Saturday, March 31, 2007

April Fools: Mom & Dad

My parents, God bless ‘em, have been showing increasing signs of their age for the last couple of years as these baby boomers begin the journey into the autumn of their years. I’m sure they would both take offense to this, as Mom is not quite sixty and neither one has officially retired from working.
But after purchasing a second home in Arizona, purchasing burial space in their hometown’s cemetery, and increasing their alcohol consumption, it’s pretty apparent that their mindsets are beyond that of a typical middle-aged couple.
And there’s an obvious pattern to their repetition of stories (more so in my Father) and in their general aloofness (more so in my Mother).
For example: every Christmas, my Father tells anyone who will listen how he and I rescued his parents when they got stranded in a town several hours away on Christmas during one of the season’s worst snowstorms. Admirable? Yes, but they’re family and who in their right mind would allow their parents (or Grandparents) spend Christmas in a fucking Hardees?
No shit: that’s where they waited for us until we got them.
My Father repeats this story every year, typically after a few martinis or glasses of wine and typically with a Johnny Fucking Mathis Christmas album playing in the background.
Add that to the list: when you get old, you buy Johnny Mathis Christmas albums.
Now my Mother is a different work of art. The aloofness has always been there, it’s just that it required a little more effort on my part to get it out of her. And usually, she would catch on fairly early that she was being ribbed. My Grandmother (her Mother) is the same way only much worse; it runs in the family, so I’m probably next in line.
My Father lives half the year in Des Moines for work and when he returns home on the weekend he’ll often bring a copy of Cityview, the local independent weekly free paper. I met them at a restaurant over the weekend and Mom started to go on how Prince was going to buy the Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines to “expand his sex appeal in the Midwest and strengthen his Paisley Park empire.” She continued that he would play 30 shows there during the month of April, being joined on stage by members of The Revolution and with Sheena Easton being the show’s opening act.
Sidenote: I listened to Prince’s 1999 on the way to meet my parents, which was a strange coincidence when my Mother started to talk about his recent Iowa real estate purchase.
I was fairly amazed about such information and wondered how my Mother (and my Father, who also reaffirmed my Mom’s story) came across this information while yours truly hadn’t heard about it.
“Yes!” She said. “It’s in the paper! We’ve got one in the car. You can take it with you and read about it.”
So I did.
I read about how Price was going to turn Des Moines into the next Branson. How admission for his 30 shows would be free to the public if they wore purple. And how the shows would begin at midnight and “concluding at 2:37 a.m.”
“I don’t know the significance of that.” She admitted.
By the time I got home, I had a chance to really sit down with the edition of Cityview to read through it. The line in the Prince article that stood out was how he would announce more details about the April concerts in a press conference scheduled for “Sunday.”
April 1st.
“This is a bunch of bullshit.” I thought.
And sure enough, every article I read in Cityview was bullshit.
It was their annual April Fools edition, and my Mother (who was now several hundred miles away) had failed to comprehend the obvious clues in the article and throughout the magazine that everything was intended to be a joke.
She even missed the headline article of how “Namaycush,” “the Midwestern species of the North American Sasquatch” was recently sited at Gray’s Lake, a park in Des Moines.
Out of pride, I was required to call my parents to inform them that the Prince story, and indeed the entire publication, was an April Fool’s joke.
I expected a little more from my Father, who also appeared to be taken by the ruse. In fact, he once relayed a story at how funny it was when people took another Cityview April Fool’s joke seriously: a story on how Paul McCartney was going to play at the Val Air Ballroom, a venue too incredibly intimate for Macca to actually consider.
With a hint of defensiveness, my Father explained:
“Well, I didn’t actually read the Prince article.” He justified. “Your Mom was reading it to me on the car ride up while I drove.”
So hat’s off to Cityview for completely taking my parents in on their recent April Fool’s edition. For me, it’s both funny and a little frightening. Not only because it reaffirms the fact that they’re getting older (and, as a result, a little more gullible), but also because I understand that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Arcade Fire - Neon Bible

How easy is it to totally dismantle The Arcade Fire’s notable talents? Fairly easy, when you consider how they’ve managed to go from virtual unknowns to receiving kudos from David Bowie and David Byrne, hanging with Bono, tactfully lugging their equipment to the lobby of majestic venues to play encores while the crowd’s filing out, and to smash acoustic guitars on live television (albeit with some difficulty) while promoting an already heavily-hyped sophomore release. These things make it easy for non-believers (and several subscribers) to watch with a secret desire to see these Canadians fail miserably.
Perhaps the band foreshadowed the backlash for Neon Bible when they penned “Nothing lasts forever that’s the way it’s gonna be/There’s a big black wave in the middle of the sea…for me” (“Black Wave”), or perhaps it’s the prose of a band that’s struggling to find its footing after the surprise success of their debut.
Whatever their headspace is at this point, Neon Bible ultimately points to the sullen reality that their own neurosis is merely a reflection of everyone else’s neurosis too; from contemplating a second album to the deeper subject of living in a world of fear (“Don’t want to work in the building downtown/I don’t know what I’m gonna do/Cuz the planes keep crashing over us, two by two”-“Antichrist Television Blues”), the album perfectly captures the trepidation that is the Bush II years.
9/11 and the anxiety it created in America is written all over this record. From the paranoia in the aforementioned “Antichrist Television Blues,” to the realization “I don’t want to live with my Father’s debt/You can’t forgive what you can’t forget….I don’t want to live in America no more” (“Windowsill”), every apprehensive word is beautifully complimented with epic arrangements.
The Arcade Fire don’t offer a lot of solutions to these bitter years, so don’t go looking for answers here. Instead, they provide a very clear assessment of the curious mindset of our times (“You take what they give you/And you keep it inside” -“Intervention”) while meticulously heading towards the boiling point in their organic instrumentation without spilling over the top. This manages to create a whole other level of tense emotion, something that wouldn’t have been achieve if frontman Win Butler would have finally gotten to the point where he, ahem, decided to violently execute his acoustic guitar.
The remake of “No Cars Go” manages to sidetrack what would have been a perfectly sequences album; it’s a strange inclusion to begin with and it sticks out like a sore thumb. The only rational I can come up with for including it was to bring a sense of relief to an otherwise predominantly bleak album.
What the Arcade Fire should have considered was how beautiful their dismal landscape was to begin with. And if fans (and enemies) can get past the unattractive hype that’s led up to the release of Neon Bible and get around the unsightly themes that the record is based on, they will find a release that may very well be a contender for album of the year.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Fall - Reformation Post TLC

