Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Homer's Music, Gifts, and Shitty Employees

What a drag when you revisit one of your all time favorite record stores and learn that the life has been sucked out of them. Maybe I’m a tad overdramatic here, I don’t live in Omaha so I’m not sure if I faced an associate who just didn’t like his gig or if the entire location is filled with that lackadaisical ambivalence that says “We’re running on a limited life span, and we just don’t care any more.” Regardless, the dude that took my money is a representative of Homers Records and, because of his attitude I have a different opinion of that establishment.
A little history.
One of the best record store moments ever happened at Homer's Music in the Old Market. Years ago, I was accosted by an over-zealous clerk here who eagerly kept putting discs in my hand, encouraging me to try other titles based upon the answer to one question:
“So what have you been listening to lately?”
My answer was Cat Power’s Moon Pix and within moments, my hands were filled with a bunch of cds, many of which I wasn’t familiar with. Noticing my hesitation on one of them, he took it out of my hand, ripped open the sealed packaging and took me over to a listening station for me to listen to it. While I listened, he went on to another customer. I’ll confess that I didn’t like the disc that he chose for me, but I was under such enormous pressure, I mean…he opened it for me already….wasn’t I supposed to by it now?! I left the disc in the tray and made my way up to check out before he noticed that it wasn’t part of my pile of stuff.
“Whadya think?” he asked, noticing my escape plan.
“It was pretty good. Thanks!” I said, not letting him know that it wasn’t my thing.
You may think that this is a fairly bad example to show when demonstrating the positive characteristics of a record store clerk. The fact is, I walked in to Homer’s ready to by one Cat Power disc and ended up with that plus about three other titles. In short, his enthusiasm and passion for music caused me to drop more than I originally intended.
Fast forward to the most recent encounter.
First of all, the inventory had diminished. Not dramatically, but to the point where it was noticeable. It was still enough to have me feeling a little overwhelmed like I normally get when entering a good record store: what the hell am I looking for?
I noticed that Scratch Acid was playing, always a good sign, and I decided to separate myself from the rest of the casual tourists by asking the clerk a question that I already knew the answer to.
“Is this Scratch Acid?”
“It is. Wow! Most people would automatically assume it’s the Jesus Lizard.”
Understanding that I now impressed him with my knowledge, I decided to dazzle him with the following bit of information.
“I actually got to see Scratch Acid live in ’87.”
He declared that I was a lucky man and then it dawned on me: I’d better buy something really cool to demonstrate that I still listened to irreverent music.
I looked in my hands. The used copy of Bruce Springsteen’s The River and Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea didn’t seem challenging enough to further impress the long-haired clerk.
I though about getting Qui, Yow’s current project, but fuck that little cocksucker for not making me as one of his MySpace friends. It’s juvenile, I know, but I’ve given Yow enough of my money over the years.
Then, I begin to realize that I’m too old to try and impress anyone and that I should be filling in my needs before worrying about some dude that was still in diapers the night I saw Scratch Acid at the Central. I decided to look for Go Betweens’ 16 Lovers Lane, but had no luck
Side note: Homer’s now has a complete section encompassing three shelves of Insane Clown Posse albums. Why they couldn’t have neglected one of those titles in return for a Go Betweens record is beyond me, but I guess Jugaloos pay the bills more than fans of Aussie pop rock.
They didn’t have Qui either.
I cut my losses and go up to check out. This time, it’s a different dude as the Scratch Acid clerk is helping someone else. The guy I’m dealing with is rapping up another customer, but doesn’t bother to lift up his fucking head to see that there’s somebody else behind the dude that’s giving him money. After the transaction, he walks away, leaving me at the counter with no assistance. Meanwhile, Scratch Acid guy is calling a customer to let them know that the special order has arrived. After a bit of silence, I overhear that Homer’s has ordered the wrong title for the customer and that they’ll need to correct their mistake. Wanna know why people shop online? There you go.
Finally, the canvas case boy with glasses notices me after picking his ass for a while and offers a retarded “Did you need to check out now?”
No buddy, I’m just looking at this box of Bit-o-Honey for no fucking reason.
He rings me up, tells me the total and takes my money, again without making eye contact. He then places my receipt and change on top of my purchase and slides them over the counter towards me, not once offering a “Thank you.”
Wanna know why people download albums for free? There you go.
One would think, particularly in the face of insurmountable competition…the kind where you don’t actually pay for anything…that record stores would be a little more grateful that any patrons would be shopping at their location(s). The days of the smug record store clerk are done, eliminated by sheer financial necessity and if the remaining stores are remiss in understanding this, then they should be blessed with a quick “going out of business” death.
Because the only chance you’ll catch me at Homer’s again will be to bask in the glory of their store closing clearance sales.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Six Organs Of Admittance - Shelter From The Ash

