Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The 2008 Baker's Dozen

True story: it was around June of this year and I began lamenting the lack of real awesome albums that 2008 was (by then) producing. I was running down some of the albums that I enjoyed up to that point and it began to look like things like a Cat Power covers record would be making the list, followed by a whole slew of re-issues. Normally, I don’t like changing the rules for the Baker’s Dozen list, but it did seem that I would have to, just to make sure that I’d be able to house thirteen titles while completely ignoring any honorable mentions.
Thankfully, the second half of the year changed that and the list you’re seeing below became a lot harder to compile. That’s usually the sign of a good year, and I’m convinced that 2008 was indeed that.
So the first thirteen are those records that I think any self-serving music fan should aquire with the honorable mentions…the “other” thirteen titles…are ones that I’d still recommend checking out as I enjoyed them immensely and continue to spin them to this day. On some titles, links to a complete review are included.
If there are titles that you think should be added, just comment.
If there are titles included here that you think shouldn’t be, you’re wrong.


1.) SPIRITUALIZEDSongs In A&E
Jason Pierce comes back from a near death experience and rejuvenates a band that had a near death experience creatively as well.
2.) SHEARWATER - Rook
35 minutes of brilliant grandeur, made even more impressive coming off the heels of their first hints of greatness with Palo Santo.
3.) BOB DYLAN - The Bootleg Series Volume 8: Tell Tale Signs
Volume 8 shows us that Dylan’s creative resurgence didn’t necessarily begin with his last three outings. Even twenty years ago, Bob was able to produce items of impressive esteem and, even more strangely, put many of them away that finally become unearthed here.
4.) DEERHUNTER - Microcastle
Microcastle confirms what Cryptograms alluded to. While not at divisive as its predecessor, it continues a trend of rich vitality of a band whose importance has not been fully realized.
5.) CENTRO-MATIC/SOUTH SAN GABRIEL - Dual Hawks
One of America’s best-kept secrets who’s only downfall may be with their prolific output. Even at double the size, Dual Hawks contains enough wonderful performances to warrant the girth and greater scrutiny from a larger audience.
6.) ERYKAH BADU - New Ameryka Part 1: 4th World War
Sure, there are huge gaps in this overreaching concept album, but there is nobody today that seems to be taking these kinds of chances and pouring this level of emotion into every step/misstep that they do.
7.) MARTY WILSON-PIPER - Nightjar
Wilson-Piper’s best album comes at a time when both he and The Church have become criminally slighted by both the music press and among the musicians themselves that lift directly from their wake.
8.) AMANDA PALMER - Who Killed Amanda Palmer?
Palmer may be America’s best audio/visual performer around today, packaged in a weird conglomeration of sexual ambiguity and music hall kitsch. It may be incredibly calculated at times, but her bravery, talent, and enthusiasm are a blast to watch/hear.
9.) PORTISHEADThird
To emerge from a decade-long hiatus and still sound this vital is impressive enough. But Portishead also sounds like they’ve used that time to come up with a release that tops their prior output. Emotive, challenging, and a step ahead; Portishead continue to grow and grow up.
10.) OKKERVIL RIVER - The Stand-Ins
The second in a two-part series of releases that…I’ll be damned…nearly matches the high-water mark set by The Stage Names. Will Sheff is one of those rare talents that understand his best comes when he surrounds himself with likeminded greatness, even when he sets nearly impossible deadlines.
11.) THE FALL - Imperial Wax Solvent
New band, new year, new Fall album. And, surprise surprise, it’s another worthy contender in a catalog that contains some of rock’s most important releases. Someone should tell Mark E. Smith that he’s not supposed to be making albums this good so late in his career, but then again, no one tells Mark E. Smith anything. It’s a trend that has served him well.
12.) MOTORHEAD - Motorizer
Finally! An album that matches the iconic logo and fabled history. There’s no new ground broken with Motorizer, but something has gotten up Lemmy’s ass to the point where he’s finally stood up and made an album that belies his age and matches his past.
13.) LOVE IS ALLA Hundred Things Keep Me Up At Night
It may have a tad more production than Nine Times The Same Song, but it’s equal to its immediate affection and worry-free charm. Even with war, economic strife, and other forms of political dilemma, there’s nothing that tops the war between the sexes and the impact that a little ass shaking can have on one’s spirit..

Honorable Mentions

DISFEAR-Live The Storm
SILVER JEWS-Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea
BROKEN WEST-Now Or Heaven
AC/DC-Black Ice
M83-Saturdays=Youth
NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS-Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!
CRYSTAL STILTS-Alight Of Night
DUNGEN-4
TESTAMENT-The Formation Of Damnation
THE MELVINS-Nude With Boots
ELVIS COSTELLO & THE IMPOSTERS-Momofuku
AMERICAN MUSIC CLUB-The Golden Age
THE BREEDERS-Mountain Battles

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas From Glam-Racket!

It's Christmas, which means that you're treated to another random episode of R. Kelly's Trapped In The Closet for no particular reason other than it's a Glam-Racket tradition.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Five Golden Tuques

It’s the last day for you to get me my Christmas present. The t-shirt in the picture will do, or the complete Chess recordings of Chuck Berry.
But the reality is that it’s quite awesome watching the kids getting so excited over Christmas. More so Ethan, as Calli just goes over an occasionally fucks with the ornaments on the tree. Ethan’s responsible for that, as he puts all of his ornaments together, in a cluster at the bottom, and of course Callista goes over and starts grabbing them thinking they’re toys to play with. That’s why my Elvis ornaments are out of reach of both kids. She has pointed out to her Mom and I that she would like a My Little Pony (“Pony!”) and Brobee from Yo Gabba Gabba! (“That!”).
Ethan has indicated that he wants pretty much everything that’s on television.
I am very proud of him, however, as I have taught him Bob & Doug MacKenzie’s version of the “12 Days Of Christmas” and he’s repeatedly singing “And a beer in a tree!” at the most inappropriate of moments.
That reminds me: those Bob and Doug figurines that McFarland had out a few years ago would be another great stocking stuffer for yours truly.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Crystal Stilts/Love Is All

Hard to believe, but before the Love Is All/Crystal Stilts show last Saturday (scratch that…this was written a while ago and I’ve just gotten around to posting this. Full account of the show over at Glorious Noise), I had never been to the Rock Island Brewing Company, affectionately known as RIBCO from this point forward. Nice joint. Check it out. Green Day played there once.
And the grilled cheese sammies ain’t bad either.
It was an all ages show, with what I would assume to be a consorted effort to get as many patrons as possible in a town that probably had zero familiarity with the two bands on the bill. There was another band on the second show (ours had a 5:00 pm start time) but I had no interest and no energy to stay. Actually, I like early shows at my age; it gave the wife and I time to hang out at the World’s Largest Truck Stop later and make it home in time to watch Iron Man.
For those of you who have never been to the I-80 truck stop, make a special trip because it’s totally awesome. It has everything you’d expect at a full-service truck stop, but it also has so many amenities that it’s as close to trucker heaven as the Snowman would ever get. They have a movie theatre, a dentist, a chiropractor, and plenty of accessories for your eighteen-wheeler. Need a pair of lady mud flaps? They got ‘em. How about a religious t-shirt made up to look like a soda logo? Sure, in fact they have several brands to choose from. Seeking out that cassette copy of Depeche Mode Catching Up With Depeche Mode? You bet. In fact, there’s a bunch of overpriced cassettes to choose from, all in their original packaging.
The Largest Truck Stop in the world is a wonderland of kitsch and I could spend hours there and lots of cash on utterly worthless crap.
Getting back to the Crystal Stilts: they actually sat at the booth next to ours, enjoying a big dish of nachos and other bar food until the house soundman stopped by and told them they had fifteen minutes until show time.
“Check. Check. We’re going to need some more reverb. A lot more” the drummer announced to the soundman. It’s true: Crystal Stilts utilize that same Jesus & Mary Chain canyon mentality along with a bit of Velvet Underground N.Y.C. detachment. The thing is, the more lead vocalist Brad Hargett acted cold, nonchalantly swaying with eyes closed to the repetitive beat, the more I kept thinking that he had a plate of half-eaten nachos next to me, getting cold. The limitations were there in the live setting, and their debut is a lot more fun than their performances. And why do I always think of the Doors cover band Crystal Ship whenever I say Crystal Stilts?
They only played about eight songs before relinquishing the stage to Love Is All.
I only had enough money for one cd after my shot of Jager and a bottle of Stella Artois, so I chose the new Love Is All. The Stilts’ debut is pretty good, though. A review for both efforts is to come later.
The photo is courtesy of a shitty camera phone shot as I left the digital camera in the diaper bag.

