Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Pin Drop's Echo

No matter how many times I go to the Birchmere, at every visit I am amazed by the quality of sound in that room. The venue mainly treads in singer-songwriter acoustic-types and the room is perfectly suited for it. When plugged in, the vocals are clear and true and sound as if someone is singing in your ear. And the acoustic guitars are warm and bright yet don't have those tinny, abrasive high-ends that are the hallmark of every MTV Unplugged episode. But here's what's really special. When a performer is truly "unplugged" (unamplified) and sitting on the front of the stage strumming and singing into the air, as Josh Ritter did last night peforming the Everly Brothers' "I've Been Cheated" with an acoustic guitar and his opening act singing harmony, you can still hear every tone, every warble, and every word. That room got deathly silent and as they repeated the closing lyric, ever softer each time, it was still clear as crystal. Amazing.

To say that I simply enjoyed the show last night would be an understatement; there's something about the lone singer-songwriter. I've gone back-and-forth on my apprectiation of the One Man Act over time. On the one hand, I love the sound and the fury of a rock 'n roll show. I play the electric guitar and adore it for its flexibility and variability; the way its tones can be variegated by complex electronics or simple touch. The creamy sound of an overdriven vacuum tube or the howling whine of the Larsen effect that can actually be "pushed" to resolve into a scale tone, these are some of the most exciting things about music for me. Yes it is Freudian, yes it is phallic, and yes (at times) it is all about the size of my soundwave. But isn't that what rock 'n roll is about: the id unleashed.

However there is something to be said for stripping the entire facade away until it is just wood, steel, and the human voice -- and of course the song has to be there as well. So when it is, it gives me pause to think that maybe there is something to be said for the notion of one man, one guitar, one song. That is probably why generations less cynical than ours believed that Springsteen could change their lives or Dylan could change the world. It's silly and naive, but I can empathize. Good show last night.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Friday 8-Track

I'm running short on themes of late so this week is yet another random mix. I'm open to thematic suggestions for next week.

Camper Van Beethoven - "Sut Us Down" - Camper Van Beethoven

A truly weird band that is all over the map, stylistically, but had some really cool moments. I caught one of their reunion shows shortly after Joe Strummer died where they did a bitchin' countrified version of "White Riot." Excellent. But this tune is one of my favorite songs of theirs that is their own punk~ish anthem. "You better shut us down."

Radiohead - "Bones" - The Bends

I'm gonna save a little energy here by not repeating my Radiohead screed for the umpteenth time -- but here's the Reader's Digest version. Is this their best album? Yes. Is it a crowning achievement in loud shoegazer rock? Absolutlely. Is it...you get the point. As for "Bones," it's got the chimey guitars and huge hits that put this album in my all-time Top 5. "I used to fly like Peter Pan!!"

The Pretenders - "Talk of the Town" - Pretenders II

Oh Chrissie Hynde. You wreck me baby, yeah, you break me in two. Before I wander off to take a cold shower I will say that this is my second-favorite Pretenders tune. Hynde is a really great songwriter who came up with some great hooks coupled with strong lyrics. I remember a Pernice Brothers show at IOTA where they had just finished a tour in support of The Pretenders. In honor of that they played a great cover of this song that capped off a really intimate show. Good stuff.

Doves - "Pounding" - The Last Broadcast

A song that starts in your gut, moves up your body, and ends in an absolute head rush. After you hear it, you become addicted and like Pavlov's dogs will immediately respond to the crashes in the intro. I love the fact that the song is called "Pounding" and its drum part is a straight pounding downstroke on every beat. Ahh, simplicity.

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists - "Walking to Do" - Shake the Sheets

I cannot wait for this show in March. Talk about a release. This album took a few listens to grow on me and now I am convinced that it is his best to date. Yes, even better than Hearts of Oak. This particular tune is a nice closer to the album and has some great sing-along moments live. "Rock Creek Park, to The Ave. and on past the zoo..."

