new elements to its songwriting, leaving behind a string of albums that all have their own identity yet that live up to high standards previously set. It’s great album after great album, great song after great song. And, it’s argued on the show, perhaps one of the greatest efforts of the decade of the ’00s. We let the music do a lot of the talking on this episode. Give it a listen, and we’re convinced you’re going to come out the other side as a fanatic.
158 minutes | Feb 15, 2021
Episode 92: Mark Hemingway / Nirvana
Scot and Jeff discuss Nirvana with Mark Hemingway. Introducing the Band: Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) with guest Mark Hemingway. Mark is is a writer at RealClearInvestigations and RealClearPolitics. Find him on Twitter at @heminator. Mark’s Music Pick: Nirvana Perhaps you’ve heard of these guys. With a single song, Nirvana knocked Michael Jackson off the top of the charts, essentially killed the hair-metal genre, and laid a blueprint that would launch “grunge” nationwide and influence an entire second wave of knock-off bands. Nirvana was, of course, more than just one song or one album. The three-piece from Aberdeen, Wash., first made noise with Bleach, released in 1989. Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic were present, but the band was still churning through a series of drummers, a merry-go-round that would end in late-1990 with the addition of one Dave Grohl, who has been featured previously on the show via his work with Foo Fighters. That’s the lineup which would create the iconic Nevermind, an album that some on the show argue owes as much to The Beatles’ brand of pop/rock than any burgeoning Seattle scene. “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “In Bloom,” “Come As You Are,” and “Lithium” are still played on rock radio stations everywhere. Heck, Sirius/XM directly named their 90s rock channel after the latter song. Amid spiraling drug problems for their leader, Nirvana pressed on, releasing the caustic, abrasive In Utero and recording an iconic live performance for MTV’s Unplugged. That album would be released following Cobain’s suicide, which occurred on April 8, 1994. The argument is made on the show that it’s one of the best live albums in history. It’s a short, yet fulfilling, career and we cover all of it on this episode.
200 minutes | Jan 18, 2021
Episode 91: Damon Linker / David Bowie [Part 3]
Scot and Jeff discuss the third and final part of David Bowie’s career (1982-2016) with Damon Linker. Introducing the Band: Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) with guest Damon Linker, Senior Columnist for The Week. Read Damon’s work here and follow him at @DamonLinker on Twitter. Damon’s Music Pick: David Bowie Political Beats knows when to go out, and when to stay in, and we’re asking you to stay in and listen to us discuss the brilliant adventure of the latter part of David Bowie’s career from the moment when he first became a true multi-platinum global superstar with Let’s Dance. He then lost the plot for several years after getting captured and trapped by his newfound audience, and struggled to work himself back up into wakefulness in fits and starts, first with his hard rock pseudo-democratic band Tin Machine, then with a series of variant 1990s albums that openly nodded toward his younger peers, and finally with a completely new and full bloom of genius in the 2000s with Heathen, Reality, The Next Day, and his swansong Blackstar. This is the story of a man who finally achieved everything he ever wanted only to realize it was a largely Pyrrhic victory, but then slowly rebuilding himself back up to artistic greatness once again. David Bowie left us in 2016 at a peak equal to anything he had done during his Seventies heyday, and with his final album placed a capstone on an artistic legacy that stands uniquely among the modern era’s musical landscape. Join us as we celebrate it, and drink to a better future.
216 minutes | Jan 11, 2021
Episode 90: Damon Linker / David Bowie [Part 2]
Scot and Jeff discuss the second part of David Bowie’s career (1974–1981) with Damon Linker. Introducing the Band: Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) with guest Damon Linker, Senior Columnist for The Week. Read Damon’s work here and follow him at @DamonLinker on Twitter. Damon’s Music Pick: David Bowie It’s not the side effects of the cocaine, Political Beats is thinking that it must be love as it throws itself into the whirlpool of David Bowie’s latter-Seventies career, taking our journey all the way up through Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) and one of the greatest one-off artistic collaborations between two musical giants during the rock era (hint: it’s not “Dancing In The Street”). David Bowie was an artistic giant all the way through his entire recording career, and was making stirring music up until the day he passed away — that will be addressed in our upcoming third part of this retrospective — but Jeff for one makes no secret of the fact that this era is his favorite by far. From songs about the lives of young Americans, girlfriend-eating television sets, new careers in new towns, and being heroes just for one day, to swingin’ along to the good life as a boy, sailing to the piratey hinterlands, or being hunted down like just another piece of teenage wildlife . . . this is the era where David Bowie traveled a vast yawning gap of artistic growth and transcendence. This is the sound of greatness.