Turn your nose up all you want, but the reality is that the underground jam rock scene has some pretty intense bands working the country these days and several of these new weird Americans also bash out some novel side projects as well.
To be fair, Comets On Fire’s Ben Chasny has been working the Six Organs of Admittance nameplate longer than he has been a member of C.O.F. At the same time, I wouldn’t have even recognized Chasny’s original project if it weren’t for his work with Comets, but I’ll come right out an tell you that I’m enjoying Shelter From The Ash a helluva lot more than Avatar.
The two offerings are light years apart, with Shelter sounding like a lost relic of raga-fueled guitarwork, heavy on acoustic riffing and on occasion busting out a few moments of scrambled egg freakouts. It’s a guitar lover’s record, and only for those who can appreciate the sprawling tendencies that jam bands tend to offer.
Make no mistake however, this is not the work of a fanatical Garcia or Anastasio follower. Ben Chasny instead follows a Middle Easter pattern, occasionally nodding to Sun City Girls’ Rick Bishop and British folk legend Davy Graham. There’s also a heavy amount of wah-wah action, giving Shelter that late 60’s/early 70’s trip, confounding the listener into believing that they’ve stumbled into a lost relic, fetching an ungodly price on EBay from a few devoted followers.
With such six string theatrics, lyrics and vocals take a backseat to anything that can be picked, strummed, or strangled. When they do appear, it’s a tentative affair, occasionally beautiful (particularly the ones Elisa Ambrogio collaborates on) but hardly memorable.
So chalk it up as a guitar album with enough fingerpickin’ exercises good enough to maintain the attention span of any pothead. Shelter From The Ash is one of those albums that will go overlooked by many while becoming a welcome find to anyone that stumbles onto its six-string theatrics.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hello Panda

I just realized that I didn't have anything planned to post for like an entire week....And then I remembered a photo from my phone. It was the pink colors at eye level that did it. I turned and noticed a panda sitting on the top shelf of the Asian section of Hy-Vee. I really need to shop there alone more often; there's no way I would have caught this with the kids present. I case you're wondering, I didn't buy them...but there's not a day that goes by that I wish I had.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sesame Street Live: Elmo Makes Music