Guided By Voices - "I Am A Tree" - Mag Earwhig

Doug Gillard, you are the man and I bow to your wailing Les Paul. The one song that you wrote that actually made it onto a GBV album and the song (well, second song) that hooked me on the band. Thank you for being one of the coolest musicians I have ever met. And what a fucking solo!

Rolling Stones - "Tumbling Dice" - Exile On Main St.

For whatever reason, this week's list is being somewhat inspired by a number of covers I have had the pleasure and surprise of hearing done by some of my favortie bands. During the encore from the only time I saw Son Volt, they performed a rollicking version of this song along with The Continental Drifters. Just a good straight rock song with those classic open-G riffs and a deep, deep juke-joint groove. Dig that lazy backbeat.

Sloan - "Money City Maniacs" - 4 Nights at the Palais Royale

I have no idea what this song is about. "And the joke is, when he awoke his, body was covered in Coke fizz." But that don't matter because it straight rocks -- especially this live version. Who doesn't love to shout along? "Hey you!!!" Rock and roll can save your life.

--- and as promised, the make-up track from last week ---

Tower of Power - "What is Hip?" - Tower of Power

Here is a track that will definitely get your ass moving. I wonder why it is you don't here really good songs with horns anymore? Lenny Pickett of SNL fame breaks out on this album but what gets me most i sthe double-stop sixteenth notes of Rocco Prestia. I have never heard anything so tight yet with clear tone. Between the bass and the drums, the rhythm section propels this tune into some hardcore funk. (Bonus points if you know in which sitcom this song was used for a musical montage.)

The Domesday Book

What the fuck?!?!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

No thank you, Alex...

...I didn't want to be on your show anyway.

Immediate reaction after taking the Jeopardy Online Challenge -- I think I performed as I typically do in an test/academic environment; above average, even great at times, but never among the stellar upper ranks. The site doesn't give you your score but I would guess that I was somewhere around 35 out of 50. Above average, even pretty good, but definitely not going to get me on Jeopardy.

In retrospect, this little endeavor has been a nice metaphor for the entirety of my scholastic career which was marked by three things; great potential, constant underachievement, and a strong slacker ethos; all of which were present at an early age. In first grade I moved back to the States after living overseas for three years. At my new school I had to take a reading and comprehension test to determine what level "reading group" I would be working in for that year. I had no interest in such a test. There were three groups (low, middle, and high in terms of aptitude) and I predictably scored right on top of the bell curve. My grandmother, an education professional of 40+ years, was incredulous as she believed that while precocious and obnoxious, I was also pretty advanced. As always, Grandma was right and after two weeks I got bumped up. I moved two more times during elementary school and this same situation happened twice again. I am a waste of SCANTRON.

For whatever reason, I didn't really become the slacker that I am today until around 4th grade. In Fairfax County we all had to take IQ tests back then and I scored two points under the threshold that would qualify me to go to the special smart kids school. The school asked my parents and my parents asked me if I wanted to take the test again to see if I could place into the magnet program:

"What do they do there?"
"The classes are different and the kids do a lot of special assignments."
"Sounds like more work."
"Don't look at it that way."
"No, I think I'll stay at Herndon. It's easy."

My parents were less than thrilled but to their credit, they never pushed me into anything I didn't want to do (except every fucking aspect of Catholicism). A similar scene played out again just before high school where I got guilted into taking the test to attend the county's magnet high school. Now my eye were wide fucking open this time and I knew that a) it was a looong bus ride, b) it was full of social retards and while I was not the coolest kid, I wasn't suffering any abuse at the hands of my peers, and c) the classes were way hard with all kinds of extracurricular work. So I took the test but let's just say that I did not try very hard and lo and behold, I went to my regular high school with all of my friends. To this day however my mother insists that I went in and intentionally threw the exam. Explanations to the contrary still fall on deaf ears.

Themes of this nature continued to play out throughout college and grad school where I would do fair to good but consistently fall short of some "greater potential" that my family alleged I was squandering. In my defense, I worked my ass off in some of my harder courses because I refused to be beat down by topics such as Complex Math & Vector Analysis or Solid State Physics II or Electromagnetic Field Theory. But in my parents' defense there were several others that I punted by actually calculating (seriously) the minimum amount of effort required to get a B or in some cases, simply pass. Yeah, I could have worked a little harder but I also could have had more fun too.