A week into The Fall’s 2006 American tour, the band was traveling in a Winnebago to their next gig in Phoenix, Arizona. For reasons only known to Mark E. Smith, he approached the tour manager and poured a little beer on his head as he was driving the r.v.
This wasn’t the first time the manager had faced the drunken shenanigans of the band’s de-facto leader. He’d also endured a barrage of verbal attacks and even witnessed Mark drunkenly attack the band members, but having beer poured on him while driving down the interstate at 70 miles per hour was enough for him to quit as soon as they hit Phoenix.
And he was taking the Winnebago with him.
Now for the band members, outside of keyboardist Elaine who happened to be Mark’s wife, the sudden resignation of the tour manager posed a big problem: How were they going to get back to England? Add to this, the band was sure to face the wrath of Mark if they verbally defended the tour manager, just like they did when he blamed them when the backdrop for their stage didn’t arrive in time for the start of the tour.
So there in the desert, the band decided to leave him alone with the remaining tour dates to contend with and hitch a ride with the exiting tour manager.
For lesser men, such drama would probably result in tour a cancellation. But for Mark E. Smith, who’s seen more than 50 musicians pass through the credits of 25 Fall albums, it was nothing. Amazingly, a new backing band (containing members of Darker My Love and On The Hill) was located through the efforts of their American record label and, even more amazingly, the band not only resumed the tour, but managed to record a new album in the process.
All in the span of a few days.
Reformation Post TLC starts with Smith cackling before he deadpans “I think it’s over now/I think its ending.” But before Fall fans worry that he may be considering retirement, he adds “I think it’s beginning.” A closer listen finds Mark prodding fellow Mancunians who announce “creative differences” as the reason for their demise only to reform “seven years” later for the benefit of nothing more than a large reunion paycheck. This irritates Smith, who (thanks in large part by bad business deals and a litany of notoriously uncommercial releases) lives a very meager existence himself.
What about the latest incarnation, this American-backed Fall complete with a bearded (!) bass player? Always different, always the same, regardless of who’s supporting him, Reformation Post TLC is a continuation of the path that The Real New Fall LP and Fall Heads Roll traveled. In other words: The Fall are making some of the most respectable records in the autumn of Smith’s years. And it sounds like he’s having fun too: there’s recorded evidence of Smith cracking himself up after improvising a line or two and, on occasion, there’s evidence of band members learning their parts immediately after the record button’s been hit. After 31 years of doing this, there’s something remarkably refreshing about having the balls to say “Wing it, fellas!” and watching it become something that’s still unmistakably The Fall.
The fact that Mark hasn’t noticed other bands slyly lifting a few bits here-and-there from their enormous output hasn’t been lost on him either. On “Fall Sounds,” he screams “There’ll be times they mock Fall sound!” Given his penchant for alcohol induced violence, my suggestion is that any artist should cease from name-dropping The Fall without the explicit written consent of one Mark E. Smith.
The “bits” that Smith has been presiding over while fads have come and gone is, essentially, a repetitive mixture of a few guitar chords, some basic percussive elements, and (occasionally) a blip of keyboards/synthesizers. In Mark’s world, the creative apex of rock music began and ended with the garage rock of the 60’s, and he’s rarely deviated from this basic formula. But “Mr. Pharmacist” doesn’t make a career. What made his career was/is an uncanny ability to wonderfully document, in a very intelligent and working-class style, the hypocrisy of politics, social status, and rock & roll itself.
Reformation Post TLC is an album devoted to the hypocrisy that Mark E. Smith needed to make another album with the Fall Heads Roll line-up, a band that he’d worked with for nearly seven years, to make another exciting Fall record.
The album’s highlight documents the tale of how Mark fell into the band’s configuration. “The Insult Song” (which comes immediately after a tender reading of Merle Haggard’s “White Line Fever”) creates a fictional account of the events thus far: Mark and his wife were captured by the band (“they were retards from the Los Angeles district…they had us trapped in the hills, playing their Los Angeles music over and over”) until he discovered it was merely a plot the band had instigated to get into Mark’s good graces. It must have worked: after making fun of their physical appearance, Smith declares “they were cool cats” before reminding them, after six minutes of incessant rhythm and Keith Levene-styled guitar, that “they were paying, by the minute, for the tape they were wasting.” The band obediently ends the song.
Reformation Post TLC won’t be the album that sends the novice headlong into the band’s massive catalog. Its one that, like some of the most revered Fall albums, contains some tracks that are intentionally difficult. “Das Boat” features nine minutes of synthesizer throbs, while a drumstick on a tabletop and glass jar keep tempo.
At the same time, it is an album that Fall fans will use to reaffirm why the band remains vital. While other bands from the same era find the need to reform and revisit the material that brought them notoriety, Smith’s primary mission is to keep his band and vision focused on the highway ahead. Even when he’s faced with a Winnebago full of ex-band members traveling in the opposite direction, leaving him to his own devices alone in the desert.
I think it’s beginning, too.

Photo by Greg Schaal
This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise

Sunday, March 25, 2007

MC Chris - Live Review

MC Chris
The Picador

Here’s an example of when it pays to be an opening act instead of a headlining one. In a strange situation that placed Aqua Teen/Sealab 2021 voice-over character/nerd rapper MC Chris in front of Capitol recording artist Street To Nowhere and in back of Piebald, the audience was clearly there to see the man in the middle.
What this meant was that Street To Nowhere received the benefit of the attendance while Piebald played to a nearly empty house as soon as MC Chris’ set ended. And it was painfully evident that this would happen after a quick scan of the line waiting for the doors to open outside of The Picador; MC Chris tends to draw his clientele away from their comic books and video games, so very few of those in attendance qualified as rock club regulars.
Regardless of how often they get out to rock shows, there’s no denying that Chris understands his fan base and both his raps and stage banter cater to the hip Toby Radloffs of the world. He expressed anger at the recent decision to kill off Captain America, claimed that he wasn’t getting any trim on the recent tour which forces him to masturbate to comics, and continually conveyed his love for weed (“I got a one-hitter/By the name of Margot Kidder”) or “Wiid” (get it?) as the case may be.
As a rapper, MC Chris has tremendous skills and some very clever rhymes that resonate with most late twentieth century white boys who hold their pop culture references close to the bone. The same is true for his beats; pulling from some unlikely sources (“Steady As She Goes” from The Raconteurs, old Atari video games) Chris’ beats work the crowd because they’re comfortable with them. There’s an obvious sense that if he would have pulled from rap’s typical sources, the fans wouldn’t be able to identify so readily with him.
He allotted plenty of opportunity to connect with the crowd on a personal level, dutifully chatting with them, allowing pictures with him and signing autographs for anyone who’d approach. Small in stature, Chris (wearing his obligatory Cubs hat) is the epitome of his fans yet he grows several inches when he’s on stage. He’s not afraid to poke fun at his nerd image and he welcomed followers to come smoke pot with him after the show to rejoice in their nerd solidarity. I’m sure the members of Piebald were excited to hear this too, as the crowd performed a mass exodus outside the club immediately after the MC Chris performance.
Which provided the biggest complaint: lasting a mere 45 minutes, MC Chris worked the crowd into such frenzy that you could actually see the discontent in many fans at how short his set was. Apparently, this was Chris’ first full-fledged tour which may explain the reason why it was so abridged, but there should have been some foresight in knowing that he would be the three-band line-up’s main draw.
Besides: if Chris’ knowledge of pop culture is as good as it appears to be in his songs, he should know how “Revenge Of The Nerds” ended.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Black Pearls In The Great White North

