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280. The Monkees: Good Times (2016)

When I wrote about Weird Al's last album as a continuation of my every-album-reviewed series on him, I mentioned that the other bands who'd been a part of similar series (The Beatles, XTC, and The Monkees) wouldn't be putting out new material.

I guess I'll take that back, because here we are, with a new Monkees album, and with one of the members of XTC involved. Part of life's wonderfulness is its lack of predictability.

What was predictable was that new Monkees material would appear in a year ending with "6":  Their debut was in 1966, the semi-reunion (Dolenz, Jones, Boyce, and Hart) was 1976, the comeback as a trio happened in 1986, and the full-band studio reunion (Justus) came out in 1996. (Group infighting held them out of doing anything in 2006).

Good Times! was produced by John Hughes (not that one) and Adam Schlesinger (of Fountains of Wayne) and combines reclaimed tunes from the archives with newly-written ones from Monkees-loving songwriters and…

Sometimes I Miss You So Much

2016 has made the world a less interesting place musically. The year just reaching its halfway point and we've lost not only Bowie and Prince, but also Glenn Frey, George Martin, Phife Dawg, Merle Haggard, Maurice White, Paul Kantner, Keith Emerson and Bernie Worrell.

Less newsworthy but no less significant than those others was the recent passing of Attrell Cordes, a.k.a. Prince Be, of P.M. Dawn. Strange as it is, tributes from fans and critics on social media have a healing power. Being able to mourn and celebrate collectively with strangers is comforting, and this was especially so for me in the cases of Bowie and Prince. But it didn't happen with Prince Be's death, and that's sadly indicative of P.M. Dawn's unfortunate career arc. Even the official biography on their website ends by telling us that "the group seemed to vanish into obscurity." So what happened?

P.M. Dawn had instant commercial success in 1991 with their first album (featuring "Set…

4 the Tears in Your Eyes

So, Prince died.

I've had a few days to calm down and process, so it's not hyperbole when I say that no music-related death that follows will be as impactful for me as this one.

Okay, just the act of writing that sent me on a morbid thought exercise, so I'll qualify the statement. No doubt there are several artists whose eventual deaths will be very tough for me. I won't be ghoulish and list them, especially given how this year has gone for musician deaths, but I can safely say none will match the circumstances of Prince's death. For one, with none of them have I shared the same home city for nearly two decades. None of them are so prodigiously prolific that their deaths will rob us of literally hundreds of songs and performances. And only a select few have as much music that has ingrained itself so thoroughly in my head as Prince has.

In fact, this very blog was once called Pop Life, after the 1985 Around the World in a Day track (I changed it when the Star Tribun…

R.I.P.

Through the Cracks in the Past

And I'm gone Now I'm older than movies And I know who's there When silhouettes fall And I'm gone Like I'm dancing on angels And I'm gone Through the cracks in the past Like a dead man walking -David Bowie, Dead Man Walking
I was surprised by the depth of loss I felt when I learned David Bowie died, and it has taken me some time to unpack why.

What is it that we mourn when a pop culture icon dies?

There's the loss of the art they would have made had they gone on living. There's sympathy for the family they left behind, especially if there were young children. There's the manner of the death itself: accident, suicide, cancer. Any combination of these factors is reason enough to mourn, but none quite explain why we feel deep sadness in losing someone we didn't know. I believe that the degree of our mourning is in direct relation to how many fond memories we have of that icon's work. That's why it feels personal.

I also tend to more fully appreciate …