But here's what is different about last night. There is no ambiguity. There is no slacker indifference this time around. I really, really, really, wanted to be on Jeopardy. C'est le vie, we can't all be Ken Jennings -- otherwise we would all wear strange undergarments and not drink. No thank you, Alex...

Once more unto the breach...

Tonight is the night I take the Online Jeopardy Challenge. In preparation I have been watching the show every night and eating a lot of brain food; chicken, asparagus, broccoli, et cetera. And I gotta tell you that other than my pee smelling bad (love that methyl mercaptan) and a little Seinfeld withdrawal, I don't think I have much to show for it. In fact I think I have been doing progressively worse each night. Of course it cannot be all my fault as there have been a number of distracting competitors of late. There was Creepy Ponytail Guy, Black Comic Book Guy, Wrong Answer Lady (she kept buzzing in with the wrong answers over and over again), and a few others all of whom managed to take me off my game with their idiosyncrasies.

But that's really just a rationalization and not an excuse. My confidence was shaken to the core last night after mediocre Jeopardy and Double Jeopardy rounds, I couldn't even muster a guess to the Final Jeopardy question which in retrospect was so obvious that it must have disturbed the neighbors to hear such an odd profanity screamed aloud in the building:

"Alexis de Toqueville, son of a bitch!!"

Friday, January 19, 2007

Friday 8-Track

Appros pos of nothing and everything, this week we have yet another random mix tape. Phoning it in? Just a bit.

Josh Ritter - "Wolves" - Animal Years

This album has really been growing on me and I am looking forward to Ritter's solo acoustic show at the Birchmere. As for this particular tune, it's got a nice mix of simple songcraft, atmospheric production, and cool imagery. The hook has been running through my head for over two weeks.

Steely Dan - "My Old School" - Countdown To Ecstasy

Perhaps my favorite Steely Dan tune, there is just a little bit of everything in this killer song. You've got a rockin' beat, those sly jazz changes here and there, an absolutely great horn arrangement, and (what else, of course) blistering guitar work that still makes my hair stand up everytime I hear it. Jeff "Skunk" Baxter is the man, but people always laugh at me when I make wild claims that this is the best guitar solo put to wax. Whatever, if I could play like that...

Jurassic 5 - "Quality Control" - Quality Control

I own very little hip hop, mostly because much of the genre doesn't move me. However if I do happen to pick up a a hip hop album, it is because I think it is the top of its class. As was the case with Quality Control. There was something about the beats, the samples, the rhymes, and the delivery that weaves in and out like Run and D in the dayz of old. The title track is a standout.

Bob Mould - "Wishing Well" - Workbook

Bob's first album following the breakup of Husker Du, halfway through this track shows he still wanted to wail. There's a lot of anger in this song but when the acoustic verses give way to the big electric solo and the screaming bridge; HUGE. It must have been intentional the way the volume in the mix practically doubles when the solo starts. Hell yeah.

Led Zeppelin - "The Song Remains The Same" - Houses of the Holy

In November of '94 I slept on a very cold sidewalk (OK, in my car) in front of a Kemp Mill Records in order to buy tickets for the Page and Plant reunion tour which at the time I thought was the closest thing to Second Coming. Of course rhings went awry the following morning when the dipshit working the ticket computer forgot the password to log in to the system. Ten of the most excruciating minutes of my life were lost while everyone else in the metro area started snappin up tickets. We ended up in the nosebleeds at the Cap Center but all was made better when I heard this song. Dig that 12-string drone.

Ash - "Kung Fu" - 1977

Without question, the greatest pop-punk ode to Jackie Chan ever penned. Period. And I quote, "Oh Daniel san, made in Taiwan, come on Jackie Chan, uh-uh uh-uh-uh uh uh uh." Pure poetry.