The reasons why escape me, but I'm thinking about upgrading my vinyl copy of Pat Travers Crash & Burn to digital. And by "upgrade," I mean converting from one obsolete format to another obsolete format. That's how we roll in Iowa. Hell, we still wear acid wash jeans around here.
Actually, I probably know the reason why I've got Pat Travers on the brain: Arcade Fire. You see, I've been playing Neon Bible a bit (which didn't surpass Biggie and ended up entering at #2 last week), which got me thinking about Canada. From that, I started to think about April Wine, which reminded me of The Trailer Park Boys when they tell Rush's Alex Lifeson to play "I Like To Rock" before he explains that it's an April Wine song and not Rush. From there, I'm reminded that I really should get season three of The Trailer Park boys on dvd, because it features the episode where they kidnap Lifeson.
So now my minds in total classic rock obsession which leads me to think of other Canadian rockers...Like Pat Travers.
Crash & Burn is awesome: it features the classic song "Snortin' Whiskey (Drinkin' Cocaine)" which I overheard two total burnouts talking about while waiting in line for a Cheap Trick concert back around '81.
Burnout #1: Pat Travers put on a good show...
Burnout #2: (singing) Snortin' whiskey! Drinkin' cocaine!
Burnout #1: That's a fuckin' great song, man.
Burnout #2: I know, man!
Burnout #1: Ya'ever try it?
Burnout #2: What? Blow?
Burnout #1: Nah man, snortin' whiskey!
Burnout #2: N'uh uh...
Burnout #1: I did...Poured some fuckin' Jack on the table...Fuckin' hoovered up a line of it!
Burnout #2: Did'ja get off?
Burnout #1: Nah man...That shit fuckin' burned!
(both laugh)
So understand that when a 14 year old hears two longhairs in their early twenties talking like this, one of the first reactions is to go get some Jack Daniels, cocaine, and the Pat Travers album that has "Snortin' Whiskey" on it.
Having no luck with the first two items, I snagged Crash & Burn at the Woolworth's and actually enjoy the album quite a bit.
Travers remains a sorely under appreciated guitarist who's played with some very talented folks.
He played live around SEIA on more than one occasion, usually at the same venue where I saw Cheap Trick, so he was probably bigger around there than in other parts of the country.
When some band members left to join other projects, Travers regrouped (literally) and called it his new band and album, Black Pearl.
Pat Travers' Black Pearl may have given him his biggest notoriety: inclusion in a major motion picture. "I La La La Love You" was featured prominently in the movie "Valley Girl" and was given an on-screen endorsement by Nicolas Cage's character.
The song is pretty good...but you'd never know this if you saw the video for it. I didn't know the thing existed, but unfortunately, it does.
And I found it.
Travers, who looks hilariously similar to Nigel Tufnel in it, tries to get the attention of (strangely) the woman he just woke up next to. He follows her around in a baby blue shirt before frightening her with a guitar solo on a perfectly matched baby blue guitar.
If you're not a fan of Pat Travers, the video will ensure that doesn't change.
If you are a fan of Travers, the video may change that opinion.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Notes From The County Fair Circuit

I worked in radio for nearly a decade, at student run radio station, non-commercial public radio and at tradition commercial radio outlets. The experience was mostly enjoyable, but there was plenty of frustration too, typically centered on the arena of low pay which is a problem that continues to be echoed among radio employees to this day.
With that being said, I left radio in the mid-90’s for purely economic reasons.
Meaning: I was tired of living paycheck to paycheck.
During the time I worked in radio, there were opportunities to converse with artists that were shelling their latest effort. These interviews were typically met with enthusiasm or reluctance depending on the band or artist. In other words, for every Mike Watt interview, there were at least two unknown acts (Animal Time anyone? How about Zane Grey?) for you to spend time with. Nothing against them; sometimes the interviews were a blast (Zane Grey, a band from Texas in the late 80’s, were great guys, only to fold under the insurmountable weight of trying to build an audience), but there’s a limited amount of questions you can ask a band with only one album under their belt and a few dozen fervent fans from their hometown.
Those dynamics change when you get an opportunity to interview artists who’ve seen better days and even better sales figures.
The last radio station I worked for had a pair of chuckleheads for the General Manager and Program Director positions who also happened to run a yearly summer event called “Riverfest.” Riverfest was a weeklong celebration of shitty carnival attractions and national bands enjoying success on the county fair circuit. Since the station was a primary sponsor of the event, we got exclusive access to bands like Foghat, Nazareth, and other acts with more than a decade gone since their last notable release.
The weekends for Riverfest typically included artists that were on the county fair circuit for the first time in their careers. What that meant was, instead of more than a decade plus since the last notable release, these bands may have only seen 6 or 7 years pass since their last chart entry.
Here’s some behind the scenes memories of those brushes with “greatness.”
CHEAP TRICK-Cheap Trick has been known to play anywhere and they’re still notorious roadhogs to this day. When the band played Riverfest, they were on the road down their second career freefall, a few years after their last major chart entry with Lap Of Luxury. Unfortunately, I was not working at this particular station during their Riverfest stop, so all I have to offer is second and third-hand information from the people working the festival. According to these sources, the band was uncharacteristically smug, giving the perception that they were too important to be playing in such a small town. Several of the organizers claimed the band was under the influence of drugs (the consensus was cocaine) and that a contract rider disputes almost caused the band to boycott the performance. One of the Riverfest members threatened to impound Cheap Trick’s equipment if the band failed to make their end of the bargain. The band performed with no additional issues. As a fan of Cheap Trick, I found this information disheartening, but can share with you that most of the organizers of Riverfest were notorious drunkards and could barely run a radio station let alone a week-long music festival. I’ve taken the criticism of Cheap Trick with some serious salt.
R.E.O. SPEEDWAGON-Missed this one too, but for reasons which may bewilder the average reader. This band was the most successful performance that Riverfest ever had, drawing a record crowd of 16,500 people for the show. That figure was 4,500 more people than the town’s population and, incredibly, came well after the band’s heyday. The show sold out, and the idea of fighting the crowd and summer heat to see a band that I don’t give a shit about prompted me to stay at the station and smoke pot with my girlfriend who also worked there during the evening shift. Reports were that Kevin Cronin was a douchebag, but he later referred to the event in the band’s awful The Second Decade of Rock & Roll 1981-1991 liner notes as some kind of triumph.
? & THE MYSTERIANS-Poor Question Mark. He recently lost his possessions in a fire, but I doubt the setback will slow him down. Even in the early 90’s, he continued to participate with the oldies-circuit, providing the crowd with not one, but two stabs at “96 Tears.” Now I’m a fan of that song, and I’m a fan of Question Mark’s well documented weirdness. What I’m not a fan of is a man in his fifties getting ready to go on stage in gold lamé pants…with ragged looking tighty-whities visible above the back waistband. Question Mark pranced as good as Mick Jagger on stage, but every time he shook his ass for the crowd, the underwear took center stage.
