So, there’s a pretty great free concert tonight in the Power and Light District here in KC. Better Than Ezra is playing. I have seen these guys probably 10 times, and have never been disappointed with a single show. For those who don’t know, BTE started in New Orleans in 1988. All of the original members were attending LSU and playing house parties in their spare time. In 1990, their lead guitarist, Joel Rundell committed suicide. the band took some time off, but by the end of 1990 they were back as a trio playing the same LSU circuit as before. BTE’s first label release was Deluxe in 1993 on Swell Records. In 1995, the album was re-released when the band was signed by Elektra records. Deluxe spawned the hit Good, which hit #1 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Chart, as well as the singles In The Blood (#4 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Chrat), and Roselia (#24 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Chart). The albums also contains crowd favorites Porcelain, and This Time of Year. The band has gone through a few personnel changes throught the years including the departure of original drummer Cary Bonnecaze who was replaced by Travis McNabb after the Deluxe album. Lead vocalist and song writer Kevin Griffin and bassist Tom Drummond are the only original members left in BTE. McNabb left the band in 2009 to focus on his work and touring with country/bluegrass group Sugarland. McNabb was replaced by drummer Michael Jerome before the release of BTE’s latest album Paper Empire, which released in March of 2009.
There are quite a few theories, but the band has never acknowledged where the name Better Than Ezra came from.
Below is a discography, and my picks for “must listen” tracks from each album.
Deluxe – 1993, 1995: In The Blood is quite possibly my favorite BTE song. I’m not sure what it is about this track. It’s pretty haunting, and the lyrics really strike a chord with me for some reason. I have done this one on karaoke a few times, and people actually clapped. 🙂 When BTE does this one live, they sometimes launch into a little interlude of Blue Oyster Cult’s Don’t Fear The Reaper. Pretty awesome. I also really like Rosealia and Good, but another track, Porcelain is almost a tie for my favorite. EXTREMELY haunting, almost scary lyrics about not wanting to lose the one you love. There is also a great remix, the VooDoo Mix, on the Greatest Hits album that is amazing.
Friction Baby – 1996: King of New Orleans is a great, racous tune about being the ‘life of the party’ in a town that used to never stop partying. This one is a great reminder to me of what it was like to party in pre-Katrina New Orleans. It really captures the spirit of the city in my mind. Desperately Wanting was the big hit off of this album, hitting #10 on Billboard’s Rock Chart. It’s a great song about, well, desperately wanting someone you may or may not be able to have. That’s a feeling I have definitely been able to relate to in my life.
How Does Your Garden Grow? – 1998: Where do I start on this one? Wow, a lot of good stuff here. At The Stars was probably the biggest hit, not a bad song at all. There’s also Allison Foley, a great party track, another that makes me feel like a good ‘ol time in The Big Easy. Live Again (which just came on as I am writing this) is a song I can definitely relate to. Kevin Griffin talks about the song as it’s beginning on the Live at House of Blues, New Orleans CD and says it’s about when you spend a lot of time locked in your house alone after someone you love has kicked your ass, and about how it feels when you finally leave the house and try to move on. Such a great message about starting over and taking your life back after you’ve lost love. Probably my favorite track here though is One More Murder. The opening notes sound like a music box gone psycho. Extremely haunting picture painted of the other side of New Orleans and the poverty and crime in the city. Probably not one for New Orleans’ tourism council to use in ads. 🙂
Closer – 2001: This one has one of my least favorite tracks, Extra Ordinary. I guess it’s a pretty good party song, and works if you are having as bunch of beers and around a bunch of friends who don’t care if you get goofy. (Must be why it’s one of my best friend Scott’s favorites. 🙂 ) So, I guess the song has a place afterall. I really like A Lifetime, a song about wondering exactly what to do when death unexpectedly takes someone too soon. It’s not a dreary funeral dirge either. It’s more a song about trying to figure out how to celebrate the life of someone you love who is gone forever. I have always wondered what REM song they are talking about singing on the hood of the car.
Before the Robots – 2005: This later album kind of shows the band trying some different things. One of these different things is the track Juicy. Not a fan of this one at all. Kevin Griffin’s vocals on this track are almost unrecognizeable, and he sounds like a chick singing over a 70’s porno groove. I can handle the porno groove, but the androgynous vocals make me cringe a little. The song was also used in ads for ABC’s Desperate Housewives, which definitely is a negative in my book. On the brighter side, I love the track A Southern Thing, a tale of two misfits tearing it up in the seedy South. For some reason, A Lifetime is also included on this disc.
Paper Empire – 2009: BTE took quite a bit of time off from recording between Before the Robots and Paper Empire. I think it may have been a good thing. this album was recorded in Los Angeles. Griffin made a move to L.A. in 2006, needing a suitable place for his child to go to school after Katrina crumbled New Orleans’ infrastructure, and also somewhere conducive to his music career. In a leased recording studio in Laurel Canyon the album came together. The first single, Absolutely Still is a song about the feeling you have when love is new and you never want it end or change. You just want to hold that feeling forever. I Just Knew is probably my favorite track. It’s about how suddenly a friendship can turn into something more, and how when it happens you know it’s right. A feel good song by all means.
So, basically, as you can see, I am pretty excited for the show tonight. Great music, a great girl, and hopefully a few friends I haven’t seen in a while. I will post a review in the next couple of days.