Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday 8-Track

One of the books I am currently reading is Perfect From Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life by John Sellers. Not to slam the guy, because I am enjoying the book, but it basically reads like a second-rate Chuck Klosterman book who just so happens to be a colleague of his at Spin. And if you don't have a pretty serious relationship with the material (i.e. the music he gushes over) then the book is almost unreadable. That being said, I kinda like it. The book originally caught my eye only because of the title which is lifted from Built To Spill's third album -- I have an ongoing debate with a friend who feels that Perfect From Now On is the band's masterpiece while I contend that the follow-up, Keep It Like A Secret, is even better. These arguments involve a lot of incredulity and "Can you believe this fucking guy?" glances to bystanding friends who shrink away and treat us like lepers during these often public moments.

Anyway, I see the title on the spine and guffaw rather loudly in the middle of the store because I think that someone has actually bothered to write a biography on Built To Spill. To be sure, they are one of my favorite bands and I revere Doug Martsch's quirky guitar genius but if I had to guess, I would say that they would make for one of the least interesting biography subjects ever published. Although it turns out that the book is really about one man's obsession with a certain broadly define genre and specifically New Order, Joy Division, The Smiths, Pavement, and the band to whom he devotes the most ink, Guided By Voices. I have now been inspired to offer my own meditation on why I too think that GBV is the greatest band in the world (a band that I have flown across the continent to see on their final tour and who forced me to buy two copies of the same "greatest hits" compilations because one was track-sequenced chronologically and the other was sequenced by GBV mastermind Bob Pollard for maximum effect) but for now, I devote an entire Friday 8-Track to them.

"Bulldog Skin" - Mag Earwhig

The song that started it all for me and the reason I fell in love. I got on the GBV bandwagon late in the game and in retrospect, this album marks a departure from the homemade lo-fi sound of their "classic" era. But I don't think I would have been ready for that if I hadn't first been exposed to the big sound on this album, particularly the playing of then-new guitarist Doug Gillard. The unconventional yet seemingly perfect guitar solo of this tune had me at hello.

"Echos Myron" - Bee Thousand

If someone asked me to describe GBV in about two minutes, I would simply play "Echos Myron" and grin. The songwriting is absolute Bob Pollard and contains a fantastic lyrical juxtaposition between the somewhat poetic line "Man of wisdom and man of compromise. Man of weak flesh in armoured disguise," followed shortly thereafter with one of my all-time favorite Pollard moments, "And shit yeah it's cool!"

"Glad Girls" - Isolation Drills

Want to see 1200 people all jump in unison? The song opens with Bob yelling the intro "Hey-ey Glad..." and the band comes crashing in on "Girls!" and everyone goes insane and it takes you a moment to realize that you are pumping your fist and screaming every word. But when you do it is sublime. I dare anyone to listen to this song (cranked up) and not bob his head.

"Game of Pricks" - Alien Lanes

If you can write a good hook with a great lyric or great hook with a good lyric, you can rule the world. Bob is king. "I climb up on the house, weep to water the trees."

"Cut-Out Witch" - Under the Bushes Under the Stars

I like to think that this song is about a magical witch made of construction paper that sort of "comes to life." Although it sounds a lot spookier than that and rocks way harder than anything I ever made with safety scissors and edible paste.

"Exit Flagger" - Propeller

I am running out of different ways to say, "GBV is the singular exemplar of indie rock and here is another reason why." (And yes, I am aware of how prone I am to making hyperbolic declarations.)

"I Am A Scientist" - Bee Thousand

Now I am getting way too worked up and need to drop everything and rock out in my apartment for at least an hour. (Best New Year's Ever: '01-'02 NYE spent in my basement shit-faced on Iron City with nothing but my stereo and every GBV album I owned. There may still be a collection of voicemail messages documenting that night's descent into madness.) The main reason I flew to San Diego to see their farewell tour was because of one line in this song.