Friday, December 19, 2008

AC/DC - Black Ice


Before we can even discuss a note about the new AC/DC album Black Ice, two of the band’s business decisions involving the release need to be addressed. And while it may not necessarily be strikes against the music itself, it does address the band’s character. You can only get Black Ice at one of two place’s: the band’s website and at mega-retailer Wal-Mart. The first comes with free shipping while the second means that you must traverse the endless asphalt parking lot just to get an album from a company that helped suffocate your community’s personality.
Angus Young defends the decision as inevitable, since Wal-Mart is “the only game in town” in some communities. True, but Black Ice would have been available at Wal-Mart anyway. The exclusive part was motivated entirely by greed, and when a band like AC/DC is blessed with the second largest selling album in rock history (Back In Black) you have to wonder just how much more money does one band need?
The second issue is the band’s decision to not work out a deal with ITunes. Angus again puts a nice spin on this decision, by suggesting that AC/DC is an “album” band, and that putting Black Ice on ITunes would allow casual fans to cherry pick the songs that they want and not appreciate the album as a whole piece.
While it may be nice to think that Angus was just standing firm for the art form, you have to wonder if, once again, greed was the primary reason for boycotting the largest music retailer on the planet. The band would have ultimately received a smaller percentage if buyers did indeed only download a few tracks and leave the bulk of Black Ice behind at the virtual store.
But can you blame casual fans for wanting just a few choice cuts and not the whole deal? AC/DC is a critical part of my own musical development, so it is with sadness that I must admit the band’s post For Those About To Rock output is prime for cherry picking. I wouldn’t fault anyone for wanting to grab the best tracks and leave the subpar material behind.
After Ballbreaker, I wished I would have.
With eight years to work out a track list, there should be no excuses for the band to deliver the goods on Black Ice a release an album that’s on par with the start-to-finish greatness of For Those About To Rock. If you can overlook all of the aforementioned greed that does cloud the band’s legacy somewhat, you should be pleasantly surprised at how close AC/DC have come to achieving that with Black Ice.
The album begins with the band’s best song in over a quarter-century, “Rock ‘N Roll Train.”
In fact, the first three cuts (“Train,” “Skies On Fire” and “Big Jack”) are just plain awesome. The fourth track, “Anything Goes,” is a bland radio cut that’s devoid of both balls and bite, two vital ingredients that should be in every AC/DC track. Ditto for “Rock ‘N Roll Dream,” a misguided ballad that reminds you the only ballad that belongs in the band’s catalog is Bon Scott’s “Ride On.”
There’s about two other songs (“Decibel” and “Rocking All The Way”) that are merely standard-issue AC/DC cuts with no real personality or memorable arrangements. But the rest are solid, welcomed additions into the very limited spectrum of their career defining formula.
Vocalist Brian Johnson sounds better than he has in over two decades, thanks to some new vocal strategies implemented by producer Brendon O’Brien. Johnson has been one the band’s major liabilities for some time now. With each passing album his voice has deteriorated to the point of being embarrassingly inept, but for Black Ice he sounds impressively improved and one of the album’s surprising highpoints.
But the real highpoint…as ever…is the band’s rhythm section. Tight as fuck and stable as an ancient marble pillar, drummer Phil Rudd and bassist Cliff Williams give the Young brothers with such precise horsepower that all they have to do is find the pocket and hammer you over the head with riff after riff.
At nearly an hour long, it all begins to blend together, which points to the nagging question of why bands…particularly those like AC/DC where there is very little versatility to their overall sound…don’t subscribe to the idea of streamlining. This was a band that averaged one album per year, each one of them with ten cuts. When the well began to run dry from that schedule, the albums began to suffer, so the notion of taking longer periods between sets is welcomed.
To put it another way, give me a ten-song album that enhances a band’s legacy instead of a fifteen-song release that just adds to it. In its current state, Black Ice adds to AC/DC’s legacy, but it could have enhanced it with some strategic cherry picking. As much as Angus Young despises that notion and has taken steps to prevent it, perhaps he could have learned a thing or two from those customers that whittle things down to their favorite selection.
So utilize your media player playlist, program your cd players and make your own awesome version of Black Ice. The songs are in there and the band sounds as good as ever. While you may not confuse it with one of their essential releases, you’ll find that Black Ice is one of their best in quite some time and it may be the most fun you’ll have with a rock album this year.
The only drag is how the band has made coming to the party such an exclusive event when they were known for letting everyone in to the festivities.
This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

AC/DC - For Those About To Rock


There’s a theory that my cousin and I share about AC/DC’s Back In Black. The idea is that most of that album’s material was already done…some even suggest they were demo’d…prior to Bon Scott dying in February, 1980. If you recall, Back and Black was released in August, 1980, which meant that the band would have found a replacement for the irreplaceable Bon Scott, composed new material, recorded it, and had it released all in the span of six months.
This is the same band that took eight years to finish their last album.
For most of us, six months isn’t even enough time to get through mourning the passing of someone, but for AC/DC, is was apparently enough time to create one of the biggest selling albums of all time.
We don’t buy it.
In fact, I’ve heard rumors that there are Bon Scott demos for Back In Black floating around among bootleggers, a rumor that I’ve never been able to substantiate. If so, I would love to hear them and it would explain a lot as to why the quality control for the band continued to diminish with each subsequent album after B-n-B.
It started with the follow up, For Those About To Rock, a rush job that hit the stores just a year after B-n-B and one that tried to follow the exact formula of its predecessor. I remember buying it the week it came out and dragging a friend over to my house so that I could listen to it intently. He wasn’t an AC/DC fan, so I sedated him with Rolling Stone magazines while I devoted 40 minutes to the new effort.
I remember thinking it was great. It wasn’t on par with B-n-B of course, but I thought it was an admirable follow up. I’ve listened to it a few times over the years and with each subsequent listen, it tends to follow my similar complaints with the rest of their output post-Bon Scott.
By taking the Scott B-n-B theory, it explains a higher level of quality control. It also puts For Those About To Rock on a higher pedestal too. Considering the time it took to release it, it could be considered a great album I suppose, but when taken as a whole, it is in fact a standard-issue release, the type of album that the band should have been able to fart out at a moments notice and it wouldn’t have disappointed fans at all.
Unfortunately, those farts did continue but they also became noticeably stinkier with each time, hinting that the band was indeed running out of ideas and that the line-up did miss the talents of Bon Scott more and more as time progressed.
It starts out with a bang…or to be more specific, a fucking cannon…with a title track that rightfully found its place among their classic catalog pieces.
But then the band, perhaps vocalist Brian Johnson, begins to rely on some of the most retarded sexual innuendos known to man, or at least until the next AC/DC album. “Let’s Get It Up” seemed embarrassing, even as a fifteen-year-old kid, and by the time you got around to “Inject The Venom,” you were so numb to the act that you thought it was about ejaculating even if it wasn’t.
Hidden in between are some songs so good that there was a moment when you felt that AC/DC would be able to transcend the baggage that they were a bunch of mouthbreathers that won the lottery with their brand of rock ‘n’ roll. Because without it, you’re almost sure that they’d be the blokes fixing your brakes at the repair shop or doing the drywall job in your living room.
“Evil Walks,” “Night Of The Long Knives” “Breaking The Rules,” “Spellbound,” they all sounded like a band on the verge of acting their age. That’s both admirable and a little frightening. Bon Scott always seemed to use his innuendo and juvenilia so masterfully that you knew he was this happy-go-lucky dude at the end of the bar with a taste for whiskey and pussy. Brian Johnson, on the other hand, occasionally came across as the dude cruising around the high school in a Chevy Van trying to pick up chicks.
So while it’s somewhat relieving to hear Johnson fine tune his chops with more mature material, it’s sad to hear the band’s obligatory immaturity turn into creepy, by-the-numbers filler.
The signs of diminishing returns begin here with For Those About To Rock, but with the good material far outnumbering the weak tracks, it’s still an album worth saluting to.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Metallica - Death Magnetic