Cyndi Lauper - "Time After Time" - She's So Unusual

For a time (no pun intended) I used to think of this song as firmly ensconced within the 80's as a specific piece of pop kitsch from the era. I was such a fool. A while back I heard this song on the radio and it really hit me; this is a fantastically well written pop song. Co-written by Rob Hyman of The Hooters ("And We Danced"), they hit on a great melody. I really like the synth and subtle guitar and the sparse harmonies. And that fade out at the end is sooooo sweet. I'm so glad I came around on this song.

OK...I'm sleepy and not feeling it this week. Seven it is. Nine next week.

Monday, January 15, 2007


I have begun making preliminary plans for my forthcoming 30th birthday celebration and can’t help but reflect on where I was at the various stages of my life. Fortunately I have been blogging throughout my entire existence so I was able to go back through entry archives for the various decades of my life. Here are a few selections.

12 February 1977 (Age: -1 month)

I’ve been thinking about moving but you know, for a uterus this place isn’t half bad. Maybe I should have signed more than a 9-month lease. On the other hand, the accommodations have been a major strain on my sex life. Floating around in amniotic fluid all day has permanently raisin’d my budding digits and this fetal position has completely wrecked my posture, neither of which are gonna help me with the ladies. Plus my mom is ALWAYS around either fussing over me or complaining about what I am up to. I’m pushing on her kidneys, I give her high blood pressure, I instigate food cravings, etc. Yeah right, I don’t even like tuna salad so there’s no way that casserole was my idea.

Besides, it probably is time to move on. Geez, it seems like just yesterday that I could count on one hand how many of my cells had divided and now my head has almost completely turn toward the birth canal. But I think getting out and growing will be a good thing. This Star Wars movie that’s coming out sounds like it’s gonna kick serious ass and I can’t wait to figure out what this thing between my legs is for. (I’m definitely gonna stick it in something and see what happens.) Yeah, growing up is gonna be cool.

21 June 1987 (Age: 10)

Swim practice was crazy, it was so cold this morning that all the girls were smuggling raisins (that what James said it’s called when girls’ nipples stick out). Man, I had such a boner! I think once fifth grade starts in the fall I should probably start dating. That’s when we get to take sex ed. so then I’ll know what to do.

Dude! I was trying to fit one of my GI Joe’s (Flint) in the cockpit of an X-Wing Fighter but I snapped one of his knee joints. It sucked. Anyway, I’ve been thinking that I need to start taking control of my life and I am going to start by taking better care of my Joe’s. I’ve already lost Storm Shadow’s bow and Zartan’s facemask, and the Crimson Twins are so scuffed up that I can’t even tell which one is Tomax and which one is Xamot anymore. I need to make a change.

Oh yeah! I was talking to Eddie the other day about our ideas for a new Star Wars movie. That would be so awesome, there is no way it could suck.

14 April 1997 (Age: 20)

Fucking Christ will this semester ever end?!? I haven’t even started my goddamn final project for Electronics lab yet. I can’t believe I was stuck with this hick from Big Stone Gap as a lab partner. He barely understands something as simple as Ohm’s Law and he lost the 10x probe for the oscilloscope. What a dumbass! I was so pissed when I got out of class today that I started flaming some newbie on alt.news.music.davematthewsband.tapetraders who was trying to trade a 2nd gen audience (!) tape from some Floodzone show for a 1st gen soundboard tape of the ’95 Roseland show with Trey and Popper. Are you fucking kidding me? People are such losers. (This dorm dial-up is so slow! I can’t wait to move off campus and buy a 56kb modem. That thing is gonna smoke!)

Anyway, I am so stressed out that I am definitely getting fucked up tonight. I’ve got at least five Beast Ice’s in my mini-fridge and I think Scott still has half of that bottle of Goldschlagger we stole from that shitty frat party last week. There’s supposed to be a party out in Foxridge that the girls from the sixth floor are going to and I am all over that. I think that chick Julia with the huge juggs that everyone calls Top Heavy is going as well. I was behind her in the breakfast line at Dietrich yesterday, oh my God! Everyone tells me I need to be a dick if I am gonna hook up with one of these chicks, so tonight is the night. I’m gonna talk to her at the party and be a complete dick…I hope my roommate isn’t home tonight.