"Motor Away" - Alien Lanes

That's it, time to rock. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Take me out tonight...

...Where there's music and there's people
And they're young and alive

It's usually the shows about which I am most ambivalent that turn out to be surprisingly good. Last night I went to see Pete Yorn for, I don' t know, the fifth time. He is one of my guilty pleasures which means that he is an artist I enjoy but offers me no hipster/indie-rock cred. (The attendant gaggle of drunken meatheads and soho's at his shows is one reason why.)

Anyway, I wasn't really feeling like going out last night and I was gonna blow off the show but I shook the lazy out of my weary bones and shot across the bridge to the 9:30 Club. And I am quite glad that I did. Not only did I have two pleasant encounters with friends whom I was not expecting to see at the show (this is such a small town) but also, Mssr. Yorn played two juicy covers that were likewise unexpected. The first one dovetails nicely with a thread from the previous post about a cover of "Tumbling Dice" I once saw Son Volt perform at the 9:30. Well last night the man and his band broke out "Dead Flowers" which was spot on excellent since he has added a new touring guitarist who also plays the pedal steel. Joe Kennedy's hot licks got lost in the mix but other than that it was sweet.

The second cover I should have expected since he played it the last time he was in town, and seems to always a Smiths tune at his shows -- "Panic" was the norm for a while. So he declares that "this is one of my favorite songs" and jumps right into the choppy-chorded intro for "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out." I was giddy as a school girl...

Monday, March 19, 2007

Welcome to the Sexy Years

As of March 19th 2007, this compilation is thirty years in the making. I did not make mix tapes during my awkward teenage years but since it has become retroactively cool to have done so, I am rather desperately jumping on the bandwagon well behind schedule. However unlike most mix tapes where the editor attempts to convey some sentiment via the art of others more gifted than he, usually unrequited infatuation, I am simply trying to score the film that is my life at 30. Some of the songs do have themes to which I am particularly sympathetic at this milestone, but the only real aspiration I have for this endeavor is that I end up with a setlist that still rocks well after my thirties.

Bu before we count it off and kick it in, I want to emphasize that this is me at 30 as opposed to up to and including. This will help to explain such omissions as Crystal Gayle, most of Poison’s back catalog, anything form my college tape-trading days, and a few others from times gone by that would probably make me seem less cool than I like to think I now am. Like I said, I want this thing to age well. So what I have ended up with, hopefully, is something that for everyone I give this to will be a little reminder of me…and possibly the best fucking mix ever. Enjoy. I leave you with the following stolen pearl of wisdom, heed it well:

“This music has been mixed to be played loud, so turn it up.”
- The Cure, Disintegration liner notes

1. "Pounding" - Doves
2. "Tumbling Dice" - The Rolling Stones
3. "Lit Up" - The National
4. "Shut Us Down" - Camper Van Beethoven
5. "Always In Love" - Wilco
6. "Sting Me" - The Black Crowes
7. "I Am A Tree" - Guided By Voices
8. "Song Remains The Same" - Led Zeppelin
9. "Walking To Do" - Ted Leo + Pharmacists
10. "Talk Of The Town" - Pretenders
11. "Bones" - Radiohead
12. "Stereo" - Pavement
13. "Money City Maniacs" [live] - Sloan
14. "This Boy Is Exhausted" - Wrens
15. "You've Got To Pay" - The Bigger Lovers

Friday, March 16, 2007

Beware the Ides+1 of March

Although it is Friday, the 8-Track will not make an appearance today as I am saving it up for my birthday "mix tape" on Monday. The working title of this fledgling composition is 30: It's Here, Deal With It but I suspect there will be a revision.

(As a random aside, and not that anyone really cares, that Nelly Furtado song will not be included even though I find it oddly compelling in a "Who Let The Dogs Out?" kind of way.)