NIGHT RANGER-It was a rainy night on the Mississippi riverfront, which meant the attendance for this particular show was unusually light. Escaping the rain in the band’s trailer, I had a chance to talk with guitarist Brad Gillis and drummer/vocalist Kelly Keagy. Now understand, I could give a Ratt(s) ass about Night Ranger, as a matter of fact, the band was so disrespected in my metal loving hometown that many of the metalheads referred to them as “Night Scrounger.” I’m sure Gillis and Keagy understood that I really could care less about them, but they endured my small talk. Some example questions include: (To Keagy) Isn’t it hard to drum and sing at the same time? (To Gillis) What’s Ozzy like? (To Gillis) How did you make that double guitar sound in the solo of “You Can Still Rock In America?” (To Keagy) So what happened to the dude that always wore the hat and a pair of shades? In case you’re wondering, that man (keyboardist Alan Fitzgerald) used to play with Montrose and, because of his history with Sammy Hagar, had scored a gig playing off-stage keyboards for the Van Halen tour. Both Gillis and Keagy sounded a little jealous that the old bald dude from Night Ranger was making more than they were. Both guys were very cool and seemed genuinely passionate about their performance even while the rain continued to fall throughout the set.
EDDIE MONEY-What the fuck? Eddie Money?! To confess, I vaguely remember thinking that his “I’m not doing cocaine anymore” effort, No Control, wasn’t that bad. It had “I Think I’m In Love” and some song about passing by the graveyard. I also knew that he was discovered by Bill Graham who had recently died a few days before the phone interview. He called the station because we were one of the first to play his last chart entry, “I’ll Get By,” a sappy by-the-numbers ballad that barely dented the lower throngs of the American top 40 in 1991. So the entire interview consisted of me talking to him about his prior cocaine addiction and what a good guy Bill Graham was. He then did a couple of station liners (“You’re listening to the river cities music leader…”) where he referred to himself as “The Moneyman.” Call me naïve, but I never knew Eddie Money had a nickname prior to hearing that.
MOLLY HATCHET-These Southern rockers came to town and every slack-jawed Southern rock fan came out of the woodwork to get drunk and party with the Hatchet. The late Danny Joe Brown got drunk with them, but after years of hard drinkin’ and hard rockin,’ he didn’t miss a beat during the entire show. When it came time for him to do a couple of station liners afterwards, a drunk Danny Joe completely botched the call letters and names of radio personalities. While I returned to the station to piece together his mistakes, the band tried to make off with all of the beer backstage. I will forever have this mental image of a drunken Molly Hatchet returning cooler after cooler of beer with their tails between their legs before being allowed to leave the festival grounds in their tour bus. If you try to steal beer in Southeast Iowa, you’re flirtin’ with disaster.
ELVIN BISHOP-A complete douchebag. He made the circuit based on a hit ("Fooled Around And Fell In Love") that he didn't even sing on. I was familiar with his Alligator Records output and at least was prepared for the good-time blues show that he gave the crowd. It was actually pretty good, even when the crowd wondered why he didn't get around to playing the hit he was famous for. To me, however, he was famous for being in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, so I couldn't wait to ask him questions about it. So while all the radio stations are in his trailer trying to conduct an interview with the guy, he starts to get a little pissy at all of the "So, do you still keep in touch with Mickey Thomas?" questions and then he completely shuts down when I start asking him about working with Butterfield, the East-West album and the late Michael Bloomfield. All of the other stations keep quiet as the tension grows between Bishop and me. It got to the point where I actually said something like "I didn't mean to make you mad." To which he replied "Then don't!" Even when I tried to bring it back around to more appropriate topics like his current release, he continues to act like I was wasting his time.
AIR SUPPLY-I was forced into this one and I wasn't happy about it. Singer Russell Hitchcock was dressed like Peter Pan and he even sported a Peter Pan tattoo on his arm. All of the other radio station people seemed positively thrilled to be with the two dudes from Air Supply, so I just hung out and listened to them chat.
QUIET RIOT-I’ve saved the best story for last. Quiet Riot was scheduled to play a very small bar down the road from our station on a weeknight. We had no connection with the show, so I was surprised when the receptionist paged me to announce that Quiet Riot had stopped by to do an unscheduled interview. The overnighter agreed to talk to the guys and we brought guitarist Carlos Cavazo and (then) bassist Kenny Hillery downstairs to the studios. Even though the studios were dimly lit, Cavazo never took off his sunglasses and he seemed stoned the entire time he was there. Hillery seemed nice enough; as the newest member of this Q.R. configuration, he allowed Carlos to act as the official spokesperson. Lead singer Kevin DuBrow did not show up. The overnight announcer, Blake Davis, agreed beforehand to fuck with them throughout the entire interview. His questions were riddled with absurd questions and blatant Spinal Tap references. While Blake tried to contain his own laughter, Cavazo would answer each question earnestly. It got to the point where Hillery, who was about the same age as us and, therefore, younger than Cavazo, figured out we were having a laugh at their expense and would try to clue Carlos in on the joke. Seriously, he had no idea that questions like “Do your amplifiers go to eleven?” and “Is there a fine line between clever and stupid?” were rigged only to provide amusement to people in on the joke. To Cavazo, these were legitimate questions and he considered each one intently. Afterwards, we all had production work to do and we assumed that the two of them had to get back to the bar for soundcheck. That’s when it got uncomfortable as neither one of them showed any desire to leave the station. For a while, we stood in the hallways talking about anything that came up. Then, they followed me into my office and noticed the wall full of promotional material. Hillery seemed very excited that The Cure had a new album out, so I gave him a copy of it. He then proceeded to press for more free stuff. After allowing him to swipe about four or five albums from our prize vaults, I cut him off and we dropped some fairly obvious hints that Quiet Riot had to leave and allow us to get back to work. Three years later, Kenny Hillery would take his own life; perhaps because I refused to give him that Stanley Clarke cd he wanted.
My tenure at the radio station ended in 1995, as did Riverfest. Plagued by two consecutive summers with shitty weather conditions and the resulting poor ticket sales, the financial coffers that were built by bands like R.E.O. and Cheap Trick had finally diminished. The festival was reduced from seven days to five and then four. When the lower operating costs still didn’t provide enough return, the organizers were forced to approach the local gambling boat for financial support. The casino, of course, wanted to assume complete control over the festival and they proceeded to divert more money from the uncertainty of live concerts towards more family friendly activities like fireworks displays.
With my own financial coffers diminishing, I went towards a more reliable source of income too. But on occasion, just like those bands touring the county fairs and small-town festivals, I get a desire to revisit those glory days and get a backstage pass to witness the spectacle that is the obligatory career slide. Typically, you get a pretty good idea about the personalities of the musician by how they handle the downfall. Some handle it with grace and seem grateful that they have an opportunity to play (Night Ranger, Nazareth). Some bands seem bitter that their careers have been reduced to this (Kansas, R.E.O.). Some bands seem oblivious to their downfall (Eddie Money) while others are oblivious only because they’re too loaded to care (Badfinger, Quiet Riot, Molly Hatchet).
What remained consistent were the fans, oblivious to any downfall and perhaps a little grateful of it for bringing a band from their past a little closer to home.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Stupid Surveys From MySpace