Oh yeah! There was an article online about the new Star Wars movie. It’s gonna be so sweet! A young Obi-Wan Kenobi, how could it not be awesome? There is no possible way this movie could suck.

Huh. It seems like very little has changed over the years -- save for the naivetee regarding the new Star Wars films. Perhaps turning 30 will bring on a bit of a maturation process.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Circle The One That Doesn't Belong

A belated "Happy New Year!" from Local 16. I had intended to post some thoughts about my first year as one of the hosts of the annual New Year's party but the Johnnie Walker Black in my hand blurred many of the evening's plot lines. Suffice to say that Phil J. wins the award for Most Excellent Attire and that a good time was had by all.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Friday 8-Track

Yet another one I "think" I have done before, but Blogger says otherwise so we shall proceed. This week I ran into one of my former students who is well on her way to becoming a very fine concert flautist, so I thought I might shake it up a bit this Friday and do something a little more highbrow -- orchestral/symphonic music.

Dmitri Shostakovich - Symphony No. 5 - "Allegro non troppo"

John Williams is often accused of being derivative via claims that he has taken a lot of Romantic classics and sort of mashed them up into his epic film scores (kind of like Puffy). Shostakovich is one composer where you can almost immediately hear where Williams' work came from. This fourth (and final) movement from his fifth symphony is so much fun and you would think, as you listen, that there is a film splashed on a screen somewhere in the background. It is very Russian at times (read: intense, brooding) yet the Romantic backdrop persists throughout as the main theme pops up several times including the end with a lot of tension and majesty. Good stuff.

Hector Berlioz - Symphonie fantastique - "March au supplice"

This piece is very, um, French -- you can hear where a lot of Bizet's inspiration came from, I think. The March to the Scaffold is the fourth of five movements and is about the main character's opiate-induced nightmare where he sees himself being led off for execution. When I say it is very French I mean that for such a harrowing theme, the piece is still somewhat light and fanciful. If it had been Wagner doing it, g-d only knows how terrifying it would have sounded. Anyway, I remember doing a watere-down arrangement of this in 8th grade but the full orchestral arrangement is really cool, and a classic.

George Gershwin - Rhapsody In Blue

I think that this is one of the most "American" pieces of music ever written. The collision of Western European classicism, the proto-pop of Tin Pan Alley, and jazz styles is something that could only have come form the Land of the Free. It moves all over the place, in and out of time and key, but I love that big classic ending the most -- you know it, the one from the airline commercials. I saw a saxophone quartet perform this in odd chapel in Prague once which was really cool but nothing compares to the complete orchestration.

Modest Mussorgsky - Pictures at an Exhibition - "The Great Gate of Kiev"

This is so enjoyable. Composed as a piece for solo piano, it was teh Maruice Ravel arrangement for orchestra that truly displayed the song's potential. As I have mentioned before, my high school band played this and it was one of the most exhilirating performances I have ever been a part of it. Thankfully we had an incredible trumpet section which is so necessary throughout but especially during this final movement about the Bogatyr Gates in Kiev. The movement preceding it is this odd Russina fable known as "The Hut of Baba Yaga" and the end of it crescendos into the first huge chord of "The Great Gate of Kiev." These looooong legato brass chords are so big and so regal...chills. I love it.

Giuseppe Verdi - Requiem - "Dies Irae"

Fucking awesome. Seriously. I can't think of a better way to describe this movement of Verdi's Requiem. It is so terrifying and compelling and loud that you can absolutely get drawn into it. Elements to note are the huge percussive hits that work in a call-and-response with the orchestral hits as well as the frantic high strings (similar to Wagner's darkest and angriest moments) that sound like the heavens are being burned form the sky. I don't know if even a Marshall stack turned up to 11 could compete with these 2 minutes.