Anyway, I want to focus this weekend and actually produce as many copies of this thing as possible so I can give them to my friends. A testament to my own awesomeness, it shall stand as my Ode on a Grecian Urn but instead of all that "Beauty is truth, truth beauty" nonsense, something stolen from the liner notes for Disintegration will close out this masterpiece.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Rather than write a book, I think about what an interesting premise for a book would be and then do absolutely nothing with it. My greatest moments of inspiration typically arrive when I am supposed to be working but I instead "just sorta space out for about an hour" and follow my wandering mind. Here is currently what I have in the mental hopper:

The first story is a blatant cash grab. The ultimate point of that endeavor is for it to end up as a film but I figure that simply writing a screenplay has a low yield percentage so my odds of success would increase (fractionally) if the story was first published as a marginally successful paperback and then optioned by some Canadian production company with poor taste and (relatively) deep pockets. In an ideal world, the film would be as successful as say, a Van Wilder or some shit. You know, a movie that most people recognize the name as being that of a film and just commercially successful enough to afford me a down payment on a nice condo and maybe an invite to a few Maxim parties. Is that too much to ask? We're not talking about millions in take-home, just a few hundred thousand.

Anyway, the premise for that one is ridiculously dumb. Following the breakup of their semi-well known indie rock band, the two remaining members are in deep financial debt to the major record company which subsumed their independent label and shelled out a lot of cash for the duo's disastrously ambitious and now unfinished next album. But rather than write them off and send the duo spiralling into Chapter 11, the label decides that money can still be made off of them -- or at least they can be used to defer some other external costs.

The label has a problem. It has sunk a lot of money into producing, branding, and marketing a young female singer whose image is as contrived as Britney Spears' or Ashley Simpson's, but they are attempting to present her as some kind of "authentic" rock artist. To date she has achieved marginal success but may actually be on the cusp of a real commercial breakthrough. The label's biggest problem however is that she is an absolute diva and unbearable to be around. She is cruel and critical of her backup musicians, even though she has no real musical taste and no clue what she is being critical of, and subsequently most of the session musicians in the union won't work with her. Her backup band has quit and the label has already committed serious coin to a major tour. No band, no tour. And in come our indie rock heroes.

Rather than trying to cobble together a whole new set of musicians and risk another mutiny, a sympathetic A&R rep at the label (female - potential love interest, perhaps?) has the "brilliant" idea to conscript the two guys into service as part of the touring band for Ms. Pain-in-the-Ass. Because of their debt, the guys can essentially be forced in to slave labor and can't quit midway through for fear of legal and financial repercussions. Double bonus for the label as the two might also lend an ounce of credibility to the image it is trying to construct for its star. Hilarity ensues...

So there's the premise. I figure one of the guys will be the socially awkward yet inventively brilliant guitarist and the other will be the wry and level-headed bassist who also happens to be a pretty talented songwriter (he'll most likely hook up with the A&R chick at some point). There will also be a ridiculous "inside" gimmick where the two guys are always jamming on Pavement tunes between rehearsals, although the band will never be mentioned by name, and always talking about Built To Spill, although the band's music will never be heard. For whatever reason, I find that funny. Now, there are several fatal flaws with this story a few of which being:
  1. There is never any shortage of young session musicians who will suffer just about any abuse if it means they can go on a large corporate-sponsored tour.
  2. A couple of scraggly indie rock guys with a minor cult following will do nothing for the commercial fortunes of a fledgling pop idol.
  3. It's dumb.
  4. I think there might already be a movie about this.
  5. There are only so many times I can use a joke where the guys' cobbled together and well-used gear keeps breaking down in rehearsals.
Anyway, it should be a smashing success and I will be mildly rich sometime soon.

In the meantime I will also be working on my other book which is based on an amalgam of two of my friends and their storied and tragi-comic dating experiences. In it, I get to be the sardonic narrator and third party observer.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Digital Domain

(I think I may have blogged about this before but cannot exactly recall. Apparently I am getting old and running out of ideas.)