For the third year in a row, I was conned into going to Sesame Street Live! as part of some horrific bribe that was ultimately supposed to provide the older one a chance to hang out with Mommy and Daddy without his baby sister being present.
This year it was titled Elmo Makes Music, the story of a music teacher on her first day teaching music to all of the Sesame Street freaks only to discover that the truckload of instruments has been lost, carjacked, or re-routed to Fraggle Rock. What could have been the strongest plot to work with out of the three turned out to be the weakest, thanks mostly to the lead of “Jenny,” the music teacher who never seems to be able to belt out her selections and always appears eager to have her scenes end so that she can get the fuck off stage.
Now I realize that I’m getting burnt on this shit which, in turns, attributes about 75% of the animosity projected here, but I have another reliable source (see photo) that also felt the performance sucked ass. This was gauged by the number of times I had to hear “I want some cotton candy” ($5) and “Can we get some ice cream” ($3) and “Can we get popcorn” ($2).
I have no clue how the promoters of these shows can book three performances in two days. The place wasn’t even half-full for our final night performance and I’ve got to believe the matinee from earlier that day was even more sparsely attended. No wonder Jenny wanted to leave so soon.
Even the monsters seemed to be going through the motions, with Grover sitting on his ass during one major scene in the first half, rising only to give his lines and occasionally playing grab-ass with Zoe during the moments when neither of them had speaking parts.
The girl in front of us, age guestimate about 2 and a half, cried every time Elmo left the stage. I noticed a couple of kids up in the balcony running through the aisles unsupervised, occasionally dancing, but ultimately oblivious to the retarded story line that had the monsters inexplicitly hiding their makeshift instruments from Jenny because, well, I didn’t get why they did that.
The saving grace was since Bert dressed in disco clothes and dancing to “The Hustle” and watching the kids in the audience barely pay attention while the parents fretted over them. Ethan was good, aside from the “I’m bored…let’s get some munchies” bit and it was apparent that he was getting a little too old for this shit. Even his green Oscar shirt is getting a little too tight for his wiry frame.
But then the SLF suggests that we’ll have to do it all over again for Callista which is fine, but that doesn’t mean I need to be a part of it for three years in a row. I really could have used a break from Sesame Street as this was the first year that Ethan finally got over his love of Elmo and it’s only a matter of time until Calli starts to pick up on the monsters. This would have been the perfect opportunity to get a break from Sesame Street Live! and, even judging by the performers at this year’s show, it looked as though they needed a break too.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Bob Dylan - The Bootleg Series Volume 4: The 'Royal Albert Hall' Concert

I’m a fan of live albums. I may be in the minority, but I come from an era (the 1970’s where live records were a rite of passage for suburban boys. Kiss Alive, Peter Frampton Frampton Comes Alive, and Cheap Trick At Buddakon, etc., all became concert souvenirs of shows that the vast majority of us weren’t able to attend.
A lot of these live documents were pointless, many of them were unnecessary but great performances nonetheless, and a few others were vitally important as they managed to document an important transition or event in the artist’s career.
Bob Dylan’s “Royal Albert Hall” performance is one such event. Aside from a previous appearance at the Newport Folk Festival, the one where Pete Seeger pulled the plug on Bob’s set, there is no better document of the hostility that Dylan faced from fans as he transitioned from “folkie” or rock star.
I don’t know if a commercial recording of that ill-fated performance exists but I do know that the “Royal Albert Hall” performance finally received a legitimate release a few years ago and immediately became one of those un-arguable classic records that’s deserving of its legendary stature.
And not merely on the incident alone; The Bootleg Series Volume 4 contains a perfectly sequenced set of Dylan’s show at the Manchester Free Trade Hall, incorrectly identified as the Royal Albert Hall performance when it was originally released as a bootleg in 1971.
The show begins with a traditional acoustic set, set apart by Dylan’s bitter enunciation, either prompted by having to cater to the folkies with his more familiar garb or by the beating that he’s going to receive from the crowd in mere moments. Whatever the cause, Bob delivers an ornery first set before retiring briefly for the beat down that’s coming.
The second set starts with a brutal version of “Tell Me Momma,” a rendition so fierce that it sends a clear message to anyone not ready for the new era of Dylan’s work: leave now while you have a chance.
Of course, those who stayed were motivated by the opportunity to boo and heckle Dylan after each song. Bob responds with gibberish. The idea being that they’ll be quiet enough to try to make sense of what he’s saying.
They don’t, in fact, it gets worse. Finally, a lone heckler yells “Judas!” while another screams “I’m never listening to you again…EVER!” Dylan responds with “You’re a liar” before turning to the band, ready to attack again with one final attack.
“Play fucking loud” he instructs the band, before slamming into one of the most aggressive versions of “Like A Rolling Stone” ever set to tape.
This is a magical record, one that transcends its original intent and one that remains a vital link in rock music. This is a record that not only documents one of Dylan’s best performances ever, it’s a record that documents one of the most important events in rock history.
The 'Royal Albert Hall" concert originally took place on this day in 1966.
Play it fucking loud.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds

So this review is supposed to be about The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, an album that all of you probably already own and, if you don’t, either have your reasons for ignoring it (meaning the residual effects of “Kokomo”) or live in an environment where music is forbidden. In short: shut down the computer and go get it now. That’s pretty much the review right there, because everybody knows that it’s required listening and that any true fan of music would hide their head in shame if this title isn’t found somewhere in their own collection.
At the same time, there is a point in every music fan’s life when they don’t have Pet Sounds in their collection, so I’d like to speak to that.
I had copies of Sgt. Pepper’s in the past, but not Pet Sounds. They were feeding animals on the cover, and I always attributed the band to surf music. But in college, one of the labs I worked at in the broadcasting division had about three or four albums for use, two of them were decent. One was The Cure’s Head On The Door and the other was Beach Boys’ Smiley Smile. I didn’t like Smiley Smile that much, but it did open up the possibility that the Beach Boys could do more than “Surfer Girl.”
At the public radio station, the Music Director was doing her damndest to convert some of the vinyl that the station had into compact disc. Having done this before, I can attest that it is a long and slow process, particularly for this radio station that literally had tens of thousands of records to convert. They wouldn’t be able to convert everything, they even had rare recordings from old 78s that were irreplaceable, but they were just beginning to change with the times and get some of the more notable records on cd. Pet Sounds was one of them. CDs were still somewhat of a novelty back then, the kind of novelty where you could have an absolutely shitty song on a promo cd and someone would take it if you left it sitting out because….well…because it was on a shiny aluminum disc. The fact that the Music Director, who I held in high regard for her eclectic musical tastes, specifically ordered this title as one of the first pop discs the station would have meant that it had to be good.
It was better than good. It was awesome. No wonder McCartney had a hard-on for this thing. And why hadn’t anyone bothered to spin “God Only Knows” the moment I started talking shit about The Beach Boys. That song is so fucking great that it’s now considered a hit even though it barely scraped the top 40 when it was originally released. How do I know it’s a hit now? Because my wife knows the words and she’s not the epitome of musical culture.
A few years later, I’m at Record Collector, looking through their impressive bins of used discs. It was always something of a crapshoot when you did this as some days you’d struggle to find anything while on others you had to return things and make hard choices as there were too many records that you wanted.
On this particular day, I was perusing the “B” section and both Sgt Pepper’s and Pet Sounds were sitting there. I pulled out both and brought them to the counter where the owner Kirk was ready to check me out.
“Dude! What the fuck?” I asked him, holding up the copies of two classic albums that someone had sold to him in return for an ungodly low figure.
Knowing exactly what I was in arms about, he agreed with my frustration.
“I don’t know man.” He said shaking his head. “I just bite my tongue and pay them the money.”
I went on to exclaim how there is no excuse, no matter how broke one may be, to sell back Sgt Pepper’s or Pet Sounds. Those are two records that you’ll need during dire straits, those “desert island discs” that you’ll return to again and again because they changed the course of music.
But no. Some fuckstick sold ‘em for a few bucks each and probably dropped the same amount on cigarettes or cheap vodka instead.
It wasn’t like today, where kids burn a copy on their hard drive and call it good. To me, that doesn’t count either. You need Pet Sounds to be prominently displayed somewhere and not smothering in the confines of a hard drive in between those ones and zeroes.
You need to go now and acquire it, knowing that you stand a better chance now than I did and running into a copy for yourself in much the same way that I did, as there’s probably more than a few people who are doing exactly what I was complaining about back then.
And if you’re one of those who may be tainted by the stigma of Mike Love and/or questionable career choices that the Beach Boys made and made often, consider that for at least one time, they made an album that changed the course of music and it can change the way you think about them.
Pet Sounds was released on this day in 1966.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Happy Birthday, Brian Eno