Prologue: I had a dream the other night where I found myself backstage, in some bland dressing room at some unnamed arena. Inside of the windowless concrete bunker, I found myself alone with a modern-date James Hetfield. I knew this because the Hetfield in my dream had short hair and was relatively soft spoken.
For some reason, I felt the need to begin throwing body shots to James but, as is the case with some dreams, every punch had no impact on him.
He just stood there, stoically allowing me to hit his mid-section.
Then, he began to laugh at me.
I analyzed the dream on the way to work the next morning and came up with the following explanation: No matter how loud I bellow at how shitty Metallica is now, it has no impact on the band at all. They will still make albums and they will still be received with great anticipation by their fans. Regardless of what I think, there are millions of others who think otherwise. The frustration I feel about the band means nothing because there are a hundred times more people that will buy anything with their logo on the cover and have little consideration for what is inside.
Metallica, it seems, feels the same way.
Here's a review of their latest from a few months ago:

Death Magnetic is the best album that Metallica has released since …And Justice For All.
Now take a quick peek at the band’s catalog since that release and listen as the air escape from that hot air statement. What’s even more fabricated are the tales originating of how Rick Rubin set out to make an album with the same type of quality control as Master Of Puppets. It is that highlight from the numerous pre-release hype machines that had me, and thousands of others, that Metallica might have indeed come to their senses and set out to make an album that redeemed themselves after nearly twenty years of calculated bids for mainstream acceptance and embarrassing side steps. Yet there was that nagging understanding that there is no way that Metallica could make an album as good as Puppets regardless of who’s name is listed as producer. What we really wanted to see was if Metallica could make an album as good as Justice.
Justice is a more appropriate benchmark because, and this is something that I’ve firmly believed ever since The Black Album, the spirit of Metallica is no longer with us. The late Cliff Burton seemed to embody the idea that it was the band’s responsibility to test themselves before anything else and he also seemed to be the voice of reason that the band ultimately needed, and spent the better part of two decades trying to find again. After he was so callously taken, the burden of running Metallica was shared by a pair of drunks with major communication issues and a guitar player who seems incapable of any form of confrontation unless he’s plugged in to an amplifier. Justice possesses the residue of Burton’s spirit while everything beyond it found an outsider, Bob Rock, serving as the band’s resident headmaster. He filled each album with an abundance of radio-ready songs that were heavy on rock formula and devoid of any of that aforementioned thrash spirit.
There is no spirit…anywhere….on Death Magnetic. It is as by the numbers as anything the band has done in the past twenty years and it demonstrates that the band, specifically James Hetfield, has actually reached a point where he thinks that returning to the type of music that made them so legendary means that he needs to dumb down his lyrics. Words are thrown together with phonetic abandon, totally disregarding their meaning while gaining inclusion on the sheer merits that they sound gnarly.
Musically, there are some moments of heart-swooning aggression. Beginning with the opener “That Was Just Your Life,” a so unmistakably awesome that you start to consider “Holy shit. These guys just might have pulled it off,”
With greater scrutiny, however, you begin to see the formula. It’s perfectly executed, so the formula is carefully hidden underneath layers of precise guitars and some of the most aggressive arrangements the band has come up with in years. But Death Magnetic at its core is a patch job of rehearsal riffs, eloquently pieced together under the pretense of some retarded concept (death, I guess) and the mighty pen of their management company’s press release.
The documentary Some Kind Of Monster did more than shed light on the dysfunction of Metallica’s communication skills, it showed us how the band creates music post Black Album. Guitar parts are mined, saved to a hard drive, and then pasted together with other riffs until they form a collective song.
Sometimes it works (the aforementioned “That Was Just Your Life,” “All Nightmare Long”) to the point where the sounds actually sound rehearsed. But more often than not, they just sound like cherry-picked riffs held together by ProTools, waiting for the human interaction to happen during the rehearsals for Death Magnetic’s world tour.
Ironically, one of the album’s strongest cuts occurs when they strip away the thrash nostalgia and buddy up to the hard rock mantra that made them household names. “The Day That Never Comes” sounds like the kind of Metallica that we’ve come to expect over the past 15 years, or come to resent depending on what side of the fence you’re sitting on. I’m firmly entrenched on the side that they’re trying to cater to with Death Magnetic, but I understand that they’ve had more years now at adapting to being a rock band than they did during their ascent. Maybe that’s why “The Day That Never Comes” sounds so credible. It may not be what I like in Metallica, but I’m resigned to admitting that they’re very good at being a hard rock band and that song proves it.
Much has been said of the over-use of compression on this album and it’s true. There is no dynamic to this record at all. It barks and carries very little death. Repeated listening not only provides listeners with a certain amount of audio fatigue, it also points to a more serious question: Where the fuck is Robert Trujillo? If I recall, nearly everyone in the band wet themselves over his ability, to the tune of a $1,000,000 advance, full partnership rights, and “It hadn’t been played that way since Cliff” comparisons. All of this praise and money, apparently, has been flushed down the toilet as Trujillo, regardless of his abilities, is completely off the radar in the mix. Whether this is another Jason Newstead type of “initiation” is not clear, but one would think that someone with Rick Rubin’s resume could have suggested that they turn up Trujillo’s contributions.
Speaking of contributions, guitarist Kirk Hammett’s is critical. He’s a maniac throughout Death Magnetic and that’s a good thing. Without Hammett’s brutal guitar work, this album would fall under the weight of Hetfield’s sub-par lyrics, Lars Ulrich’s standard issue drumming, and the Frankenstein arrangements.
There’s a huge difference between needing to make and album and having to make one. Metallica had to make Death Magnetic or be forced to contend with a fast eroding fan base. Considering the drama that prefaced the new album, it’s a fine effort that assuredly serves its purpose and stops the bloodletting. Underneath this band-aid remains a wound that can no longer heal, the pain from it is the reality that Metallica has now logged more years as a mega-platinum rock band than a hungry and challenging thrash band. When you listen to Death Magnetic with this mindset, it’s easy to consider it as a return of the band’s youthful exuberance. But when you remember the spirit that fueled their early work, Death Magnetic is nothing more than an open casket visitation.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Happy Birthday, Ted Nugent

Ted Nugent turns 60 today, so you can expect two things from him: He’ll probably try to kill something and he’ll probably do something crazy to show everyone that he’s still relevant.
He isn’t, of course, and for me Ted Nugent stopped being relevant the moment he shitcanned Derek St. Holmes from his band in the late 70’s. Nugent didn’t enjoy having to share the stage with a lead singer…never mind that he hogged the spotlight even when St. Holmes was singing some of The Nuge’s most famous hits…and decided to sing everything himself.
I don’t know if you’ve heard Ted Nugent sing, but it’s worse than the mating cry of a great white buffalo.
Ted watched as his sales slipped throughout the 80’s, even to the point where he even started to allow other lead singers take over the vocal duties, but without a decent song to sing, Uncle Ted slipped farther down into irrelevance.
A pair of other musicians with diminishing appeal called up Ted to have him join their “supergroup” called Damn Yankees. Amazingly, Ted’s ego was so large that he couldn’t simply stand around and cash a paycheck. Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades allowed Ted a few songs, endured his pointless soloing on stage and gave him with some time each night to voice his conservative ideology to hordes of drunken males.
But Ted was still restless.
By singlehandedly assisting with the dismantling of Damn Yankees, Ted returned to his original plan of slipping into obscurity. MTV/VH1 gave him a few more opportunities, understanding that more and more people were by then starting to recognize Ted Nugent thanks to his mouth rather than his music.
On both shows (Surviving Nugent and Supergroup), Ted barks like an old man desperate to be heard over the sudden celebrity of retarded nobody’s like Tila Tequila.
It was clear that the spirit of rock that Ted always claimed to have seemed to have been replaced by the spirit for moneymaking. With his ears shot, he appeal diminishing, and his creativity stifled, Nugent decided to focus on the brand of Ted Nugent in the hopes that it would salvage his legacy. While this may be great for him to make enough money to go hunting (his primary passion now, it seems) it does nothing to show future generations that there was something more to this guy than just being a loud-mouthed, right-wing gun nut that is probably one of the most hypocritical douchebags in the business.
Support the troops? Ted shit in his pants (literally) when his number came up in Vietnam.
Right wing values? Ted had a child out of wedlock and pursued a relationship with a teenage girl. Survivalist? Even if you have no experience, Uncle Ted will take your money and let you bag a deer at his ranch.
Rocker? Did I mention that he was in Damn Yankees?
The thing is, those first few albums are good fun. They hint at a wider range than what Ted had with the Amboy Dukes and they’re better than when Ted truly when solo. And like the migration we’ve seen from Michigan for the past thirty years, it’s obvious that even the Motor City Madman has left his old stomping grounds (both literally and metaphorically) with no sign of returning.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ian Stewart