Normally, I'm not a big fan of MySpace surveys, and don't get me started on MySpace chain letters. But at least with the surveys, I'll give 'em a glance before deleting them. That's not the case with the chain letters which almost instantaneously end up in the trash.

One survey came across that was just too good to ignore. It provides a little insight into the world of Totale and, more importantly, was fun to complete.

Plus, it's music related, so it's somewhat legitimate to post it on Glam-Racket.

Song You Believe Your Parents Conceived You To:
The Beatles-“Eight Days A Week”
Song That Best Makes The Soundtrack of Your Childhood Theme:
The Beatles-“Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”
Theme Song To Your Closest Sibling:
N/A (only child)
The First Album You Ever Purchased:
Rolling Stones-Beggar’s Banquet
The First Single You Ever Purchased:
Lee Michaels-“Do You Know What I Mean?”
Album Cover That Weirded You Out During Your Childhood:
The Moody Blues-Question Of Balance
Song That Scared You In Your Childhood:
Jesus Christ Superstar-“Trial Before Pilate/39 Lashes”
The TV Theme of Your Childhood:
Speed Racer
Favorite Song From Sesame Street:
“It’s Not Easy Being Green”
Song You Were Banned From Listening To In Your Childhood:
Ghetto Song That Rocked The Suburbs (as a kid):
Schooly D-“Saturday Night”
Song You First Slow Dragged To:
Whodini-“Freaks Come Out At Night”
Song You First Slow Danced To:
KC & The Sunshine Band-"Please Don't Go"
Favorite Soundtrack Of Youth:
Cheap Trick-At Budokan
Song/Album That Played When You Got In Trouble And Grounded At Home:
Alice Cooper-Love It To Death
Song/Album That Played When You Thought You Were About To Get Some:
Rush-All The World's A Stage
Song/Album That Played When You Got Some:
Bruce Springsteen-Born In The U.S.A.
The Theme To Your First Break Up In High School:
The Smiths-“That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore”
Album That You Stole From A Friend:
Pink Floyd-Dark Side Of The Moon (Girlfriend, actually. We broke up and I never gave it back.)
Your Favorite Album You Think Your Friend Stole:
Flipper-Sex Bomb Baby
If Ever In Car Accident....What Song Was Playing?:
5 Songs You'd Put On A Mixtape For Your Love One:
1.) Death Cab For Cutie-“I Will Follow You Into The Dark”
2.) Pernice Brothers-“Working Girls”
3.) Pavement-“Cut Your Hair”
4.) The Smiths-“There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”
5.) Iron & Wine-“Jezebel”
Song To Best Describe Your Best Relationship:
XTC-“When You’re Near Me I Have Difficulty”
Song To Best Describe Your Worst Breakup:
XTC-“Your Dictionary”
First Concert You Ever Went To:
Iowa Jam ’81: April Wine, 38 Special, The Outlaws, UFO
Magical Concert I Want:
Spacemen 3 reuniting to open up for the reunited Pink Floyd who play Animals in its entirety before having Robyn Hitchcock and David Bowie come on stage to sing Syd Barrett songs with them.
Worst Concert You Ever Went To:
Polvo during the tour for Today’s Active Lifestyles. I was so pissed that I walked out, giving them the finger as I left.
Scrid’s final show was pretty fucking awful too.
Coolest Celeb Ever Met:
Johnny Hott and the late Bryan Harvey from House of Freaks were great. Bryan was murdered on New Years Day 2006 along with his entire family. It blew my mind how someone so nice could be murdered in such a savage way.
Mike Watt was a sweetheart too.
Greg Ginn was pretty cool.
Norwood Fisher of Fishbone was fucking awesome.
Assholish Celeb You Ever Met:
Elvin Bishop was a douchebag.
Godlike Celeb You Ever Met:
Henry Rollins.
Alex Chilton.
Mike Watt.
Song So Hype You'd Run Your Moms Over With A Trash Truck Going 100 mph:
James Brown-“Funky Drummer”
Song That Has The Ability To Make You Cry:
Cat Power-“The Color And The Kids”
The One Song That Has The Ability To Make You A Kid Again:
Cheap Trick-“Surrender”
Song You Are Ashamed To Admit You Love:
April Wine-“Just Between You And Me”
Song/Album That You Have To Gunpoint Others To:
The Fall-Perverted By Language
If You Were To Marry Now What Song Would Be Your Wedding Song?:
Prince-“Let’s Pretend We’re Married”
What Song Best Describes Your Children/Future Children?:
The Flaming Lips-“Do You Realize?”
What Killed Music?:
Major labels viewing music as primarily a financial entity instead of an artform.
Who Keeps Music Alive For You?:
Too many to mention. Artists/bands that continue to challenge themselves, their fans, and strive to make the best piece of work they can.
Song Playing Right Now:
Arcade Fire-“Keep The Car Running”

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Band Madness

So what's a guy from Iowa to do, when none of the state institutions managed to place one frigging entry into the NCAA Tourneyment?

I suppose you could root for Wisconsin.

Or you could substitute "March Madness" for "Band Madness," a fun-filled bracket-style contest where bands/artists are matched up against each other...And you get to chose who advances to the next round.

Some of the match-ups are unusual (The Beatles vs. Big & Rich was a personal favorite) and some are downright tough. In addition, you get to see who's leading the match which, occasionally, prompts some frustration at the morons who are out there voting.

Which is why the link is provided to you, because I know you've got better taste than to allow Portishead lose to Barenaked Ladies.

Winners advance frequently, so check early and vote often.

via Glorious Noise

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Mittens - This Carnival Egg

In the early 90’s, the local music scene of Cedar Falls, Iowa seemed healthy. A fairly supportive community, led by the power-trio House of Large Sizes, spawned a handful of bands playing original music among a the venues that were willing to book a variety of genres, provided that the attendees purchased the obligatory number of Leinenkugel’s to help cover the overhead.
Back then, there were independent record stores where you could buy records and cds. There was enough interest in H.O.L.S. to get their album My Ass-Kicking Life distributed by Columbia. And there was enough talent to warrant House’s leader, Dave Diebler, to start his own record label and get the local bands on vinyl.
Fast-forward to Cedar Falls circa today and, like a lot of places around the country, you’ll find things have changed. The venues and record stores in this college town have diminished or disappeared entirely. The scene found itself fragmented to the point where the idea of a “community” became a utopia that the “old-timers” preached and the younger set ridiculed.
Kevin Jass, frontman for C.F.’s The Mittens has been around long enough to witness the town’s landscape change firsthand; he was/is a regular audience member of local shows and his first band, Mugwump, released a single in the early 90’s on Diebler’s North Cedar label. And unlike a lot of people who temporarily reside in college towns, Jass has remained in Cedar Falls, fiercely loyal to the inspirations that prompted him to pick up a Gibson guitar in the first place.
After all: one could do worse than to have a protégé like Dave Diebler.
On The Mittens’ third album, This Carnival Egg, Jass continues to kick and scream his way into middle age by picking up the pieces of his disbanded muse and soldiering on. With Niles Naaktgeboren on bass and his brother William on drums, Jass has found a pair of Cedar Valley music veterans with a similar realization that the band is more of a creative release for after-work rehearsals and weekend gigs than a full time rock dream.
This Carnival Egg lifts heavily from H.O.L.S. (“Basement Window” contains a bass line eerily similar to House’s “Nocturnal”) along with the occasional nod to fellow Midwesterners The Magnolias. Throughout it, Jass sounds positively defeated, alternating from a weary yell to a somnolent undertone with a humbucker being his last standing leg. The Naatkgeboren brothers provide him with a reliable rhythm section; rather than flaunt the experience they bring to the band, they provide a suitable support for Jass to exercise his frustrations.
His topics range from the obligatory exodus of any college town (“Saw you then you disappeared/Frozen, a shadow from another year”) to the increasing lack of civility (“Nice is worth a nickel, I heard you say/It never comes back”) in a society that increasingly finds road rage as a contact sport. Jass seems to be one of those people who quietly fester at the things that negatively impact his life only to let them loose when the guitar strap is comfortably resting across his shoulders.
The band stumbles on a few tracks, namely “Prozac Smile,” a momentum stopper that strangely finds 80’s synthesizers competing against a perfectly capable 90’s rock vibe. When the band uses more organic treatments (pedal steel, Hammond B-3) to expand their pallet, it works.
Aside from these minor quips, This Carnival Egg provides a refreshing visitation of an era that practiced its therapy sessions in the basement lit with forty-watt light bulbs and powered by hundred-watt combo amps. It was a period when bands spent less time contemplating how they would spend the record label advance money and more time on refining the nuances of their Friday night setlist. Sure, the latter is less glamorous and requires work, but then again, nobody said playing rock music would be easy.
So while some upstarts might view The Mittens as the remnants of a bygone era, it will only be a matter of time before they’ll become the reference point in much the same way their influences were for them.
And one could do worse than having a protégé like Kevin Jass.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

2007 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

Now it’s getting interesting. 2007 marks the first year that rap is recognized in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and your Dad is pissed off. Actually, a lot of people are pissed off; with all of the no-brainers already inducted, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is now to the point where they are including controversial acts and while still ignoring others.
To be honest, I was a little pissed myself that The Stooges were curiously left out (again) this year while The Ronettes, a "band" that I assumed to be nothing more than a Phil Spector project, were included.
After screaming "Fuck you, Jann Wenner!" a few times, I calmed down and realized that the oversight is nothing new and, ultimately, inevitable.
Could this be the first signs of the Rock Hall transistioning from the old guard to the new?
Before I open up that can of worms, here’s a quick rundown of the ’07 inductees.

  • Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five-The fact is, without introducing rap music, the Rock Hall would run out of artists, or at least artists that would insure the profitability of the damn thing afloat. And if you’re going to open the door to rap music, you have to start with Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five. For real: most of the people I knew that had the single “The Message” had it right next to their rock records anyway. So what’s the difference? Flash looked visibly moved that he was inducted at the end of the set, and for me, that made the entire “controversy” irrelevant. And fuckin’ a: they had the tightest performance of the entire evening.

  • The Ronettes-Another controversial inductee. Anyone as foxy as these chicks and anyone who married Phil Spector….And lived to tell about…Deserves a place in the Rock Hall.

  • Patti Smith-Controversy again. This time it’s about lack of commercial success and the perception that the Rock Hall has developed into an elitist board that’s supposed to teach us dummies what we should be listening to. The reality is that Patti Smith had an enormous impact on rock music, regardless of her carpet bagging, hippy idealism. Her performance of “Rock & Roll Nigger” was probably one of the most notorious moments in the history of Rock Hall performances. Keith Richard, one of Smith’s primary influences, dyed his hair for the occasion and looked relatively good.

  • Van Halen-Jesus H. Christ, what a clusterfuck. Yet another controversial inductee (see: rock elitism) but the fact remains that they deserve to be in there. Just not in the manner in which they were represented. Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony were the ones on hand to accept, and if the presence of Sammy wasn’t enough to turn your stomach, how about Velvet Revolver covering a few V.H. tunes? Slash completely fucked up the introduction to “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” before Scott Weiland managed to turn the entire performance into a joke. Weiland donned some strange type of vocal styling that was nowhere near David Lee Roth, Sammy Hagar, or even himself. It was the most awfully perfect way to introduce one of the most insanely frustrating bands. For all the drama that V.H. has put fans through lately, the Velvet Revolver performance was karma at its best. Telling, Hagar waxed at how he was honored how one of the “best rock bands around today” literally raped the material they presented. The Red Rocker wasn’t much better either as he sounded completely flat during a walk through of “Why Can’t This Be Love.” Truly, one of the worst performances in Rock Hall ceremony history.

  • R.E.M.-About the only inductee that was mutually agreed upon, and rightfully so. Eddie Vedder managed to both passionately speak about the band and virtually guarantee Pearl Jam’s induction into the Hall in 2016. I think Michael Stipe came out of the closet during the acceptance speech! And Holy Shit, I miss Bill Berry behind the kit. I was nearly brought to tears when they did “Gardening At Night.” It quickly subsided when they had Vedder come out for “Man On The Moon,” which was almost as annoying as Stipe yelling “Cool!” during the chorus.

Stipe brought out Patti Smith for a cool version of The Stooges “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” which I also took as a swipe against the Rock Hall voters for not getting Iggy and the boys in this year.
Then, everybody and their dog came out for “People Have The Power.” Sammy Hagar joined Ronnie Spector in the “I don’t have a fucking clue what this song is” department while Keef managed some tasty soloing before he figured out that he was carrying everybody else’s ass. Steven Stills also threw down some nice solos on a few measures while managing to look more and more like Van Morrison (with muttonchops) each passing year.
It was a very tepid and uneventful way to end one of the most debated years in the history of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Personally, I think the Rock Hall shot their wad fairly quickly during the first few years when it seemed they tried to induct all of the obligatory pioneers. Rather than hurting someone’s feelings, the Rock Hall ran ramshot over the first wave (10 artist were inducted in 1986 while only 5 managed to get in this year) and they’re now faced with an increased debate on who is worthy and who isn’t.
To that point, and to quote a great rock album, it’s too late to stop now. When the Hall started to allow bands in on sales instead of cultural significance, it changed the make up of the inductees forever.
The first evidence of this came in the Hall’s strange choice to induct Bobby Darin back in 1990. If you’re wondering, outside of “Splish Splash,” what rock & roll records Bobby Darin actually contributed to the genre, well, you’re absolutely correct in your confusion.
Ever since then, there has been at least one “what the fuck are they thinking” moment when perusing the inductee list each year.
But now there’s more and more of them for the baby-boomers; the entire Grandmaster Flash fiasco merely reaffirms their tired argument of how rap isn’t really music. They’re also going to have to come to terms with progressive rock and (gasp) metal as those influential bands start to become glaringly absent to the rest of the rock community.
In letting go, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that there is going to be a lot of bands that I would automatically disqualify as being contenders to the Rock Hall. I don’t feel that a band like Kiss deserves to be in, and there’s a whole slue of progressive rock (a genre that I feel, in some ways, did more to harm rock than help it) bands that I would roll my eyes at if they made the induction list.
Like Wings said, let ‘em in. The Rock Hall is not about me, nor is it a history lesson of underappreciated performers deserving of additional recognition. Right or wrong, the entire induction process is just as polarizing as it should be, given how polarizing the genre was when it started.
Just in case Jann Wenner is reading this, however, let me use Glam-Racket as a soapbox to lobby for the following whose time is well overdue:

  • Kiss-Look, I can’t begrudge the literally thousands of motherfucking bands that were influenced by these assclowns. So let ‘em in and give Gene and Paul a reason to suck some more cash out of their moronic “army” in the guise of another farewell tour.

  • Alice Cooper-And don’t forget to bring the surviving members of the original band, you right-wing motherfucker.

  • The Stooges-Duh.

  • Rush-The Hall could placate both the progressive rock contingency and the metalheads in one fell swoop with this one.

  • Joy Division-Goth began here and there hasn’t been a band more black since.

Feel free to add your own via the comments.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Youth Are Getting Restless: The Secret History of the Cedar Valley

Trust me: when you get older, you spend a lot of time waxing about the good old days (as evidenced by the number of nostalgia related posts here) and, particularly to those individuals that have no frame of reference to the events (as evidenced by the number of eye-rolls I get from the SLF), there’s a limited appeal to the stories you tend to repeat. These stories increase with every passing drink of alcohol, which may explain why I tend to avoid both alcohol and bars myself.
So I try to keep current events a frequent part of this site with the occasional foray into history; I hope for those of you with no frame of reference find those posts fairly entertaining and understand that a lot of Glam-Racket tends to serve as a mental catalog for me should my mind start to fail or should, God forbid, there’s some documentation of things if I happened to leave this existence.
After all, I want my kids to read about all of my youthful indiscretions so that they can pass them along in future family gatherings.
I suppose it’s an “art form,” if one widens their definition and considers the written word to be this. But it’s nowhere near the level that some individuals succumb to when combining nostalgia with actual art.
Matt Wilson, member of the punk band Crock Of Dookey and frequent Cedar Valley scenester, has found himself combining both the elements of his rock past with his recent position as a college art professor to develop The Secret History of the Cedar Valley, an interactive exhibit taking place at the Waldemar A. Schmidt Art Gallery on the Wartburg College campus in Waverly, Iowa. This exhibition runs from March 17th to April 14th with the opening reception taking place on Saturday, March 17th between 6 – 8 pm.
Wilson had the incredible foresight to utilize his parent’s attic to store show fliers, band photographs, photocopied fanzines, and other seemingly disposable artifacts that demonstrate the zeal of youth and DIY ethos that the scene created.
While billed as a reflection of the Cedar Valley’s underground music scene between 1977-2007, it appears that a lot of the memorabilia will center on the salad days of the late 80’s. This happens to be the era that I’m most familiar with, so the exhibition has some added interest for yours truly.
Occasionally, I’ll pull out a lost 7” single, flier, demo cassette from my own collection and it will immediately take me back to that time where faces like Wilson’s are permanently burnt at the age of 18 in my own memory.
While I meandered through the history that’s documented on his project, I came face to face with bands that I hadn’t thought of in two decades (Aggressive Chubbies, Drednex) and the names of performers that had been lost over time.
When the SLF and I moved to our new home last fall, I came across an old SST album that wasn’t packed properly. After securing it, I found a piece of colored paper that contained the photocopied remnants of a handwritten fanzine (“35% Combed Cotton”) on one side and an autograph from Black Flag’s Greg Ginn on the other. It reminded me of a few things: first of all, how much manual intensive work was involved in DIY compared to now. While it’s easy to create a “scene” using on-line communities like MySpace and Facebook today, back then it required a lot of personalized attention. It also reminded me how scenes across the country worked independently of each other, yet had a symbiotic relationship with each other, particularly when booking shows. I mean, there’s no way Greg Ginn would have been in Cedar Falls, Iowa without a network of like-minded people preaching the gospel and inviting such an artist into the local environment for a show. And if the show ended up to be created by some enthusiastic yet poorly organized people, the word tended to get out for other bands to avoid making the same mistake and accepting a future invitation.
Perhaps this all amounts to a bit of “fogeyism” on my part, but I firmly believe that the loss of community is directly attributed to a lack of the younger set implementing the ideals of past generations in order to get the wheels of a viable music scene in motion. Maybe The Secret History of the Cedar Valley exhibit will change that and provide those with a vested interest in having their own creativity reach a larger audience instead of merely being supported by a privileged few.
After all, I probably only enjoyed the music a small fraction of those who are featured at the exhibition, but I admired and respected every one of those that had the moxie to truly do it themselves.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Bright Eyes - Four Winds