192 minutes | Dec 21, 2020
Episode 89: Damon Linker / David Bowie
Scot and Jeff discuss the first part of David Bowie’s career (1967–1974) with Damon Linker. Introducing the Band: Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) with guest Damon Linker, Senior Columnist for The Week. Read Damon’s work here and follow him at @DamonLinker on Twitter. Damon’s Music Pick: David Bowie Look out, you rock ‘n’ rollers! Pretty soon now, you’re gonna have to turn and face the strange as Political Beats begins a long journey, tackling the career of David Jones, who might have kept that name if a certain Monkee hadn’t beaten him to celebrity. Instead, he became David Bowie, and became many other things besides, so many that this is going to be a three-part extravaganza exploring the full scope of Bowie’s career. Part one covers his early days, from Anthony Newley-esque orchestral pop to folk-rock to Led Zeppelin moves to . . . well, Ziggy Stardust. This is a massive undertaking, but we’re ably assisted by Damon Linker, so whether you’re a Bowie fanatic of long standing or someone who only knows about “Space Oddity,” give us your hands — because you’re not alone! You’re wonderful!
143 minutes | Nov 23, 2020
Episode 88: Steve Singiser / Living Colour
Scot and Jeff discuss Living Colour with Steve Singiser. Introducing the Band: Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) with guest Steve Singiser. Steve is a contributing editor at Daily Kos Elections. Find him on Twitter at @stevesingiser. Steve’s Music Pick: Living Colour That riff is indelibly inked on your brain. You know the one. The first musical notes put to vinyl/tape/compact disc by Living Colour, kicking off “Cult of Personality.” That riff that comes just after a quote from Malcolm X and carries through to famous orations from JFK and FDR. Yes, from the start, this all-black rock/funk/soul/metal band from New York really was something different. The band was driven by the guitar heroics of Vernon Reid, who would put his signature all over various tracks through the band’s existence. Lead vocalist Corey Glover featured rare range and power, and the rhythm section of drummer Will Calhoun and bassist Muzz Skillings (later replaced by Doug Wimbish) held down the bottom end. VIVID, the debut album, sold more than two million copies, presenting a foursome with solid melodies, street-smart lyrics, and an incredible intensity. Mick Jagger was such a fan he produced two songs on the record and invited the band to open for the Rolling Stones. The follow-up album, TIME’S UP, didn’t miss a beat, featuring guests such as Little Richard, Queen Latifah, Doug E. Fresh, and others. The songs were just as satisfying, and lyrically the band dove deeper into the political, including social commentary on racism in America. The subsequent offering STAIN, features a darker, grittier sound. The band would split soon after. Three post-reunion albums of varying quality are covered on the show, but more importantly, we offer an appreciation for a band that has somewhat slipped through the cracks but deserves a second, or for some, a first look. What’s your favorite color?
208 minutes | Nov 2, 2020
Episode 87: Brad Birzer / Genesis [ Part 2]
Scot and Jeff discuss second part of Genesis’s career (the Phil Collins years) with Brad Birzer. Introducing the Band: Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) with guest Dr. Brad Birzer. Brad is the Russell Amos Kirk Chair in American Studies and Professor of History at Hillsdale College. He’s the co-founder of, and Senior Contributor at, The Imaginative Conservative. And he’s the author of a number of books, including Neil Peart: Cultural (Re)Percussions. Find him online at bradbirzer.com or @bradleybirzer on Twitter. Brad’s Music Pick: Genesis After joining us to celebrate life of Neil Peart and the career of Rush back at the beginning of the year, Brad Birzer returns to discuss his other great musical love, Genesis. We pick up where we left off last time with Patrick Frey, telling the story of Genesis from the departure of Peter Gabriel after The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway to the present day. And what an amazing musical tale it is, the story of a niche British progressive rock band that was all but left for dead by the musical press after Gabriel’s departure, only to immediately come blazing out of the gates with one of the most impressive albums of the Seventies in 1976’s A Trick Of The Tail. With their diminutive balding drummer (a gent you may be familiar with by the name of Phil Collins) accidentally promoted to the role of lead singer during the sessions for that album, Genesis went on to not only weather the loss of their lead guitarist Steve Hackett, but to improbably ascend to the heights of worldwide commercial superstardom with Phil as their frontman. Genesis was ubiquitous during the 1980s, and in a good way: as Scot, Jeff, and Brad all argue, NONE of these albums have dated much at all, and in fact their stature has grown over the years (not even Patrick Bateman jokes could prevent it). Welcome to Political Beats’ loving conclusion to a tale that spans from Genesis to Revelation, one of the great underdog stories of the rock era . . . a band that spent 30 years making new music, evolving constantly, and never getting lost in a changing world.