Ian Stewart wasn’t a very good-looking dude. And he was a tad old. Both of those things prevented him from being more than an honorary member of The Rolling Stones. He was there from the beginning, he probably was the most musically inclined member and yet he was unceremoniously demoted from the band that he co-founded with Brian Jones. That’s right: Mick and Keith came to the fold after Brian and Stu.
It should come as no surprise that Mick and Keith later muscled Brian out, but mostly because he was fucking high all the time.
Ask anyone else: What would you do if the manager of the band you helped create came up to you and said, “We’re going to need you to not play on stage with the rest of the band anymore. As a matter of fact, don’t even acknowledge that you’re in the band anymore. Act like you’re the road manager”
What would you say?
Let’s say that for a moment you didn’t just clock said manager and instead asked “Why?”
Then the manager gave you some bullshit about how there’s not any groups around with six members in them. You knew this was a lie, that it was all about you being not the best looking guy in the band and a few year older than the rest of the fellas.
What would you do then?
I’ll be you’d let out a “Fuck you!” and take a swing then. You’d probably take the band name too.
Ian Stewart said “O.K.”
He played behind the stage. He played in the studio. He still told the rest of the band when he thought the songs were shit and when they were acting like spoiled brats. Not that they listened, but they still respected his opinion more than any carpetbagger.
It’s funny now because all of the Stones are old and not so good looking. Stu died in ’85, when the band was going through the motions on Dirty Work. Ironically, the first album without Stu around also happened to be the first one that really, truly sucked. Keith later suggested that even after Ian passed, he would still ask Stu what he thought of a new song, but we all know that with the amount of pharmaceuticals he’s ingested, I’d totally believe him if he claimed to have gotten a reply from his departed friend.
The band finally did the right thing when they were nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. They made it contingent on the fact that Stu would be included…as a full member…with the rest of the band.
Ian Stewart died today in 1985, while waiting in the waiting room for his doctor to see him.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Coldplagiarism

I’m not a fan of Coldplay.
I’m not a fan of Joe Satriani.
But the huge tadoo over the web right now is Hi-larious. And what makes it so funny is that Coldplay fans are so upset.
Let me backtrack. I will say that Coldplay’s “Clocks” is about as close to an “our song” as my wife and I have. Swear to God, I didn’t know who it was by, I only knew that when we were together it always seemed to be playing. Finally, one time when I heard that lilting piano pattern I asked her who did the song. She knew and I heard the name as one of those bands that I was supposed to hate. I didn’t mind it, but it sounded an awful lot like U2 and it struck me that even a band that can pull off sounding a lot like U2 can themselves make a career out of it.
When this new album….Livin’ La Vida Loca….came out, my wife wanted it. She hasn’t bought it, and I haven’t downloaded it, I figured that after the Apple commercials had run their course, she’d forget about it. For the most part she has, but somewhere someone was going “This song sounds an awful lot like a song Joe Satriani does.”
And sure as shit, it sounds exactly like that Joe Satriani song.
I joked about it at first, stating that Satriani should be paying Coldplay for suddenly becoming relevant again. But “relevance” is a subjective term, and among guitar fans, I’m sure his name is tossed around with the same reverence as it was when Surfing With The Alien came out. That’s the only Joe Satriani album I know of and I’ll be it’s the only one you can name check too.
He’s apparently shaved his head since then and recorded a few more albums that only regular shoppers at Guitar Center have purchased. It’s hard to imagine a band like Coldplay intentionally lifting a song by Joe Satriani, but it’s pretty obvious that they will absolutely lose the case that Satriani has lobbed at them.
It’s a valid lawsuit and they will pay him when it’s over.
Explanations? Who knows? Maybe a member of Coldplay was at a Guitar Center and some geek played that song over the PA. The melody lodged itself in the band member’s brain and a week or two later a song was created from those innocent synapses.
But I do know that the fallout is way more than what it needs to be and the artsy members of Coldplay need to show some humor about it and send an olive branch…and a paycheck…to Joe Satriani.
Next time, they should lift something from Blues Saraceno.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Happy Birthday Jim Morrison

Happy birthday, Jim Morrison, you drunk Lizard King you! You would have turned 65 today and looked even more ridiculous than you did on the cover of L.A. Woman if you survived that junk that Pamela hooked you up with in Paris.
I must tell you that I listened to The Soft Parade about a month ago and it’s a major piece of shit! You probably knew that…or maybe you were too drunk to notice…because who would allow a turd like “Touch Me” appear on anything?
I know it was a big hit for you an all, but let’s be honest: It’s a sub-par Robby Krieger tune with top 40 aspirations written all over it and it was committed to tape while you were receiving a blowjob.
I don’t know about you Jim, but I like to concentrate while I’m getting a blowjob, and I’m sure as hell not going to be able to deliver a decent vocal performance while my girl’s got my dick in her mouth.
It’s about priorities.
And while we’re at it, let’s acknowledge that Strange Days is essentially a collection of leftovers from the first album, which makes it a second-rate record by design.
But this isn’t about critically dismantling the Doors catalog. It’s about you. It is, after all, your birthday.
I still remember the years when I looked up to you. I read No One Here Gets Out Alive about a million times, bought An American Prayer on vinyl, which, in turn, somehow convinced me that you were merely a misunderstood poet.
In college, I learned that real poets take their entire life experience into consideration for their collected works, not just some random road trip with the family that happened to stumble upon a car wreck, unfortunately transporting Native Americans. And we’ve all got issues with the folks. The fact that your Dad was not the most supportive or attentive parent is nothing new and certainly doesn’t make you a poet. From what I understand, even Fred Durst had it rough growing up and no one is mistaking him for Rimbaud.
Despite their faults, your folks did provide you with the opportunity to go to college and study film. Are you kidding? Your major was film?! That hints that things weren’t so bad at home and that much of your inner pain was somewhat self-manufactured, preparing for an inevitable role that just happened to manifest itself in the form of a singer for a rock band instead of a film director.
In either case, this story has Hollywood written all over it and your upbringing has white suburban guilt all over the storyline too. That doesn’t provide you with an excuse to be a drunk with a history of very lazy prose and even lazier musical output. A real artist wouldn’t just sock it to Ed Sullivan, they would stand up to the record company and say “You know what? We’re not ready with that album yet. We’re going to go back to work and concentrate on getting together some really decent material.” By my count, that only happened three times: the first album, Morrison Hotel (when everyone was questioning your shtick) and LA Woman (which, on some parts, even sounds phoned in).
To be fair, there’s a few lines that you wrote that I dig. I’m just wondering, based on the track record of your musical output, how motivated you were when you wrote some of it. Were there lines that you just slopped together as you did during The Soft Parade? Was there passages written while Pamela schlurped your cock? Did that blowjob from Nico inspire the idea for The Celebration Of The Lizard?
Your death, which I now know isn’t as “romantic” as reported earlier, reeks of rock and roll cliché. Paris turned out to be less of an inspiration than you originally thought and, in your self-loathing, you allowed your junkie girlfriend to take you down a road of self-medication, with disastrous results as we learned.
So happy birthday, Jim. You were provided a lucky break, but your spoiled work ethic and selfish desires gave you an early checkout. There were enough dramatic arcs in your life to provide an easily embellished story, but it’s intriguing to a fault. Those who end up learning more about you soon discover how positively normal you really were. And the cautionary tale that your death provided also shows us how much more you could have been.
Shaman?
Poet?
More like snake oil salesman and screenplay writer.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