Brian Eno turns 60 today, but he’s looked 60 for the past 20 years if you ask me. Here’s an idea of the incredibly geeky friends I’ve had over the years: I remember pulling my hair back to expose a mock receding hairline and bring a finger to my lip, creating the universally recognized “Shhh” signal. I did this to mock Brian Eno, who I witnessed doing the same thing during a video showing the recording process of U2’s The Unforgettable Fire, telling someone outside of the shot to be quiet as they were recording some bongos or other pointless percussion instrument. Why the hell would U2 need bongos on a track?
As you may notice, I hated what Brian Eno did to my beloved U2 during that album. I considered Boy and War to be fantastic albums, October less so, but I relegated my anger towards The Unforgettable Fire, and album I deemed The Unforgettable Fart, directly at Eno, who I held responsible for their stunning lack of “rock.”
A friend in college had the entire Eno solo album collection and swore by it. It sounded like a bunch of shit that you’d play to help go to sleep if you asked me. Another friend advised me to give it another chance. And he appealed directly to my technical nature by making me hip to an Eno technique of hooking up your speakers. I can’t remember the details at the moment, but I believe it had something to do with reversing the positive and negative wires and then introducing a third speaker.
It sounded insane, but the dude swore that it could produce some trippy results with certain albums.
“Play Raw Power through that set up and it sounds awesome!”
I did as instructed and it did produce some pretty cool results. It was almost like a primitive form of surround sound, placing instruments in odd spaces and vocals in unusual places in the mix. The two louspeaker terminals of the third speaker is connected by only using the two positive (red) speaker connectors on the amplifier. The idea is to place this speaker somewhere behind you, like surround sound but only with this one speaker, preferably at the apex of the imaginary triangle. Your two original speakers form the other side of the triangle. What happens is that the third speaker seems to reproduce everything that is not located in the central stereo image, thereby producing some fairly wild results at times and with the right kind of album.
The friend went on to explain that several of Eno’s solo albums were mixed to the point where this strategy also produced unusual results. I took his word at it, but I started at an album that wasn’t a part of that experimentation. In fact, it wasn’t at all a part of Eno’s ambient 70’s material. I started with Brian’s first album after leaving Roxy Music, Here Come The Warm Jets, an album billed as an extension of both glam and art rock, which meant it was an album that took years for me to appreciate.
For the second time, I walked away from Brian Eno’s material as unimpressed.
It wasn’t until another friend played Eno’s collaboration with David Byrne before I finally was matched with a worthy album. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts is a wonderful complement to the Talking Heads' Fear Of Music album and an extension of the quirky white boy world beat jams the pair created immediately after the Heads’ session.
My initial dismissal of The Unforgettable Fire also ended too, as a girlfriend I had during the mid-80’s insisted on playing that album and an album by Aztec Camera every time we had sex at her place. She also had Whitesnake’s Slide It In, derided it as a mistake purchase as recommended by a girlfriend, but she would never let me play that one while we fucked.
Perhaps if Eno had his hands on that one, things would have been differently.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Frank Sinatra R.I.P.

Frank Sinatra died on this day 10 years ago. If there was any karma in this world, someone would have spared Frank and taken the dude who thought that Sinatra's Duets albums were a fucking good idea.
To celebrate the life...the legacy of Frank, we'll be cooking basil infused pasta tossed with Sinatra's pesto sauce.
Now give me the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and let's get the fuck outta here.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Fun In The Cubicle

I was going to write something about Perry Como, who died on this day a few years ago. Essentially, it was going to be a brief blurb with an old SCTV bit of Perry "Mr Relaxation" Como as played by Rick Moranis. You Tube doesn't have a clip, so plan B.
Trouble is, there is no plan b actually. So here's some fun at work.
Several months ago, I spoke to a very rude lady on the phone at work. She was from New Jersey, so no surprise there. But as she was bitching, I was forced to go and look for something. I explained that I would be right back, but actually I didn't put her on hold, I just muted the line. I heard her sigh...repeatedly...until her dog "Monty" started to yip and bark in the background. She began to converse with the dog in more of a polite and adult manner than she did with me. Suddenly, I began to despise that dog.
Fast forward to today, where I came across her name again, along with her contact information, and during a lull at work, I composed the following letter to her.
In case you're wondering, the story is real (all except the dog eating of course) and, although I have changed the names of the people, there's a chance that some of you may know exactly who I'm referring to.