I don't download music. Shit. I'm not writing an op ed for the Moonie Times so opening with a blatant lie is probably not a good thing. Yes, I do download music - illegally. However I only download crap I would never buy like "You're the Best Around" from the Karate Kid soundtrack which I like to listen to while I am at the gym, or Madonna tracks for Vogueing about my apartment. But the point of this is not a moral rationalization for my rampant use of Limewire (for which I am karmicly in the clear since ASCAP gets a nice chunk of my income per annum) but rather an exposition on why I still buy CD's in light of iTunes.

For starters I want to kill the fallacy that I need to "go digital" with my music collection as has been asserted by some acquaintances. My shit is digital. Long ago the indentions on magnetic tapes that were induced by the wondrous sound waves generated by my favorite musicians were sampled, converted to one's and zero's, and digitally stored on a compact disc. So there, I'm digital. I suppose what they really mean to say is that I should consolidate all of my bits (pun intended) and pieces of music into one compressed and space-friendly storage medium. And that is where this diatribe really begins.

I don't own an iPod or any Apple product for that matter. I can't stand their proprietary format nonsense when it comes to the mp3's they sell and generally, I don't care for the premium they place on all of their products as transaction cost for joining their weird expensive subculture. Yadda...

But I do own an mp3 player of which I am very fond and utilize on a daily basis. However this only occurs in one specific situation; when I am travelling on foot (and yes, running in one place on a treadmill counts). In this instance I do enjoy the micro-sized portability of my music collection without the burden of discs and jewel cases and wonderfully enlightening liner notes but that is only because I am trying to get from point A to point B and am without a cluttered backseat and a combustible engine. Otherwise, I need my collection. I need them all. I need every album divided by sub-genre, alphabetized by artist, arranged chronologically (with reissues sitting next to original pressings), and all consolidated into one monstrous wall-occupying space upon which I can gaze longingly and revel in how cool I am. How cool I am.

I was pretty shocked not too long ago when a friend who has been quite the auteur since high school (a time when I still thought Physical Graffiti was the closest thing to perfection) copied every one of his CD's onto his hard drive and sold them all. I was aghast. He described it as a liberating experience but I am far too bound to my possessions to even contemplate the psychic benefits. I mean, how am I supposed to seduce women in my apartment without a kick ass album collection to peruse?

"Oh, wow. You have a lot of cool CD's."
"Thanks. I have some more in my room..."

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Friday 8-Track

Once again short on ideas and/or inspiration, this week's playlist is a mish mash of songs that have been running through my head lately. Maybe you can connect the dots because I sure as hell can't. At least it makes for an interesting sonic Rorschach test.

Smoking Popes - "Pretty Pathetic" - Destination Failure

Josh Caterer has a knack for sounding absolutely pathetic in the midst of a good rock song. And now in that awful emo kind of way. The guy in this song is indeed "pretty pathetic" but the big kick at the end tells you why. And the song is funny to boot. I caught myself singing it out loud on the way home from the gym yesterday to the amusement of several other pedestrians on Wilson Blvd.

Tommy Keene - "Carrie Anne" - Sing Hollies In Reverse

I can't remember how I first came across this version of the Hollies classic. Covering a song is a tricky thing (not for a cover band -- because they don't really count -- but for a legitimate artist releasing the material of someone else) and I believe you either have to stay absolutely true to the original or go way off of the map. Keene opted for the former on this take and given that his "stylistic legacy" is right in line with the Hollies, it works. The song does lose some of its bounciness as Keene's baritone is heavier than Allan Clarke's and Grahm Nash's lilting tenors, but the drive of the tune is still there. Meta Power Pop. Good stuff.

Concrete Blonde - "Joey" - Bloodletting

Johnette Napolitano's voice has a way of just hanging around for me, and the same is true of Chrissy Hynde. Anyway, I went with the obvious "hit." You know who didn't get enough credit? James Mankey. Good guitar player...