OCD Chronicles: The Byrds - Wasn't Born To Follow

The reality is, Easy Rider wasn’t that good of a movie. I remember watching it with my Dad, thinking it was going to be this groundbreaking event that really spoke to the Boomer generation and their “impact” on the social agenda, the passing of the guard if you will.
From what I gathered after watching it, Baby Boomers struck up big drug deals that enabled them to travel around the country on motorcycles and trip on acid with easy women in New Orleans before getting shot by rednecks.
Sorry. I forgot to put “Spoiler Alert!” before that last paragraph.
Even from a filmmaking standpoint, was everyone in the late sixties making movies about just driving around, totally removed from everyday responsibilities? I seriously would like to go back in time just to beat up a hippy. I totally love the ideology and some of the ideas that were prevalent from that era, but the more I read about what was really accomplished and how hypocritical the majority of the youth were back then, the more I can’t forgive them for totally dropping the ball on figuring out how to change the world.
At least Gen X, Gen Y and whatever the fuck the generation after that is called, were focused to the point where we could elect Obama.
Fuck, you dudes were Clinton supporters and fragmented yourselves to the point where you allowed Nixon to be elected not once, but twice.
Didn’t you outnumber that silent majority? I mean, aren’t we all now going broke to pay for your social security benefits as restitution for all of that late 60’s “revolution?”
Easy Rider has gotten an easy pass as some kind of anti-establishment landmark by a young filmmaker making a statement against the status quo. Watch it and you’ll see that it’s a weed-fueled project with a plot that has so many holes in it, you’ll wonder if they were baked when they started the cameras rolling and then forgot about what they were shooting about halfway through the project.
It’s entertaining to watch, but hardly groundbreaking.
Hell, wasn’t Jim Morrison making a similar project called HWY during the same time? I’m sure Mickey Fucking Dolenz was also making a movie called Road Construction or Merge Left, too.
Easy Rider was so dimwitted that the “genius” behind it, Peter Fonda, was unable to get a good role until someone told him to act like his father during Ulee’s Gold when he was in his sixties. Fonda resorted to becoming a retarded hippy for most of his career and strangely identified himself as some kind of two-wheeled hero, showing up at biker rallies and anything that required a star that made a career on riding motorcycles.
Jack Nicholson had the best role, and because he can pretty much act his way out of any script that’s handed to him, he was able to sustain a career after Easy Rider.
Dennis Hopper almost lost it afterwards too. He essentially sleepwalks through the script, smoking dope and making stoned observations with a baked giggle and referring to everyone as “man.” It took him ten years to get another good part (Apocalypse Now) and then another ten to restore his career (Blue Velvet).
The best thing about Easy Rider? The soundtrack. It’s a collection of period pieces that are sequenced in the same order as the songs appear on the film. It was the first time I heard “Wasn’t Born To Follow,” two minutes of Byrds bliss that originally appeared on their countrified The Notorious Byrd Brothers album.
What made this song stand out for me was that it was, vocally at least, obviously a Byrds song. Roger McGuinn’s voice is unmistakable, and I knew the same guy who had a hand in singing “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Eight Miles High” was also the one behind the microphone for “Wasn’t Born To Follow.”
But it was totally different sound, nearly country. And that length…2:03…it was gone so fast that you weren’t really sure if you heard it or if you were just imagining it.
I had the single, or more specifically, my Dad had the single and I played it. “The Ballad Of Easy Rider” was the “A” song but I didn’t dig that one. It was the flip, “Wasn’t Born To Follow,” that did it for me.
I especially liked the trippy solo towards the end, but later appreciated the lyrics.
It wasn’t until writing this post that I realized that “Wasn’t Born To Follow” was written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin. I had no idea they could come up with something this good. I mean, they’ve come up with some great songs obviously, but this seems out of character for them.

Oh I'd rather go and journey where the diamond crest is flowing and
Run
across the valley beneath the sacred mountain and
Wander through the forest
Where the trees have leaves of prisms and break the light in colors
That
no one knows the names of

And when it's time I'll go and wait beside a
legendary fountain
Till I see your form reflected in it's clear and jewelled
waters
And if you think I'm ready
You may lead me to the chasm where the
rivers of our vision
Flow into one another

I will want to die
beneath the white cascading waters
She may beg, she may plead, she may argue
with her logic
And then she'll know the things I learned
That really
have no value in the end she will surely know
I wasn't born to follow

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Thanksgiving 08

Holiday version one recap: The first Thanksgiving in Des Moines. The folks’ townhouse is pretty nice, wonderfully accentuated by never having to do a goddamn thing to the outside. Ever. Again.
I want a set up like that.
Everything “walls out” is maintained by the association, which means leaf blowing, snow shoveling, grass cutting, and all of those bullshit things that take up your free time are gone. Even if the place needs painting or the roof replacing, the association takes care of it.
Toilet overflows? That’s your problem, however.
But still, it means that their insurance is cheaper (they do maintain the dreaded association fee, which rather makes that point moot) and it also means that I get Dad’s snow blower, which is only two years old and has been barely used.
So the other day when the first snow fell, I spent nearly an hour getting the fucker started. The entire time I was thinking, “I could have been done if I’d only shoveled this thing.”
Back to Thanksgiving.
The usual: turkey, oyster stuffing, grilled turnips, mashed potatoes and all of the stuff that we had back at Thanksgiving in Keokuk.
The better half doesn’t know what to think about the spread. I’ve had her family’s Thanksgiving and it pales in comparison to my folks. Their turkey has no flavor and the stuffing tastes straight outta the Stouffers box. She doesn’t dig oysters, to which I recommended, “Take ‘em out then.” That’s what I did as a kid, even though the oyster taste pretty much permeates the rest of the stuffing. It is mostly dried bread after all.
But now I’m used to it…I expect it…And anything else seems off to me.
I began thinking of how good my parents got at cooking over the years. Mom especially. I still remember some of the shit that she made that passed as dinner growing up and I remember as late as my teenage years when I would by-pass whatever it was that she was making for a bowl of cereal or sandwich. Another think I strongly remember is the frequency of meals: It seemed that we were always having pork pot roast on Sundays. We’d sit down at the table (or TV trays…yeah, we were one of those families) have this shitty pot roast and watch 60 Minutes. They still have pot roast on occasion and I’m sure that most people would find it delicious. I, on the other hand, had my fill of it (everything tastes like everything else, which I guess is the concept) and can go my entire life without needing to taste it again.
The folks’ pad is somewhat smaller than their old house, but larger than I expected. Nonetheless, they’re expected to keep their cats indoors whereas they would let two of them roam inside and outside down home. Now they’re all contained indoors and Beth found herself sneezing the entire time. This led us to think that she may be allergic to cats.
One of Mom’s cats is going to be twenty next year, which blows my mind. She was found at a fairly busy intersection by a friend of mine who promptly rescued her, tied a bow around her neck and brought her to my Mom.
He knew exactly how to pull at my Mom’s heartstrings. She accepted the cat a week later and she’s been with her ever since.
She was worried how she…how all of the cats…would adapt to the new surroundings and they’re all doing swimmingly.
That aforementioned snow began on the way home, which further supports my theory that the climate has changed so drastically during my lifetime that we’re approaching the end of days. I fully anticipate a climatology event to occur within the next ten years and, when it does, Bruce Willis will have too many ruptured discs in his back to adequately provide him with the necessary mobility to save us all.
It takes a full week to get the kids back into “You’re not at Grandmas anymore” mode, which means that they both expect you to do everything for them.
A real example from after school, after the first day back from Thanksgiving break:
Ethan: “Can you zip my backpack?”
Me: (Hands full of a bunch of his other shit) “Uh, not really.”
Ethan: “I can’t do it. I’ve got gloves on.”
Me: “Are you serious?”
Ethan: (Not even trying) “It’s too hard”
Me: “Maybe you could try. If it doesn’t work, maybe you could take your gloves off, zip it, and then put your gloves back on. Did you think about that?”
Ethan: (Sighing) “Ok.”
He had his Christmas program a few nights ago which was totally awesome. If you’re currently on the fence about having kids, I would encourage you to fuck someone tonight and then have a child solely on the kindergarten Christmas program alone. No matter how well they plan it…and lord knows Ethan’s music teacher did a great job of planning and pulling everything together…a Christmas program delivered by a large group of five and six year olds is going to show evidence of being a clusterfuck. Choreography goes awry, solo parts are forgotten, delivery volume fluctuates suddenly, and the entire thing is a beautiful mess tied together with a group of similarly themed songs and the concert program you get at the beginning.
There was one kid that had a brief, two sentence, speaking part and he kept nervously pulling on his penis during the entire time he was on stage. This obviously brought great joy to me and the other members of the audience while most assuredly devastating his parents.
Ethan’s only part was to act like he was a shopper, so he had a shopping back and walked across the stage and then back again before returning to his place with the rest of the class. Callista screamed as if he was a rock star when she saw him (“Ethee!! Ethee!!”) and then distraughtly yelled for him to come back the moment he left the stage (“Ethee?! Ethee?!”).
So yeah, all of this recent shit has got me fairly sentimental for the holidays. I got the Christmas lights up (“You’re such a man when you’re putting up your Christmas lights”- Black Flag, 1984) the tree, and we all decorated it earlier this week. My three Elvis ornaments are up (Vegas era, ’68 comeback special, and mid-60’s film star) and we’ve got the four stockings up.
I’m so gay that I even have the Christmas cards done. About three dozen of ‘em went out (my wife hasn’t even started on hers, loser) and some of them have a special “bonus track” drawing. If you get one of these, hold on to it because it’s a limited edition version, if you didn’t, it’s probably because you’re family and I didn’t want to offend you. And if you didn’t get one at all, it’s because I don’t have your address, and Christmas wishes are extended to you just the same.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Rolling Stones - Beggar's Banquet