204 minutes | Oct 19, 2020
Episode 86: Patrick Frey / Genesis [Part 1]
Scot and Jeff discuss Genesis (1967-1975) with Patrick Frey. Introducing the Band: Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) with guest Patrick Frey. Patrick has been a blogger of national repute since 2003 and is still committed to the form, even though it has been dead for years. Read his work at Patterico’s Pontifications and follow Patrick on Twitter at @Patterico. Patrick’s Music Pick: Genesis We’ve been waiting here for so long to discuss this band, and all the time that’s passed us by? It hardly seems to matter now, because Political Beats is finally tackling the first half of Genesis’s career (the Peter Gabriel years; 1976-1997 will come in our next installment) with the sort of reverent fervor that only happens when one of the show’s two hosts is discussing their single favorite group of all time. No prizes for guessing which of the two co-hosts feels that way about them. During this era Genesis — originally formed by a group of 16-year-olds at a genteel London-area private school — rapidly evolved from a halting group of adolescent pop songwriters (failed pop songwriters, mind you) into one of the biggest progressive rock bands of all time. Later, after the years discussed in this episode, they would also become one of the biggest commercial successes on the planet as well, without ever really losing the core of what made them uniquely Genesis. But for now, buckle up as the gang travels through tales of Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Peter Gabriel, Anthony Phillips, Steve Hackett, and a young drummer you might have heard of by the name of Philip Collins. This is some of the best, most well-composed, goofiest, and most profound music ever made during the 1970s, extremely British but also universal in its eternal musical verities. For the next three hours we will enjoy selling you England by the sound. P.S. Don’t worry, none of you are going to die. But you may need to make a visit to the Doktor when all is said and done. If you think that that’s pretentious . . . well then, you’ve been taken for a ride.
170 minutes | Sep 28, 2020
Episode 85: Christian Schneider / Ramones
Scot and Jeff discuss Ramones with Christian Schneider. Introducing the Band: Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) with guest Christian Schneider. Christian is a reporter for The College Fix, contributor to The Dispatch, The Bulwark, USA Today, and sometimes National Review, and author of 1916: The Blog. Find him on Twitter at @Schneider_CM Christian’s Music Pick: Ramones 1, 2, 3, 4! In an episode we joked should only last two minutes, to honor the band, the Political Beats crew take a look at the music and career of Ramones. Formed in Queens in 1974, Ramones have been credited as the first punk rock group, and we tackle that question in the course of the conversation. The band’s first four albums are essentially unimpeachable; short, quick melodic tracks, paying deep debt to the rock music of the late ’50s and early 1960s, The Beach Boys and surf music, and, of course, the magic of fast, loud, downstrokes on the electric guitar. We discuss why the band’s songs often are deeper and more complex than on first listen and dismiss the criticism that “all their songs sound the same.” An unfortunate experience with Phil Spector is forgiven, as all of us heap praise upon the somewhat forgotten PLEASANT DREAMS. At some point, the idea of “quality control” does escape the band’s grasp, and some of the band’s drama becomes more interesting than the recorded output. Still, Ramones stand as one of the most influential groups in rock history and continue to inspire despite the early deaths of all four original members. It might not be a two-minute show, but the time will fly by. Gabba Gabba Hey!
175 minutes | Aug 31, 2020
Episode 84: Steven Levy / The Doors
Scot and Jeff discuss The Doors with Steven Levy. Introducing the Band: Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) with guest Steven Levy. Steven is editor at large of Wired magazine and author of Facebook: The Inside Story. Follow him on Twitter at @StevenLevy. Steven’s Music Pick: The Doors It’s been oft-observed that the day destroys the night while the night divides the day, but no matter how much Political Beats tried to run and tried to hide, we could not avoid breaking on through to the other side with our episode about The Doors. In many ways The Doors are the most controversial artist that the show has ever covered, for the simple reason that they are so polarizing: People tend to either adore them or hate them with a fiery splenetic passion. Which makes this episode one of the most fun and interesting ones we have ever done, because you get three perspectives on Jim Morrison & company: a true super-fan who was there at time (indeed in the audience at several of their concerts) in Steven, an ex-fan who doesn’t hate them but definitely has criticisms in Jeff, and then . . . well then there’s Scot. Is this The End for Political Beats? No, we’ll be back at it again soon enough, but now that summer’s almost gone we figured we’d send it out with a bang, and keep at it until the music’s over and we’ve turned out the lights.