John Axeman
2165 Loredo Blvd
Brainard, MN 64114

Delorez Cunt
666 Matlock Drive
Voorhees, NJ 08043-4717


I’ve been thinking about Monty lately. Sweet, tender Monty. There are times in which I consider how succulent he would be, perhaps accented by a spicy dry rub, meticulously cooked over charcoal briquettes. It would be a delectable feast Delorez, but rest assured, I would leave a seat for you at the table.

You see, I too know the pleasure and unconditional love that a dog provides us. There was a time in which I owned a dog, part fox actually, that I received while he was still a pup. I called him ‘Bosey.’

I was tripping on acid one night, when I stumbled home and understood that I needed to let Bosey out of the cage and run free. I felt guilty for keeping him locked up and suddenly an intense connection fell upon me. I unlocked the cage and let him go. “Bosey!” I yelled. “He’s a good dog. He knows where he’s at.”

Then I put a frozen pizza in the oven and promptly forgot about it, nearly causing a fire in my basement apartment.

I think it is fair to say that I wouldn’t have forgotten about Bosey, had it been him cooking inside of my oven, instead of that Totino’s frozen pizza. It’s also fair to assume that I will attend to the cooking of Monty with the utmost responsibility, loyally attending to his juices with the same loyalty that he provides you on a daily basis.

He will be so delicious.


John Axeman

P.S.: I fell off a balcony in a drunken stupor in 1995 and passed away. All I thought about on my journey to that white light was my fox/dog mix Bosey. He was a good dog.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Another Page In Your Diary: Yaz Announces Reunion Tour

It blows my mind how there’s probably more youngsters out there that think Yaz is a birth control pill when back in my time they were a nifty little new wave dance band that I absolutely adored.
I’m surfing the internet at work, albeit haphazardly, as I come across a news item from the day prior that I completely overlooked. It was one of those headlines where you read it a few times before clicking on the link because you’re sure…you’re positive…that it’s a typo or, perhaps, an item that doesn’t really apply to your side of the planet.
“Yaz(oo) announces reunion tour dates.”
Here’s the thing: Yaz released two albums, toured for only one of them, and then promptly disbanded, proving that the emotional qualities and icy disconnect of their material was very real and those few that had the opportunity to see them live were very lucky.
Alison Moyet and Vince Clarke’s personal break up ultimately meant that their music was like a photograph of an old relationship, with the second album You And Me Both the snapshot of the actual breakup. You logically assumed that the finality, like your own former relationships, was permanent.
And then you read about a brief reunion tour in which, at least at this point, there is no hint at a permanent reconciliation. It seems that this tour, deemed “Reconnected Tour” is the proper swan song they never had a quarter-century ago.
So immediately, I’m excited, to the point where I’m almost in tears in disbelief, searching for anyone in my fucking place of employment to share the news.
“Have you ever heard of Yaz?”
“What about ‘Yazoo’” (like the English nomenclature would trigger something)
“What about Depeche Mode? The guy in Yaz started them.”
Yeah, I have heard of Depeche Mode.
“Well, he left them to start Yaz….and then he left Yaz and started Erasure.”
I think I’ve heard of ‘Erasure.’
The reality was, Yaz was pretty big back in the day, and they could have been bigger had they managed to keep their personal affairs out of their professional ones. But then again, there wouldn’t have even been a band if it weren’t for their personal affairs.
By the time I get around to looking for tickets (read: 10 minutes after learning about the shows) all of the good seats are gone. I did find a pair of 4th row tickets for a hefty price, but understand that I’m going to have to negotiate some supreme skills to get my wife to allow yet another jaunt, which means that I’m going to have to take her. And when you add this together, those 4th row tickets suddenly turn into much cheaper balcony spots because I’m going to half to pace the finances and do a few things for the wife..
That’s not a ban thing mind you. It’s just means that the highlight for her will be something different from what it will be for me.