Not only is Beggar’s Banquet the Rolling Stones’ best album, it’s one of the greatest rock ‘n roll albums of all time. There are many opportunities for debate here, but the reality is that the band’s other classic albums came after Beggar’s Banquet. The sequence of release is important to consider when placing this album above Let It Bleed, Exile On Main Street, and Sticky Fingers. Beggar’s Banquet was the first albums where the band discovered that the way to a great album was to merely focus on the basics (read: their interpretation of Chicago and Delta blues) and write songs from their own perspective while incorporating their love of that American genre.
Look at it a different way. The band’s beginnings featured many covers of their favorite records. It progressed somewhat by ’66 and beyond when they started to fill their records with originals and began to slightly alter their sound. The result was a slew of great singles and some good albums, but nothing that matched the start-to-finish consistency of The Beatles or Bob Dylan. They tried to make albums with that goal in mind, but they frequently fell short. The best example of this may be their worst album of this period: Their Satanic Majesties Request, a week attempt at matching The Beatles’ in terms of high art.
Beggar’s Banquet changed this. The band went so far to remove themselves from the onslaught of pretentious (real or perceived) ideals of what kind of record a rock band should make that they put a fucking toilet on the cover of it. But inside, the songs were far from shit. They ranged from musings on their own celebrity (“Jigsaw Puzzle”), the idea of generational revolution (“Street Fighting Man”), recognition of the everyman (“Salt Of The Earth”) and the idea that the entire concept of peace and love would have a tough time when faced with the reality that the human race has a long history of evil (“Sympathy For The Devil”). And the band didn’t just talk about it in that last song, they came right out and cited recent examples (“I shouted out: ‘Who killed the Kennedys?’/When after all it was you and me”).
The album sounds like it was recorded in the same building that housed that awful looking toilet on the cover, which itself made it just as valid of a piece of art as, say, Sgt. Pepper’s, Forever Changes, or Odessey and Oracle. While everyone was pairing up during this period, the Stones were pairing down and, in the process, gaining just as much ground with their own cultural revolution and those planning Woodstock.
It is with great pride that I say that Beggar’s Banquet was the first album I ever bought. I use the word “bought” lightly as I had no money to actually buy it and I couldn’t read the cover to even figure out it was an album by the Rolling Stones. Hell, I couldn’t even read; I was four years old.
My parents and I were at the Woolworth’s in Shenandoah, Iowa one day and my mom was entertaining me while Dad was looking at some bigger ticket item. They had given me virtually all of their singles and a few albums, namely several Beatles albums and a few others. It was already well know that I was attracted to music at this point.
My Mother takes me over to the record session and we begin flipping through the albums they had in the corner of the store. She points out the new Rolling Stones album…it’s the American version without the offensive cover…and since I had a few singles from the band and quite enjoyed them, I must have made a plea to buy it.
My Dad rejoined us and approved the idea as he was a fan of the Stones too and, viola, I managed to successfully lobby for my first long player, purchased for me and allowed to stay in my room.
I immediately ruined the bland white album jacket by haphazardly writing “Todd” on the front cover. For good measure, I also wrote my name on the actual record label inside.
I played it incessantly, not really knowing about the subject matter that much. I knew that the Kennedy brothers had been shot and that my parents thought it was bad. I knew that one song (“Dear Doctor”) told the story about a guy who wanted the doctor to take out his heart. I knew another song was about getting into a fight in the streets.
It wasn’t until much later when I realized exactly how remarkable this album was both in terms of Rolling Stones output and, when I placed it next to other recognized classic rock albums, to the whole of rock music. Throughout the years, it had remained near the top of that impressive list, systematically knocking back other impressive records by artists with impressive lineage.
No wonder even the Stones themselves weren’t able to pass it.


Beggar's Banquet was released on this day 40 years ago.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Don't Let Your Mind Post Toastee

Iowa native Tommy Bolin died on this day. If you’re not familiar with his work, don’t sweat it. I was late to him myself.
About a week after starting classes at the University of Northern Iowa, I read in the campus newspaper that they were accepting applications for the campus radio station. I wore a Smiths’ Meat Is Murder t-shirt that caught the attention of the program director. I got a shift on Sunday nights and went to the station for the inaugural introduction to all the blinking lights and how to properly cue up a record a few days before my first show.
I was thoroughly unimpressed with the station’s record collection and often brought selections from my own to assist with my shift. They had a rotating carousel of carts that contained mostly the latest college hits. There was one cart that clocked in at over nine minutes, featuring a song I had never heard before by an artist that I was equally unfamiliar with.
The song was “Post Toastee” by Tommy Bolin.
I asked one of the big shots at the station…the station “engineer” as it turned out…who Tommy Bolin was. After nearly laughing me out the door, he advised me with a heavy dose of Iowa pride that Bolin was from the state and used to play with Deep Purple. The engineer dude was well versed in classic rock, even the more obscure stuff, and maintained a regular schedule of schooling me on some of the albums that were often overlooked by some stations. I specifically remember him spending nearly a half-hour drunkenly telling me that Thin Lizzy’s Live And Dangerous was the greatest live album ever made. I stood behind The Who’s Live At Leeds.
It was a spirited dispute.
I later learned that Bolin also did some time with James Gang after Joe Walsh left. It dawned on me that my Uncle had one of those James Gang albums with Bolin at the helm, Miami, an album that he left at my Grandparents house one summer. I listened to it and immediately recognized that it was not the Walsh-led outfit. It didn’t set well with me then and I’m curious to hear it now.
“Post Toastee” is a cautionary tale of drug use, so the irony that Bolin died the same year the song was released is not lost on me. It’s a great song, and the fact that he managed to get gigs with two very established rock bands as well as releasing two well received solo albums is testimony to the talent that was lost thirty two years ago today.
Bolin was only 25 when he passed.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Case Of Missing Persons