196 minutes | Aug 17, 2020
Episode 83: Andrew Feinberg / Hüsker Dü
Scot and Jeff discuss Hüsker Dü with Andrew Feinberg. Introducing the Band: Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) with guest Andrew Feinberg. Andrew is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist whose coverage of the White House, Capitol Hill, and other political venues and matters of import has appeared in The Independent, Newsweek, Breakfast Media, and Politico Magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewFeinberg. Andrew’s Music Pick: Hüsker Dü Is this your celebrated summer? You might not think so given the state of the world in 2020, but Political Beats is here to convince you that it still could become true if you immerse yourself in the music of one of America’s most fearlessly inventive, creative, and critically adored indie bands, Hüsker Dü! (Don’t let the exotic-sounding name throw you off: These were three Minneapolis-St. Paul kids naming themselves after a Scandinavian board game from the 1970s.) The Hüskers — Bob Mould (guitars, vocals, songwriting), Grant Hart (drums, vocals, rival songwriting), and Greg Norton (bass, peerless mustache) — emerged from the MSP-area D.I.Y. punk scene to first become the most fearsome hardcore band on the planet, and then swiftly developed into one of the most ambitious and melodic groups of the entire 1980s. From their early years as punk neophytes to their era as the world’s most intensely ear-shredding hardcore band to their creative zenith to their legendarily bitter collapse and break-up, the Hüskers blazed a path through rock music that remains unique to this day, and left behind some of the finest music of the decade. Searingly personal, buoyantly poppy and melodic, skin-rippingly hardcore . . . and often all three of these things simultaneously: Join us on a journey beyond the threshold as we (most likely) introduce you to the work of Hüsker Dü (and also quite a bit of solo Bob Mould).
222 minutes | Aug 4, 2020
Episode 82: Dan McLaughlin / Bruce Springsteen [Part 2]
Scot and Jeff discuss the second part of Bruce Springsteen’s career (1980-2020) with Dan McLaughlin. Introducing the Band: Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) with guest Dan McLaughlin. Dan is a Senior Editor at National Review and you can find his work, well . . . here! Just click on that tab over there, it’s not hard to figure out! Find him online at @baseballcrank on Twitter. Dan’s Music Pick: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Maybe you had a brother in Khe Sanh fighting off the Viet Cong, but after forty years from 1980 onwards to the present day as we resume the second part of our Springsteen summer spectacular, Bruce is still there, and we’re all gone. Part Two witnesses Springsteen’s explosion from cult favorite, critical darling, and sometime-chart-entrant into The Biggest Musician Of The Eighties sweepstakes (it’s a four person standoff between him, MJ, Prince, and Madonna). From Nebraska to Born In The U.S.A. to Live 1975-85 (a five record set that entered the Billboard charts at #1) to the deeply personal Tunnel Of Love, Springsteen owned the decade like few other artists, and his retreat from that during the Nineties (and subsequent reclamation of both the E Street Band and the massive concert audiences from 1999 onwards) is only part of an incredibly complicated and rewarding story set out in musical form. Join us as we run through all of it — not just the albums, but the outtakes, the live performances, the archival releases, heck even the autobiographies — on this epic installment of Political Beats, bringing our survey of The Boss to a close. And after you’re done, assuming you’re the last one out, make sure to shut out the light. Part Two of Two.