Friday, May 9, 2008

OCD Chronicles: Rent-Seasons Of Love

“You know how I know you’re gay? You saw Rent three times”
-40 Year Old Virgin
I’ve only seen Rent once. Last week. So I’m not gay.
I was vaguely familiar with a few of the songs. “Seasons Of Love” became my first exposure to the musical numbers, mainly because I remember somewhat downloaded it for her ringtone, and every time she received a text message (which was often) I would hear “525, 600 minutes…How do you measure, measure a year?”
So now the wife and I are on the way to Rent and what song, and a completely unrocking one at that, keeps spinning through my head?
“In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee/In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.”
If I recall, the idea behind Rent was to bring musical theatre to the MTV generation. Personally, I find that notion a little pretentious: to bring musical theatre to the MTV generation, bring them a musical worth seeing.
And for that, I do think that Rent succeeded.
It’s about as risqué as Hair and a little more relevant to my generation. The subplot of AIDS is a little dated to some extent, but to be fair, there was a very pervasive uncurrent of risk when it came down to porking.
The perception now seems focused on herpes, and everyone knows that if they look clean, they’re probably safe to fuck bareback.
I’m joking, but there’s no joke that I can’t get this thing out of my head and, at the risk of sounding gay, it’s not that bad of song to have on repeat.

Lordi - The Arockalypse

The last time anyone ever brought me music at work would have been The Eagles Greatest Hits Volume One, the biggest selling album in rock history, because the guy figured I liked music. There is no safer album than Greatest Hits Volume One mind you, but like The Dude, I fucking hate The Eagles man.
So another dude, actually my supervisor at work even though he doesn’t really stand out as a supervisor in my mind, which may explain why we get along ok, figured out that I’m kind of into music (really?) and I was surprised to learn that 1.) he used to provide people with amateur Indian ink tattoos while in high school (he admitted that he turned down a chick who kept pestering him for a pentagram on her face…HER FACE!!! Because he knew that there would be a time….like ten minutes later…in which she’d regret the decision and hold him accountable for it) and 2.) He is relatively versed in things metal.
So I may have let slip that I enjoy the metal on occasion which got us talking about Maiden (what doesn’t?) which led to a discussion about Megadeath which demonstrated that he was more of a fan of them than me because I think Dave Mustaine is whiney little Christian bitch.
Nonetheless, the common ground led him to suddenly burn me a copy of Lordi, apparently a fairly huge Finish metal band that’s heavy on Kiss-like theatrics and huge production values, bringing to mind a time in the 80’s when such tomfoolery was tolerated and enjoyed by many, thanks to music videos and the stoners that watched it.
Now, I’m all about tomfoolery but Kiss-like theatrics, not so much. To be honest, I find Twisted Sister to be fairly silly and I think GWAR is a bunch of tuneless morons that replace songs with desparate stage moves.
Lordi, on the other hand, doesn't share my opinion.
So now I’m forced to endure the daily “So, did you listen to Lordi yet?” questions, which means that I’m going to eventually have to listen to it. Not out of fear of reprisal, far from it, but because it was such an old school gesture that, you’re goddamn right, I’m going to listen to a burned cd copy of a Finish metal band.
The Arockalypse (I kid you not) is a charming little collection of heavy-riffing, curiously melodic metal pop songs with titles like “Who’s Your Daddy,” “The Night of the Loving Dead,” and my personal favorite “Bringing Back The Balls To Rock.”
There’s a reason why this shit is huge in Europe: because here in America, no credible metal band (besides Kiss) would ever dream of titling a song “Who’s Your Daddy” and, should one ever decide to title a song “Bringing Back The Balls To Rock,” then that fucker better indeed rock balls.
In Europe, behavior like this is celebrated and, indeed, rewarded as Lordi actually won a nationally televised battle of the bands contest that propelled them into stardom across the fucking continent.
In case you're wondering: Lordi doesn’t rock balls. Occasionally, they do surprise. Like when out of nowhere I hear the unfuckingmistakable yell of Udo Dirkschneider. Now, any band that asks the motherfucker from Accept to join in immediately scores points with me, even when the sound he appears on (“Hard Rock Hallelujah”) is about a pubic hair more heavier than H.I.M.
Lordi are so indebted to Kiss that they actually scored “barely a member” Bruce Kulick on board for a few numbers while Dee Snider also makes an appearance.
Is it fun? For some perhaps. Is it memorable? I suppose so, after repeatedly listenings. Is it for me? Not really, but don’t let my boss know that.