Franz Liszt - Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2

OK, not an orchestral work but one helluva piano piece. Of course I like it for the same reason everyone else does, its use in both Rhapsody Rabbit and The Cat Concerto. Essentially the same movies, Bugs Bunny attempts to play the piece while chasing a mouse around inside his grand piano (and in the other film Tom chases arround Jerry). The song is perfect for an animated movie because of its lilting beginnning and subsequently furious moments throughout. Both of these movies still make me laugh.

Dmitri Shostakovich - Symphony No. 10 - "Allegro"

Darker and more sever than his fifth symphony, the tenth has a lot of cool percussive moments. In the "Allegro" the basses and cellos shine with heavy bow strokes in which you can almost visualize the right angles. Syncopated percussion hits against the low-string bow strokes, like in the Verdi Requiem, give this piece the terror of Stalin's high-stepping footsoldiers. Very cool.

Pytor Tchaikovsky - 1812 Overture

OK, waaaay obvious. But I love the fact that it was referenced in Calvin & Hobbes strip where Calvin, whose parents own only "classical" records, discovers the great Overture and surpsingly enjoys it.

Calvin: "Interesting percussion."
Hobbes: "Those are cannons."
Calvin: "And they perform this in crowded concert halls?? Gee, I thought classical music was boring!"

Oh, and the bell chimes at the ned kick ass.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Brain Drain

Be it a result of ageing, watching too many VH1 clips shows, or a consistent upswing in alcohol intake over the years, I am afraid that I am getting dumber. Not that I do dumb shit, I mean I do but that has always been a character trait, but rather I think I may be losing my vast reserve of wholly useless knowledge. I don't know how you determine something like that or how practically appreciable it really is but, well, I don't think I am as good at Jeopardy as I once was.

You see, I used to watch a lot of Jeopardy. A lot. In high school I watched just about everyday, which was a bit of a problem only because I would have to flip back and forth between that and reruns of Star Trek: TNG. Obviously sex, outside of self-abuse, was pretty much a non-option for me during my pimply youth -- which is surprsing given how handsome I looked in my marching band uniform...according to my mom. Anyway, I could kick fucking ass on that show. I would sit in my room shouting out answers in the form of a question (in retrospect this explains so much) and I had a very high percentage. Especially when the high school challenge was on because let's be honest, those questions are always cake.

My senior year of high school during the beginning of my epic tenure at the local Blockbuster, I worked with a girl who actually went on the Jeopardy High School Challenge that year. She was your typical type-A overachiever; going to Penn, no personality, uppity, had never seen Star Wars, not good at common sense tasks, etc. I had watched the entire tournament that year and she made it to the final rounds. Now playing at home, I was doing phenomenally well. I even recall batting 1.000 during one of the episodes. (No revisionist history at work here.) So, Ms. Hot Shit makes it to Final Jeopardy of the final round and blows it. She could have won the whole damn thing but she couldn't recall the name of the epic poem that represents the largest example of Old English text -- which I of course knew: What is Beowulf. Damn I am awesome. Now this all went down months before she started working at the 'Buster, my 'Buster, so when she showed up for her first day I knew exactly who she was and like any New Fish in The Yard I needed to put her in her place. The withering stare I got when I greeted her with one word, Beowulf, was absolutely priceless.

But I digress, we are talking about ME here. Why is it that I believe I am dumbing down? Because I have taken to watching Jeopardy on the regular again (perhaps because my sex life of late resembles that of its secondary school self) but my skills are weak. I've gone soft. I'm hanging in there but my dominant years are gone, like an old ballplayer with bad knees. Shit, last night I only got two (!) questions right in the "Hawaii" category which is at least a little bit pathetic. This is a crisis. If I don't have my useless trivia knowledge, what do I have left? If I can't beat people at stupid fact-based board games, how will I justify my solipsisitic sense of superiority? If I can't kick ass on Jeopardy, what will I do from 7:30 until 8pm? (Another Seinfeld rerun?)