Missing Persons - Spring Session M

Missing Persons - Rhyme & Reason

Missing Persons - Color In Your Life


The cruel irony of Missing Persons is that the band was destined to fail before they even started. That’s what happens when you take a group of very talented musicians…most schooled as Zappa protégés…mix them with an attractive lead singer with limited range and zero musicianship and associate them with a novelty genre (new wave) that has a short shelf life and zero credibility among critics.
It didn’t matter…at least at first…as the band jumped headlong into their vision like they had something to prove and like they had the chops to do it.
Spring Session M contained 2 of the best songs from the band’s self-released 4 song e.p. and matches them with 9 other outstanding entries. Missing Persons never sounded so vital and focused as they did with their debut. The band destroys whatever formula was applied to “new wave” and uses the genre as window dressings to their overt progressive tendencies. Rhythms are impossibly complex, guitar parts are uncharacteristically aggressive and the layers of synthesizers mix some occasional jazz fills underneath their primary purpose of creating tense and eerie atmospheres.
Over all of this is Dale Bozzio, who apparently forgot the memo that she has very little real ability as a lead singer and, on paper, has no business fronting a band filled with such impressive lineage. Ignoring this, Dale dressed herself like hard candy ready to be unwrapped and hiccupped and teased each line like it was penned in the lyric sheet.
Speaking of, words was not only a title of one of the band's best known songs, but also their Achilles heal. Their debut foreshadowed some issues that would later become an even larger liability, but to hear Dale deliver some occasional nonsense with conviction and to hear the band perform with such incredible precision, you quickly overlook any underlying issues that would normally work against the album's overall appeal.
Even without the visual distractions, she manages to carry Spring Session M as a unique entry into the early 80’s arena, but it’s the rest of the band that makes Missing Persons’ debut album so enjoyable over 25 years later. From start to finish, there’s not a dud to be found here, and the re-issue cd contains the 2 remaining cuts from the band’s debut e.p. along with their cover of The Doors “Hello, I Love You.”
Had the band called it a day after their first album, there might have been more devoted fans that lamented their departure and constructed a more mythological legacy. Unfortunately, the band tried to do it themselves with their own abilities. The second album, Rhyme & Reason is cited by many fans as the band’s high point, and that certainly was the intent of the band. In fact, copies of the out-of-print reissue cd are now going for over $100, which had me reaching for my old vinyl copy of the album to see what the fuss was for. My reaction to the album now is similar to the way it was when it first came out.
I bought the album (along with Dead Kennedys’ Give Me Convenience Or Give Me Death and David Gilmour’s About Face) at a record store in Milwaukee shortly after it was released. I had no idea what was in store for me but assumed that if it was half as good as the debut that I would be in fine shape. I quickly learned that the album stood at the bottom of those three purchases and it has remained unlistened to in many many years.
In fact, the album is so unmemorable, that I was only able to identify three songs before playing them: “Give” the first single, “Surrender Your Heart” the second single and quite possibly the band’s crowning achievement and “Right Now”. It’s no reason that these were also the three songs that Capitol chose as singles for the album with “Surrender Your Heart” getting the benefit of a cool video, thanks to artist Peter Max.
Everything else was purged from my memory banks and after a quick revisit, I understood why. Rhyme & Reason builds upon the band’s complexities and finds Dale…like the rest of us…struggling to find any hint of a hook, groove, or reason to get excited. The band is all over the place, incorporating more jazz and progressive directions underneath hopelessly dated production choices. Terry Bozzio, one of rock’s best drummers, decided to abandon a traditional kit and works wonders over a ridiculously primitive electric drum kit. Rhyme & Reason is the sound of a band taking itself too seriously, particularly after the candy drippings and critical dismissals of their first. It’s admirable that they attempted to (again) address any misgivings through the use of their chops, but you can’t make a steak out of ground beef. The debut was a great burger. The second merely a tough flank steak, devoid of flavor, substance, or a groove to remember.
By the time of their third album, Color In Your Life, the band was reduced to a fast-food item. Capitol was tired of allowing a pair of Zappa alumni dictate the musical direction of the band and instead hired former Chic member Bernard Edwards to handle the production duties. The end result was an album that sounds like it was the work of a session band trying to sound like Missing Persons.
The first clue is the drumming. Someone must have advised Terry Bozzio to hold back as his traditional playing. While he would normally fill each cut with impossibly fast fills, Color In Your Life finds him becoming a power drummer. Everything sounds like it was beat out by the dude from The Power Station which, for those of you paying attention, was also a member of Chic.
The bass is also suspect. Patrick O'Hearn usually focused on rhythmic pacing, that is when he didn't have his hands on a synthesizer. One this album, O'Hearn suddenly transformed himself into a funk bassist, leading one to believe that Edwards called up one of his session buddies and had him fill in.
Dale Bozzio actually restrains her novelty hiccup here, and the cold detachment that was her trademark now sounds like she is truly removed from the proceedings here. The one exception is the fantastic title track, obviously groomed to be a single, where all of the phony plastic comes together for an enjoyable moment. Dale gives some added emphasis towards the end, of the song when she pauses after each word of the chorus and emphasizes the last one ("I wanna be the color. In. Your. Life!"). It sounds like she either wanted the kick the entire project in the ass or was merely frustrated an wanted to walk away from it as soon as the track was finished.
Probably the latter, as the band quickly dissolved (as did the Bozzio marriage) after Color In Your Life was released. Dale went on to release a rightfully overlooked solo album on Prince's label a year later, O'Hearn went on to make new age albums, Cuccurullo went on to join Duran Duran, and Terry Bozzio became one of the rock world's most reliable drum spokespersons, passing the time as a session player, lending his name to percussion endorsements and appearing at countless drum workshops.
There were the obligatory reunion shows...none managed to salvage the original classic line-up and even more were merely dubious money-makers for Dale, listing the band in the marquee but only containing her "talents" after looking closely at the actual performers.
This disregard for the band's legacy...as well as their own questionable decisions during their heyday that helped dismantle it...easily explain why the band is overlooked today. But because their debut album is so good, Missing Persons is a case worth reopening.

Here's a clip of the band performing at the U.S. Festival. You get a good idea of how irritating Dale could be and, at about two and a half minutes into the song, how awesome Terry was on drums. "U.S. Drag" is from the first album and is in motherfucking 6/8 time.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Flatbread Phenomenon Continues

This is an actual email from work. I found the "Flatbread phenomenon" line humorous. For those of you not familiar with it, about two months ago, the cafe began offering flatbread pizzas. You can go to the salad bar, grab some veggies (if desired), bring the bowl to the area that does made to order stuff, and have them make you a flatbread pizza. Admittedly, they are quite good and the line to get one is quite long, particularly when the rest of the menu sucks dick.
For someone like me who doesn't have a lot of time dicking around waiting for a pizza, the phenomenon is relatively an envious glance from me as I suffer through a ham sandwich.

Next week's menu for the C street Cafe is attached. We have some new soups from Au Bon Pain (sounds like "pan") that we will be introducing into the menu next week. Tomato Bisque, Wild Mushroom, and Cream of Chicken are all reduced sodium soups.

The Flatbread phenomenon continues....steak and egg flatbread sandwich will be featured for breakfast on Wednesday next week. Try it and tell us what you think!


TODAY:

Because our menu is "subject" to change, we have a few changes to TODAY's menu.

We will be having the "Second Helping Thanksgiving Buffet" on our 3rd island today. For only $4.95, load your plate with turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, baby carrots, and a piece of pie. Don't forget your fountain beverage! Sliced bread will be available to build your own feast of a sandwich.


Maybe you just want dessert? We are offering pie by the slice for only $0.85 each.

We also have whole pies for sale for $6.29 each. This special price is only available this week. Pies are limited, and come pre-cut. They are available in the cafe.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Record Jumps On A Scratch

I plugged in the turntable last night.
First time in years.
Members of the family did join me for the occasion and the first song played that evening was “Carolyn’s Fingers” by Cocteau Twins. It had been years since I heard it, but thanks to a bunch of video links that a friend recently sent to me, I was reminded at how awesome the Cocteau Twins were. I’d say “are” but I haven’t heard squat from them in many years. It’s amazing how a band…particularly in this day and age…can still come up with something totally novel and unique and, to that point, Cocteau Twins fit both of those adjectives.
My wife didn’t seem impressed with my trip down memory lane, except when I played the 12” single to “Personal Jesus.” Ethan spent most of the time trying to show off and compete for the our attention, who spent most of the time focused on how cute Calli was.
Yes, Callista danced to pretty much every song I played, spinning, raising her arms and sticking out her butt to such songs as “Safety Dance,” Yazoo’s “Don’t Go” remix, and some compilation of Brazilian music. She started laughing when I put on the Butthole Surfers’ “Moving To Florida.”
After dinner, I went back down to the basement for some additional trips down memory lane and the only person to join me was Callista. When Ethan heard her dancing with me some more, he came down again to make sure his baby sister wasn’t getting all of Dad’s attention.I think both kids will be music lovers, but for some reason, I think that Calli might be a little more contemplative about it. Ethan likes to laugh and goof around to the music while Callista seems content with dancing and walking over to the records and cds to take an active role in the process. When I showed her the colored vinyl of one record, she let out an impressed "Whoa hoah!”
She held out her hands to grab it, but she has to learn how to hold it from the edges before she’s let anywhere near my records.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Guns N Roses - Chinese Democracy