Neil Finn - "She Will Have Her Way" - Try Whistling This

A beautiful pop song about being a sucker. Yeah, I can relate.

The Allman Brothers Band - "Little Martha" - Eat A Peach

Now I know how this one got in my head. I was driving home the other day and it was used as interstitial music on All Things Considered. A pretty song, it is one of the first songs I learned how to play when first discovered open-tunings. I'd be hard-pressed to play it off the top of my head but I think it is tuned in open-E and played in the key of A (capo 5). Now I have something to work on this weekend.

Prince - "I Wanna Be Your Lover" - Prince

This one I heard somewhere recently. I think I was out somewhere, most likely drunk, and ever more likely, falsetto'ing along. This is one of my favorite Prince tunes even though it is from a stage in his career when he was still working out his own style. I mean if you heard someone else playing it, and had never heard the song before but were familiar with Prince's oeuvre, you probably wouldn't think it was a "Prince song." At least I wouldn't. But that doesn't change the fact that it is a nice jam.

Bob Dylan - "Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again" - Blonde On Blonde

"AAWW, Mama, Can This Really Be The End...Down And Out In Vegas With Amphetamine Psychosis Again" What a great chapter title. This song and that book will always be linked in my mind. As far as I am concerned, this album represents Dylan's crowning musical achievement and this song is the standout.

Hollies - "On A Carousel" - any one of a thousand different compilations

More Hollies. I like the fact that this song sort of sounds like a carousel ride and those high harmonies are sweeeet.

Coincidence? I think not.

Is Wikipedia not the coolest thing ever? It must be. Anyway, a nod to Hey Pretty on this one as I Wikipedia'd my impending birthday to see what people and events share the anniversary of my living greatness. Here are some that I find to be particularly poignant:

1279 - A Mongolian victory in the Battle of Yamen ends the Song Dynasty in China

Sweet, the Mongol hordes. I like the idea of a somewhat id-driven martial culture toppling it's more high-falootin' neighbor to the east. It gibes with my self-notion of being an iconoclast.

1687 - Explorer Robert Cavelier de La Salle, searching for the mouth of the Mississippi River, is murdered by his own men

This one made the list only because it immediately made me think of Greg Neidermeyer.

1915 - Pluto is photographed for the first time but not recognized as a planet

How little things have changed...

1962 - Bob Dylan releases his first, self-titled album

Why couldn't it have been Blonde on Blonde?

1848 - Wyatt Earp (b.)

Oh hell yeah. Tombstone is one of the greatest movies. Ever. "You called down the thunder, well you got it."

1906 - Adolf Eichman (b.)

It's good to have a little bit of shame tied to your birth date. It keeps a man humble.

1928 - Patrick McGoohan (b.)

This absolutely explains those white balloons that have been chasing me around. Just call me Number 6. "Be seeing you."

1955 - Bruce Willis (b.)

I was watching Die Hard and the brilliance that is Alan Rickman the other day, and I shed a little tear when I hit the "info" button to see what year it was in which the film was released. I cannot believe that movie is almost 20 years old. "Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker."

1943 - Fran Nitti (d.)

...because I'm a badass.

1982 - Randy Rhoads (d.)

...because I'm a badass.

2005 - John De Lorean (d.)

...because I gotta get back in time.

I will drink a draught for each of you on our special day.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Point of Parlimentary Procedure

Is it tacky to bitch and moan about not being able to score tickets to a benefit concert that sold out in a split-second? Most likely, yes.

So I won't go on and on about how irked I am that tickets went on sale at 5pm on the nicest Friday evening in a month and I decided to go out for happy hour and get tickets later that night. D'oh!!

Anyway, it's for a noble cause and I hope a lot of money is raised. And who knows, maybe they will realize that there is still a creative spark and do some more shows. Yes, that is my positive spin on things (however if they were also playing this gig then I would be pulling my own hair out).

Best wishes to J. Robbins and his family.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Friday 8-Track

Today's list is all about my awkward and formative years, the 90's. It's like high school all over again.