It’s not that I hate Conor Oberst. It’s just that I envy him. At the tender age of 27, his talents are well documented and his praises are equally renowned. When you start dealing with emotions like this, you then begin to look for additional reasons not to like him: privileged upbringing, a well organized scene to pull talent from, a tendency to overload each song with excessive arrangements and compulsive word-play. None of this, of course, are legitimate reasons to fault the kid and none of this has any bearing on how gifted he is.
Four Winds is a “teaser” e.p. that prefaces the full-length Cassadaga scheduled to be released next month. The title track, a fine fiddle-tinged country rock romp, represents the first single from that album while the remaining five tracks collect outtakes from the recording sessions. That also means that “Four Winds” is, indeed, the best thing on this e.p.
And you probably know that Oberst’s leftovers are better than most artists’ main course.
It’s a relief, however, to admit that none of the tracks here demonstrate any evidence of genius or artistic brilliance, title track included. There’s better examples in his cannon that will surely knock your socks of but, with that being said, Four Winds won’t prevent you from seeking them out either.
Taking any release that fills the majority of its track listings with outtakes presents its own grain of salt, for sure, but I count two of them (“Smoke Without Fire,” “Stray Dog Freedom”) that would be worthy enough for a “real” effort.
“Smoke Without Fire,” a heavily reverbed ballad, benefits with some excellent guest work from M. Ward and right around the moment you realize how great the track is, it ends.
“Stray Dog Freedom” presents Oberst and company in Wilco country-rock territory, and while it doesn’t sound as genuine as the reference, it’s a pleasurable exercise nonetheless with a nice Neil Young inspired guitar solo.
The remaining three tracks (“Reinvent The Wheel,” “Cartoon Blues” and “Tourist Trap”) sound like outtakes and won’t make converts out of the new arrivals or satisfy the long-standing supporters.
One surprise is how poorly sequenced the e.p. is. While the six tracks of Four Winds are fairly independent of each other musically, and considering that you have to have the “single” tracked out of the gate, it doesn’t make sense how they came up with the running order for the remaining five. I suppose it’s fairly irrelevant nowadays anyway, as most kids don’t concern themselves with track sequencing, choosing to hit “shuffle” on their portable players instead.
I think Oberst knows that his accolades contribute to a certain degree of dissention among music fans like himself. In the video for “Four Winds,” he plays on a stage in front of a silent crowd before they start to boo and throw objects at him while he performs. His astute observation of how he’s perceived doesn’t help much with my own envy. Like his songs, the video is pretty awesome too.

Friday, March 9, 2007

More Van Halen

So now it appears that both personal politics and personal issues are the reason for the Van Halen tour being "postponed" Eddie's statement from the Van Halen Website:

"Some of the issues surrounding the 2007 Van Halen tour are within my ability to change and some are not. As far as my rehab is concerned, it is within my ability to change and change for the better."
But wait, there's more.

Apparently, the Rock Hall won't let David Lee Roth sing, which means that even he won't be showing up for the ceremonies. From the L.A. Times:
"I don't make speeches for a living; I sing and dance for my dinner," Roth said,
adding that the decision to skip the event "rips my heart out."
If you're keeping score, this means that bassist Michael Anthony will be the only member of Van Halen present to accept their induction.

UPDATE: It looks like Sammy will be at the reception tonight (it's broadcasted tonight, 3/12/07, on VH1 Classic, so I'll check it out if the little one lets me change it from the fucking Sprout network). And the Rock Hall president is stating that they indeed want Roth to sing....with Velvet Revolver...a few classic V.H. tunes. I don't fault Roth for declining and I think he wants to save face just in case there happens to be a V.H. reunion after Eddie cleans up.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Stooges - The Weirdness

My first reaction spinning The Weirdness was to automatically preface everything I wanted to say by declaring how great the first three Stooges albums are. The reasons are equal parts damage control to their established legacy as well as a protective mother role that wants to protect these Michigan fuck ups from the abuse they already encountered during their well documented phoenix between 69-74.
But now there’s a part of me that understands none of ‘em deserves it. Christ on a bike: Iggy’s 60 which means he’s old enough to figure out what’s shit and when to stop the moment he’s about to completely dismantle one of rock & roll’s most treasured landmarks.
For every one of The Stooges first three albums, Iggy and the band sound like the house band during the apocalypse. On The Weirdness, their first album in over thirty years, they sound like a caricature of their former glory. And who’s the one doing most of the vandalism? None other than Iggy himself.
When “My Idea Of Fun” was first introduced to the public, it became very apparent that our expectations of the new Stooges album shouldn’t be raised too high. However, there was a hope that the song was merely one of the low points of the album. Surprise! It’s actually one of the better songs on the album, which should demonstrate how ridiculously awful the rest of the disc is.
If you thought “my idea of fun/is killing everyone” was fairly innocuous, then nothing will prepare you for lyrics like “I pulled up to the ATM/I pulled up to the ATM/My, what a rich fool I am.”
But wait, it gets worse.
“Free And Freaky” is almost a rewrite of John Cougar Mellencamp’s “R.O.C.K. (In The U.S.A.)”
“Mexican Guy” finds Iggy sounding like a monotonous Anthony Kedis.
On “Trollin,” Iggy exclaims “My dick is turning into a tree” before (rightfully) acknowledging that “Rock critics wouldn’t like this at all.” You think?
At no time does Iggy sound like he’s having a good time; with every half-assed yell, flat note, and bored phrasing, the longtime fan has nothing else to consider except that this reunion was planned out of financial desire rather than creative need.
If it seems that I’m singling out Iggy for this disaster, it’s because the focus is justifiable. The Ashtons, while nowhere near their younger fury, actually manage a respectable offering throughout The Weirdness. Ron’s guitar sounds as mean as ever while Scott plods along with perfect timing throughout the set. Mike Watt dutifully provides the rhythm section with the necessary balls and Steve Albini’s production work provides the sound of the release with the perfect dynamics. Even saxophonist Steve Mackay manages to throw a little bit of Fun House freak out on the album closer “I’m Fried” with fairly adequate results. So with the rest of the participants off the hook, that leaves one Iggy Pop as the sole person responsible for everything wrong here.
The Weirdness is so utterly removed from the groundwork previously laid, one has to wonder how at least one track couldn’t have hinted at anything remotely similar to The Stooges. Sure, three decades have passed, but The Stooges have always seemed to be a band built on chaotic chemistry more than sheer musicianship. And chemistry is a funny thing, particularly when it was originally created in a trailer park in Michigan with a bunch of fellow miscreants. Could it be that Michigan is a far cry from sunny Florida, where The Weirdness ultimately took shape? Or could it be that, regardless of the origins of this reunion album, Iggy learned that you can never really go home, even with some familiar scoundrels backing him?
For me, The Stooges’ final musical statement was when the last beer bottle was thrown on Metallic K.O. And after listening to The Weirdness, I would have been throwing beer bottles at Iggy too, had I known he would jeopardize the band’s legacy like this.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Our Nation Underground