Unacceptable. I am going back into training. It is time to renew my subscription to The Economist. I will daily memorize dictionary.com's Word of the Day, randomly surf Wikipedia for at least 20 minutes, read at least 40 pages of whatever book I am in to, and do 1,000 pushups. I am taking the online Jeopardy challenge at the end of the month!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Another Roadside Attraction

The side of the highway is always an interesting place for the collection of, well, things that don't belong on the side of the highway. I have seen a Don Jon, a burning mattress -- it didn't speak to me in Charlton Heston's voice, several of those stupid Calvary crucifixtion "monuments," an aquarium, and a few other odds an ends. And I once sat riveted in my car listening to a Radio Lab story about someone who found a box full of letters from hundreds of GI's all written to the same woman during WWII. They were found on Rte. 101 in Northern California after the guy pulled off to the side of the road to observe a goat standing on a cow's back. Seriously.

The reason this story comes to mind is because I saw something just a little bit odd -- although not nearly as awesome as a goat standing on the back of a cow -- on my drive in this morning. If you make the east-west commute from 66 to the inner of the outer counties (Fairfax and Loudoun), then you are familiar with the looping merge-way where 495, 66, and 123 all dump off onto the Toll Road. Tearing around that large bend this morning, in the dark, I happened to notice a Big Wheels bike/thing/whatever sort of capsized just off of the left lane. I almost rear-ended the car in front of me as I begin laughing hystericaly thinking about how this damn thing ended up there.

The likely scenario is that it flew out of the back of some pickup taking the turn a little too fast. Less likely is that some pissed off father pulled over his minivan, ripped the thing out of the back, and to make a point to his misbehaving child, hurled it off to the side of the road where it now lies. That's a little more interesting but to be honest, the first thing that came to my mind is that someone was riding the damn thing along 66, "exited" onto the Toll Road, was seriously hauling ass, and then wiped out into the ditch going around that big bend. Which is highly conceivable as those Big Wheels have a narrow wheel base and little to no traction. Plus they're probably only rated up to about 3.5 mph and this hypothetical rider must have been doing at least 20 times that speed.

Now I know that is in all likelihood not what happened, but honestly, it was the first scenario that crossed my mind. I need coffee.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Friday 8-Track

In honor of the reissue of Wowee Zowee I just picked up (a.k.a. the Sordid Sentinels Edition), today's 8-Track is posted in honor of the crowned heads of college radio (no, not R.E.M.), the sovereigns of slack, the imperators of indie rock...Pavement. If any one band had to be chosen as the avatar of all musical things GenX~y and hipster chic, it would have to be Pavement. But that is all bullshit anyway because they straight up rock. Let's get to it.

"Rattled by the Rush" - Wowee Zowee

If you asked me to describe Pavement I would probably just play this song. It's got all the elements of their own style with the sideways guitar parts, lazy grooves, frenetic rock outs, and Stephen Malkmus' stoner gibberish. Fucking awesome.

"Stereo" - Brighten The Corners

Perhaps my second-favorite Pavement tune, I never ever grow tired of hearing it. It defies both description and comparison but I can say with confidence that it poses one of the greatest interrogatives in the history of rock, "What about the voice of Geddy Lee, how does it get so high? I wonder if he speaks like an ordinary guy." I know him, and he does.

"Silence Kit" - Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain

This makes my list of Top 5 Side One Song One's (album openers). The contrast on the intro is just fantastic with Malkmus "fumbling" through the opening guitar riff until the sloppiness just ends, the count off, and then...honey-smoothe overdriven guitar with a cowbell on the downbeats. Sublime.

"Speak, See, Remember" - Terror Twilight

This is a good album but it's a bit overreaching and it just felt like it would be their last. And it was. This is a album is not a definitive one for the band because it is full of a lot of good but not great songs. What I like about this tune is that it serves as the "weird groovey" tune (of which there is one on every album) but it also kicks into a straight ahead piece of rock in the last third. I believe all of that creamy breakup on the guitars is courtesy of the Hot Cake Overdrive pedal -- niiiiiice.

"Kennel District" - Wowee Zowee

Other guitarist and contributing songwriter Spiral Stairs (Scott Kannberg) was definitely caught in the glare of Malkmus' ever brightening talent and he only had one or two not-so-good songs per album (in my opinion). However this is one of my fave Pave tunes because of its drop-D simplicity and the guitar atmospherics in the background. It is pretty simple but has got a great hook.