The last time Guns ‘N Roses released an album, people lined up in front of record stores at midnight and got their copies early. I waited, which was a good thing as it turned out because Use Your Illusion sucked ass (What? Did you think I was talking about The Spaghetti Incident?) and the videos were even worse. I loved how at first everyone declared the double release set such a landmark album, but now has had sixteen years to figure out that is was nothing more than an overwrought Queen handjob, the first steps in making the musicians of G’n’R irrelevant while Axl began assuming control of the brand name.
If sixteen years seems like a long time between albums, consider that the distance between Chinese Democracy and Appetite For Destruction feels and sounds like a lifetime. I don’t need to tell you that there isn’t a modicum of similarities between those two albums, so how Axl can get away with calling Chinese Democracy a G'n'R album is beyond me.
But it’s here now and the best thing about it is you can get yourself a free Dr. Pepper.
Oh, I’m sorry. Is this the part where I’m supposed to be nice to Axl now? Is bashing Chinese Democracy so overdone that we're starting to hear a chorus of supporters who actually praise for this album?
Get the fuck out of here! Chinese Democracy is a piece of shit and the only reason that it’s getting released now is because Axl has officially run of money, ideas on how he can tweak it to make it better, and hard drive space that he could even put that extra overdub.
If I’m being a bit harsh…it’s probably because this has the G’n’R name on it. It’s obviously Axl’s solo album, and a farely lame one at that. Besides, for me to believe that it was a Guns album, I would have to be able recognize some of the players. On Chinese Democracy, I can only recognize Axl (even that is hard to do in some tracks) and the occasional Buckethead guitar solo.
It’s filled with lengthy ballads…hell, everything on it is lengthy, or at least appears lengthy…and huge arrangements that are unnecessary and give the album a pointless cinematic sheen. It would have been a very contemporary sounding album were it released in 1995, but now it sounds woefully dated. Chinese Democracy is a perfect follow-up to the Use Your Illusion set and there is nothing on it that can adequately explain why it took sixteen years to finish.
With all of the ballads…particularly the ones tacked on at the end…the album takes sixteen years to finish. Seriously, these are not tactful and emotive ballads like “Patience” or even “Don’t Cry,” they are epic in scope with Axl just throwing in a bunch of bullshit lines like “You like to hurt me/You know that you do.” That line, from the worst song on the album called “Sorry,” finds Axl hidden behind a bunch of processing, sounding a little like Frank Zappa on “I Have Been In You” from Sheik Yerbouti. The difference being that Zappa was being funny while Axl is dead serious.
There are two fair songs on the album, the title track and “There Was A Time” and one obvious choice for the lead-off single, “Better.” When I say “fair,” I mean that I could have gone forever without hearing them and not missed a goddamn thing while the other eleven tracks, I actually wished that I had gone forever without hearing them.
So why now? I seriously think it’s because Axl is running out of money and, more importantly, out of options at this point. There is an increasingly small window of opportunity with each passing year that enables him to even release an album. Essentially, he would have been forever dicking around in the studio, making a bunch of irrelevant edits, remixes, and overdubs only to have the entire thing leaked onto the internet where a decreasing audience would have downloaded the shit for free.
Which is exactly how I would recommend acquiring Chinese Democracy. But I expect there are still a few hardcore fans that will trek out to Best Buy and shell out whatever is being asked. There will be enough to make this album debut at number one, but very little to sustain it beyond the new year. It will go down in history as a stiff instead of a punch line, but it would have been a hell of a lot more intriguing to just sit on the album forever.
It’s here now, sixteen years of endless discussion that will soon reach the end. Regardless of what I say, you’re probably curious enough to seek it out by whatever method you choose and formulate your own opinion.
And to that, Axl himself addresses it right out of the gate with a line from the title track:
“It don’t really matter/I guess you’ll find out for yourself”

Arlo Guthrie - Alice's Restaurant


This is the time of the year where I admit that I owned not one…but two different Arlo Guthrie albums. For those of you not familiar with Arlo Guthrie, he is the less talented son of Woody Guthrie, who pretty much singlehandedly inspired Bob Dylan to travel to N.Y.C. and, as a result, change the course of rock history.
Now Arlo himself is a talented guy, it’s just that he’s not talented enough to draw unknown lyrical geniuses from the Midwest out to his deathbed so that they can run some new material by him before he croaks.
No sir, Arlo was just good enough to get signed to Reprise records in the late 60’s, get really baked and play Woodstock high as a motherfucker, and land a tune in the Billboard Top 40 charts (“City Of New Orleans”). The weed he smoked at Woodstock was apparently strong enough to maintain a buzz all the way to 2008: most recently, he endorsed Republican candidate Ron Paul because he was too stoned to know better.
I had Guthrie’s Hobo’s Lullaby. It contained “City Of New Orleans,” a song he didn’t even pen from an album that featured mostly covers to begin with. It wasn’t my cup of tea and I have no idea where it is today.
But I do know where my other Arlo Guthrie album is, because I think about it every year around Thanksgiving. Alice’s Restaurant was released on this day in 1967. It was Arlo Guthrie’s first album…still arguably his best…and it became a fixture of progressive rock stations who braved the song’s 18 minute talking blues storyline for at least one day each year.
The story itself is quite humorous. It’s the kind that you can probably only tolerate once a year, but when you do hear it, it’s as satisfying as watching the Cowboys/Lions game after Thanksgiving dinner and then wondering why they don’t show The Wizard Of Oz at 6:00pm like they used to. And like both of those other events, you’re content and don’t need to see it again for another year.
Since the story is over 18 minutes long and since you’re probably familiar with it, I don’t need to explain the details. For the novice, Arlo and his girl are arrested for littering on Thanksgiving Day, the ensuing “trial” for the crime, and the end results that Carlo’s criminal record has on his ability to be drafted to go to Vietnam. Of course, nobody really wanted to get drafted to go to Vietnam, so Arlo capitalized on his exaggerated-but-true tale of how people could use his tale of Thanksgiving misfortune into a form of social protest. If you’re having trouble comprehending all of this, all you need to understand was that is was the work of a hippy, so that should explain the incredible leap between littering and protesting the Vietnam draft.
In other words: you have to hear the song before it makes sense and, surprisingly, it’s a good listen.
While the “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” took up all of side one on the Alice’s Restaurant album, side two features a half-dozen Guthrie originals that are easily forgettable but fairly pleasing folk tunes whose only problem is that they’re stacked behind such a major offering like the epic on side one. The one exception may be “The Motorcycle Song” which manages to rhyme “pickle” with “cycle” and, because of this novelty, was one of my favorite songs before going to kindergarten.
That’s changed now, of course, but “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” still remains one of my favorite songs around Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Is It Live?

No news to report. So let's let Jim Gillette have a word.

Is that a fucking sock stuffed in your jeans, dude?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bruce Dickenson Joins Iron Maiden

On this day in 1981, the members of Iron Maiden quietly excused lead vocalist Paul DiAnno and replaced him with with none other than Bruce Dickinson. Dickinson had been the vocalist of Samson before agreeing to front a band that featured a huge, walking mummy as a mascot.
And the world was good.
The decision not only worked, it produced the band's finest moment right out of the gate: The Number Of The Beast. But what became of Paul DiAnno? He went on to front a bunch of band's you never heard of (Lone Wolf, Battlezone, and the aptly named Killers) but left a pretty good (albeit brief) track record with Iron Maiden. In fact, the first Maiden album I ever got was a cassette copy of Maiden Japan, the live release just prior to Number. I stole it from K-Mart and played it until the little pressure pad fell out.
So while this may be the day in which Maiden gained additional notoriety for sacking their original lead singer, I'm giving a nod of respect to DiAnno.



Now take a look at DiAnno today. Looks like someone needs some extra royalty points and a good dental plan.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Humanistic Freakout In My Mailbox

What do you do when you have $50 in your PayPal account that’s been burning a hole in your pocket for months on end? You piss it away on a limited edition package for The Flaming Lips Christmas On Mars, that’s what! Look, I’m fully aware that the thing may indeed be a piece of shit…all signs do indeed point to “Yes”…but I’ve been following this project for so long now that I can’t just give us. No sir, I’ve got to buy the deluxe limited edition version.
So today, when I noticed a box from Warner Bros, I knew what to expect: The DVD of the film, the cd of the original score, an “Eat Your Own Spaceship” popcorn box complete with real (icky) popcorn, Flaming Lips “trading” cards, a replica of the original Christmas On Mars screening tickets (pieced together like tabs of acid), an “Eat Your Own Spaceship” bumper sticker, and a Christmas On Mars t-shirt.
No, my package did not contain the “Golden Ticket” providing me with backstage access to the band’s New Year’s Eve performance in O.K.C.
And I didn’t get the popcorn box signed by the members of the band, which totally pisses me off as I ordered the fucking thing the first day it was available.
Now I am forced to stalk them.
How do I know it’s going to be a piece of shit? I don’t, but when it takes several fucking years to put the Goddamn thing together, you know there’s sure to be holes the size of Tulsa asphalt in the plot and filmed scenes.
I’ve never been to Oklahoma, so I can’t really speak for their infrastructure, but it sure sounded good. Plus, I just saw Wild At Heart for the millionth time, so I ripped that line (kinda) from Laura Dern.
Anyways.
I remember being totally stoked about the project when I first heard about it some seven years ago. Without knowing what the hell it’s about (I still don’t, b.t.w.), I was intrigued that a band like The Flaming Lips were undertaking a science fiction film project. The more the band revealed, the more I began to think that the project was Wayne’s own Lifehouse project, something that would assuredly fall over on the weight of its own magnitude.
One of these days, I’ll file a report on it. For now, I’m just content with all of the crap I spent my PayPal money on.