Soul Asylum - "Somebody to Shove" - Grave Dancers Union

After toiling in near-anonymity for several albums, I would say that this was a deserved hit for Soul Asylum. With Husker Du, Soul Asylum, The Replacements, The Jayhawks, and Prince I would say that Minneapolis has had a pretty cool and varied scene over the years. I think "Black Gold" is the better track off of this album but since I dropped the tune yesterday...

Presidents of the United States of America - "Peaches" - Presidents of the United States of America

Is there a better song about cunnilingus (other than the second half of "Put It In Your Mouth)? Very doubtful. I think these guys are unfairly overlooked as just a "gimmick" band because they wrote good pop music. And this filthy little ditty..."I poked my finger down inside, make a little room for it to hide, nature's candy in my hand or can or a pie."

Belly - "Feed the Tree" - Star

This one just screams 120 Minutes. Could Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donelly have gone in more different directions after Throwing Muses? This one is for my boy Jay who always has this disc lying around somewhere.

Pearl Jam - "Animal" - Vs.

A buddy of mine laughs at me because have a habit of abandoning artists, definitively, after their first couple of albums and Pearl Jam is one of those band. Call me crazy but I think they picked with their second album and this is one of the best tracks. I was just blasting this (loudly) in my car the other day and from the intro that drops in as soon as "Go" ends to the screams that Mike McCready digs out of his axe during the outro, "Animal" is a fantastic rocker. Dig it.

Ned's Atomic Dustbin - "Grey Cell Green" - God Fodder

Mix together nonsensical lyrics, Madchester beats, two (!) bass guitars, and a lot of dreadlocks and you get one of the more interesting blips on the 90's radar. I pulled this album out as an experiment yesterday and I have to admit that it hasn't aged too badly. I'm pretty sure that this and "Kill Your Television" will make their way into my next playlist for the gym.

Paul Westerberg - "Waiting For Somebody" - Singles: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

I could not put this list together without something from the Singles soundtrack. I remember dubbing a friend's CD of this, freshman year of high school, onto a TDK-90 that I could rock on my Sony Sports Walkman (I still have the Walkman and the Panasonic CD Player Boombox that I used to make the dub). This was long before I knew anything about Westerberg or the Replacements.

Seal - "Crazy" - Seal

If I could only ever hear the first 30 seconds of this song that would be enough. That oscillating synth part in the outro that introduces the first verse is sooooo sweet. Remember when everyone had some theory about what was going on with Seal's face? Was it a tattoo or some ritual scarring? I was so gullible.

Big Audio Dynamite II - "The Globe" - The Globe
Soup Dragons - "Divine Thing" - Hotwired

For whatever reason these two songs are inextricably linked in my mind. Similar beats, similar tempo, and from that same mixed-up "alternative" era. I am always surprised that Mick Jones went on to this kind of thing but after you are one of the biggest icons in punk, I can see how one might be in search of a change of pace.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A bit of timeliness from Lake Wobegon

As I pulled into my local beanery this morning, Garrison Keillor happened to be reading the following poem to me:
A New Lifestyle
by James Tate

People in this town drink too much
coffee. They're jumpy all the time. You
see them drinking out of their big plastic
mugs while they're driving. They cut in
front of you, they steal your parking places.
Teenagers in the cemeteries knocking over
tombstones are slurping café au lait.
Recycling men hanging onto their trucks are
sipping espresso. Dog catchers running down
the street with their nets are savoring
their cups of mocha java. The holdup man
entering a convenience store first pours
himself a nice warm cup of coffee. Down
the funeral parlor driveway a boy on a
skateboard is spilling his. They're so
serious about their coffee, it's all they
can think about, nothing else matters.
Everyone's wide awake but looks incredibly
I laughed and smirked and then paid $1.76 to have my fancy travel mug filled to the top with the daily, potent brew. This is why I am a "member" of my local NPR affiliate.