How bad off is the record industry? So bad that a band that only managed to sell 1,300 of their last album now has the opportunity to see their second album debut on the Billboard charts at #1.
If Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible can move more units than Korn’s Unplugged or Notorious B.I.G.’s greatest hits release, Merge Records may enter the charts at the top spot, a feat that many other artists have yet to accomplish. Blender magazine talks about this possibility in greater detail here.
Not to take anything away from the band, and not to diminish the record’s early acclaim, if Arcade Fire can achieve such a feat it won’t be the result of clever marketing, SNL appearances, or critical praise. They will debut at number one because 2007 is proving to be one of the most dismal years ever for sales. With sales as sluggish as they have been during the first quarter of this year, it is proving to be a great time to be in a highly-touted indie rock band.
2007 is proving to be a great time for fans of indie rock too.
There is a veritable trifecta of quality bands releasing records in the first part of ’07: The Shins, Arcade Fire, and Modest Mouse all have their anticipated albums coming out around the same time, and all three have been given notable praise.
And while every year finds its share of great releases, there are some moments in which music fans really have to search hard to locate them. So far, there are a lot of worthy albums available as close as your local Wal-Mart and as high as a top ten position on the Billboard charts.
How cool is that?
Very cool, when you consider what made up the top ten last week:

  1. Norah Jones-Not Too Late
  2. Daughtry-Daughtry
  3. Fall Out Boy-Infinity On High
  4. Kidz Bop Kids-Kidz Bop 11
  5. Akon-Konvicted
  6. Robin Thicke-The Evolution Of Robin Thicke
  7. Justin Timberlake-Future Sex/LoveSounds
  8. Corinne Bailey Rae-Corinne Bailey Rae
  9. Gerald LeVert-In My Songs
  10. Toby Mac-(portable sounds)

I don’t know about you, but replacing one of those albums with a Neon Bible, a Wincing The Night Away or We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank sounds just fine to me.

Monday, March 5, 2007

The Broken West - Live Review

The Broken West
The Picador

One of the best things about seeing a young band making their way across the country, playing for small pockets of people who have never heard of them, is watching how they address these uncomfortable situations. It gets even better when said bands manage to win over a crowd through their charm and through the quality of their performance.
The Broken West made their way through the Midwest over the weekend, scheduling opening slots with the intent of garnishing attention on their full-length debut for Merge, I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On.
In yet another example of Iowa City fickleness, about four dozen attendees witnessed this Los Angeles quintet attempt to break through the fourth wall during their truncated set. Supporting Iowa City’s Death Ships, The Broken West lifted heavily from the power-pop long-player with the abandon of a band that seemed to honestly appreciate the patrons that managed to show up on this cold March evening.
After some obligatory Hawkeye pandering and after the inevitable equipment malfunction (bad cable), lead vocalist Ross Flournoy donned an acoustic and set out to capture the attention of those patiently waiting for the headliners in this four band show.
By the time the band started “You Can Build An Island,” the lurkers had shortened the distance between the band and the crowd.
Unfortunately, a pair of inebriated girls also shortened their distance to the stage, providing the band (and the crowd) with lessons of alcohol-fueled flirtations and inappropriate throwing of the devil horns.
I don’t know if their fuck me eyes got any of the fellas lucky, but the girl’s hand signals must have hit a switch that caused the band to kick it up a notch.
By the end of “Down In The Valley,” one of the lurkers barked “You guys rock!” and sounded just as sincere as the “Thanks, man!” the bass player acknowledged back to him.
After a quick review of the album, there was enough time to provide an unreleased encore, “Horse.” With more of a country-via-Laurel Canyon feel then the other songs performed, it proved to house a wonderfully memorable chorus (“Fuck you/And the horse you rode in on”) and was a perfect way to end the set.
The Broken West demonstrated to a small crowd in Iowa that they have the chops to make a lasting impression; now let’s see if the small crowd made enough of an impression for them to come back around under better conditions.
We’ll promise to keep the drunk girls away from the stage next time.


On The Bubble
So It Goes
You Can Build An Island
B.C.B. (?)
Down In The Valley
Brass Ring



photo courtesy of the band's website.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury

The "(White) Rapper Show" post reminded me of a legitimately great rap album released last year.

Let’s no sugarcoat the obvious: rap music has become a bloated caricature of its formal self, and for every time you have to program out a pointless skit on a rap disc, you’re fueling my argument. I mean, am I really supposed to take a gansta seriously after they’ve scripted out a few “scenes” on a fucking music cd, detailing the imagery of their lifestyle, neighborhood, or profession before landing that lucrative record deal? Who has the balls to call bullshit here?
I’m betting that Clipse has the gonads to call bullshit on every single rapper that’s filled their disc with redundant filler and songs “featuring” every motherfucking MC that happened to be in the studio the night it was recorded. They’ve completely liposuctioned the fat out of Hell Hath No Fury and brought gansta rap back to the level it needs to be: uncompromising, uncommercial, and legitimately frightening.
Rather than rehash the details of why it’s taken, what, four years to follow up Lord Willin,’ lets rehash why HBO’s The Wire has a ton of critical praise but little in terms of actual audience. Work with me here, because I’m willing to bet that all of the glowing reviews blessed on Hell Hath No Fury will not translate into platinum certifications either. Both examples are deserving of accolades, no doubt, but both examples are typically too real to effectively market to white audiences. So there you have it: Clipse’s latest is the sonic equivalent of The Wire. And while the white suburban youth like to dream about how awesome it is to be a hustler, they seldom consider the moral sacrifice it takes to get that ’06 Bentley Continental. Clipse does, and the journey doesn’t travel through the suburbs or lend itself well to radio programmers.Part of this is due to the Neptune’s production prowess, which is as barren as the street corner where addiction is traded to anyone with the right amount of need and cash on hand. The minimalism is intentional, and it provides the perfect backdrop to contemplate the rhymes, which paint a more detailed picture than anything Pharrell Williams or Chad Hugo could create anyway.
The canvas, it seems, is selling cocaine. “I’m more in touch with the keys/Move over Alicia” they’re declaring within the first minute, explaining that the rap game is “like child’s play/my show and tell.” Malice and Pusha T, the two brothers that make up Clipse, are talented at the rap game to the point where the listener can believe this isn’t their primary source of income. Or, as explained before the fade out of “We Got It For Cheap,” “Record sales…digital scales…it’s whatever…we always at home”
Thankfully, their home is a million miles away from my own because Hell Hath No Fury is one brutally honest document of what being a hustler is really like. And within the disc’s fifty minutes, you’ll understand how completely diluted rap’s current gansta superstars really are.
Clipse’s shit is completely uncut.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.