201 minutes | Jul 20, 2020
Episode 81: Dan McLaughlin / Bruce Springsteen [Part 1]
Scot and Jeff discuss the first part of Bruce Springsteen’s career (1972-1980) with Dan McLaughlin. Introducing the Band: Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) with guest Dan McLaughlin. Dan is a senior editor at National Review and you can find his work, well . . . here! Just click on that tab over there, it’s not hard to figure out! Find him online at @baseballcrank on Twitter. Dan’s Music Pick: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Summer’s here and the time is finally right for racing in the street. Yes, Political Beats is finally throwing its arms around the single most-requested artist in its three-year history: Mr. Bruce Springsteen, an artist who achieved a modest amount of fame during the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, ’00s, and ’10s (and most likely the ’20s as well). Who is Bruce Springsteen? Well, if you only know Springsteen from his years of mega-stardom and commercial ubiquity during the Eighties then you’re missing out on a long, winding artistic evolution that he underwent during the Seventies, the decade that Jeff for one asserts was truly his. From “the new Dylan” to Van-Morrison-meets-the-Jersey-Shore to The Future Of Rock And Roll to dusty roads littered with broken dreams, Political Beats takes you on a lovingly detailed tour of Bruce Springsteen’s evolution, over the first eight years of his career, into The Boss. Outtakes? Obscure live performances? Surprising amounts of Danny Federici on accordion? This episode has it all, a story about a guy in a town full of losers pulling out of there to win. Part one of two.
148 minutes | Jun 29, 2020
Episode 80: Randy Barnett / The Zombies and Argent
Scot and Jeff discuss The Zombies and Argent with Randy Barnett. Introducing the Band: Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) with guest Randy Barnett. Randy is the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Legal Theory at the Georgetown University Law Center, where he directs the Georgetown Center for the Constitution. He also writes at The Volokh Conspiracy. Follow him on Twitter at @RandyEBarnett. Randy’s Music Pick: The Zombies and Argent It’s summertime, and the livin’ is easy, which also means that it’s the time of the season to discuss not one, but two of the great semi-forgotten bands of pop-rock era in The Zombies and their progressive-rock sequel Argent. The Zombies — led by keyboardist Rod Argent, bassist Chris White, and lead singer Colin Blunstone — may have gotten inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame very recently, but odds are that unless you are a Sixties music snob you still aren’t aware of just how brilliant they actually were as a band, how underrated Argent and White were as pop songwriters and lyricists, and how shockingly great their entire discography is. As Jeff says during the show, even though The Zombies scored three big hits in America (trust us, you’ve heard “She’s Not There” and “Time Of The Season” even if only subliminally, and you probably know “Tell Her No” as well), the rest of their career exemplifies most bizarre losing streak in rock history, because practically every single one of the songs they released (and several that they didn’t!) were top-tier pop and art-rock compositions, and they ended their career with what ranks among the finest albums of the decade in Odessey And Oracle. But the story doesn’t end there! After The Zombies broke up due to lack of commercial success and critical recognition (both would eventually come, albeit too late for the group), Argent and White went on to form a new band, the eponymous Argent, based around the songwriting skills of Rod and Chris and with the added strength of lead singer Russ Ballard bringing his own music to bear. Argent rapidly moved away from the bright, brisk pop-rock of The Zombies into the piano/organ-based art- and progressive-rock style of the Seventies, and yet still managed to put out a remarkable amount of fine music on their own. Click play and enjoy — is this the dream band you’ve been crying out for?
162 minutes | Jun 15, 2020
Episode 79: Lynyrd Skynyrd / Mark Davis
Scot and Jeff discuss Lynyrd Skynyrd with Mark Davis. Introducing the Band: Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) with guest Mark Davis. Mark is a talk show host at 660 AM The Answer in Dallas-Ft. Worth and can be heard filling in on shows nationally for the Salem Media Group. He’s also a columnist for the Dallas Morning News and Townhall.com. Find him online @markdavis on Twitter. Mark’s Music Pick: Lynyrd Skynyrd What song is it you want to hear? If you answered “Free Bird!”, chances are this episode on Lynyrd Skynyd is for you. The band, pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd, of course, formed in Jacksonville back in the 1960s and essentially invested their own genre of music, fusing blues, rock, country, and “swamp music” to define 1970s southern rock. Ronnie Van Zant wrote the lyrics and led his band to a major label deal following years of honing their craft for hours a day in the “Hell House.” What emerged were two of the finest albums of the classic rock era and a string of memorable tales while working for MCA. We discuss the band’s not-so-secret weapon in Ed King and dive into the back stories of “Sweet Home Alabama.” Tragically, the band’s prime years were cut short following a plane crash in 1977, just months after adding guitarist Steve Gaines to the lineup, reinvigorating the group’s sound. Van Zant, Gaines, his sister Cassie, and three others were killed; other band members suffered brutal injuries. The less said about subsequent reunions, the better, though it is covered in the show. Give a fresh listen to the music of one of the finest American rock bands of all time. Don’t forget to turn it up!
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