"Father To A Sister Of Thought" - Wowee Zowee

Another cool tune with contrasting parts and good imagery. I like the country vibe with the steel guitar and then it's just obliterated by fuzz and big drums.

"Cut Your Hair" - Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain

So, this is it. Hands down my favorite Pavement tune (I think). It is noteworthy that their most commercially successful song -- it appeared in the Brady Bunch movie -- is also, lyrically, their most straightforward. It is a great rock song about "selling out" in order to be a rock star. Which is at least a little ironic seeing as the rights to the song were licensed for use in a very cheesy studio film. But nonetheless I will always have a little place in my heart for this tune which a couple of my bands have covered over the years, "Face right down to the practice room where attention and fame are a career. Career! Career! CAREER!"

Thursday, January 04, 2007

I [heart] Wilco

Does your favorite band always seem to sum up your mood, or are they one of your favorites because they so often express your mood? Chicken, egg.

I'm Always in Love

Why I wonder, is my heart full of holes?
And the feeling goes but my hair keeps growing
Will I set the sun
On a big-wheeled wagon?
Oh I'm bragging
I'm always in love

When I let go of your throat-sweet throttle
When I clean the lash of your black-belt model
Will I catch the moon
Like a bird in a cage?
It's for you I swoon
I'm always in love

I don't get the connection
If this is only a test
I hope I do my best
You know I won't forget

When I fold the cold in my jet-lag palm
When I soak so long I forget my mother
Will I set the sun
On a big-wheeled wagon?
Oh I'm bragging
I'm always in love

It's a drag I sang
Oh I'm always in love
I'm worried
I'm always in love

Oh I'm worried
I'm worried
I'm worried
I'm always in love
I'm worried
I'm worried
I'm always in love
I'm worried
I'm worried
I'm always in love

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Laziness Is Not Pretty

I hate to start the new year off with a bit of "hate" but unfiortunately, that is how I roll. What's my beef, you ask? Sheer laziness.

9pm Monday night marked the end of a 24-hour bender which translated to me needing all of yesterday off to recover. That's what vacay is for so I might as well use it to better my personal health. Anyway, for the last several weeks my fridge and cupboards have been stocked in true bachelor fashion: beer & hot sauce and stale Triscuits & Skippy. Finding myself somewhat upright and mobile after noon yesterday, I figured the rest of my free day would best be spent returning my soiled tuxedo and buying some fresh groceries.

Sidebar: The white dinner jacket is a fantastic tuxedo option for standing out in a crowd (although I did get more compliments from men than women which is scary -- flattering, but scary). However the major drawback is that it is white. In the light of day I could not believe some of the damage done with the flotsam and jetsam of the NYE bacchanal smeared from sleeve to sleeve. A bit of shocked investigation on my part turned up dirt, grime, makeup, lipstick, wine, scotch, and champagne stains in various locations. Had a CSI unit come across the thing it would probably look as if some sex crime had occurred even though I woke up alone in my soft, warm bed on January 1st. Suffice to say, I walked into the rental place rather sheepishly yesterday.

But back to the lecture at hand; grocery shopping. Upon returning my tux I continued west on Wilson Boulevard towards Ballston to hit the Harris Teeter (a.k.a The Hottie Teeter). All went well as my weary body rejoiced at the mere sight of fresh fruits and vegetables having rightly assumed that the self-abuse of prior days was finally coming to an end -- well, one form of self-abuse at least. Unfortunately my little trip to the store was spoiled on the way out as I followed a attractive young lady pushing her cart out to the parking lot. We were parked near one another and I watched her finish loading her groceries into the car and then commit one of the tackiest sins on my list of Things One Does Not Do. She parked her now empty shopping cart in the stall adjacent to her car and drove off. Abandoned.

The goddamn entrance to the store where the carts are stacked was easily, 20 yeards away. 60 fucking feet but she could not find the energy to return her borrowed item to its home as the rest of society does daily. I don't know about you, but I blame her parents. And gay marriage.