Inspirational verse:

"Attention class
Here we come
We kick your ass
That’s lesson one”

Inspirational verse (reprise):

“Turn up the amps past overload
Eardrums will explode”

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Beatles - Let It Be

I guess I forgot to read the memo where Let It Be is supposed to be a very devisive and much maligned record. I love it, and by that I mean that I love the original version, not the bitter “I’ll show those guys” mix that McCartney authorized under the title Let It Be…Naked which is just as guilty of the things that he complained about (mainly how his opinion wasn’t taken into consideration) as the original mix.
And while he may have a point about the mix of “The Long And Winding Road,” and it may indeed be better on his authorized Naked, it’s still not the version we’ve grown accoustomed to, so to paraphrase McCartney himself, let it be.
Naked sounds like a deliberate album, never mind the timing or financial motivation, while Let It Be sounds more like its original intention: a ramshackle attempt at getting back to where you once belong. Its also accurately provides a snapshot into the band’s fractured relationships at the time. Complete with inside jokes, bickering, and a complete lack of leadership, Let It Be gives fans a glimpse into the inner workings of rock’s greatest band of all time coming a part at the seems….and it’s fascinating.
Musically, the barely rehearsed feel of songs like “Dig A Pony,” “Two Of Us,” and “Get Back,” sound great, to the point where any other band released them, we’d be talking it up like it was their crowning achievement. But since it is the Beatles, the unfinished quality and the studio banter that segues some of the tracks together, there’s a lot of criticism and how incomplete it all is.
Fuck yes it’s incomplete! Let It Be is the bastard child that was maligned by George Martin, ignored by the band, and dressed up by Phil Spector who, to be completely fair, left most of the warts and all in the mix, with the exception of the total wax job he did on McCartney’s beloved “Long And Winding Road.”
The thing of it is, Sgt. Pepper’s and Abbey Road both sound like McCartney blueprints, so its telling at how, after thirty years, the fact that his input wasn’t saught out.
If you ask me, I’d say that Let It Be as it stands and as it was originally issued, serves as a fine document to the Beatles inner workings and is a worthy edition to their catalog; there are times when I place it higher than some of the band’s more acknowledged classics.
It’s an album that works well as the band’s final offering because it demonstrates the Beatles were exactly that: a band, complete with flaws, egos, and off-days. But they were a band whose “off days” were head and shoulders above their competition.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Rolling Stones - Exile On Main Street

Consider that all of the folklore around Exile On Main Street wouldn’t mean shit if the album didn’t rock. But rock it does, to the point where that lived-in, make records with the Mobile feel is that sixth instrument here, the nadir of decadence that’s now referenced endlessly when bands get a little too frisky with their vices.
Exile might also be the last example of the Stones accidentally stumbling into genius, the document where the smack, booze, and ladies actually contributed to the creative process without destroying it. Beyond this point you’d find a band that was unable to attain the same apex and unable to shake more creativity from their demons.
Goat’s Head Soup? It’s Only Rock & Roll? Black and Blue?
All of them hint at greatness, effectively replicating the swagger and nod of old, while Exile exudes every bit of grime that it portrays.
What’s even more amazing is how the Stones had already come off of three….count ‘em….three certifiable classic records that should be in everybody’s record collection PERIOD and they follow that impressive showing with this, their fourth no debating landmark offering.
They didn’t reinvent the wheel with Exile, they merely steered their sound into new directions, typically streets on the wrong side of town, and they sound wonderfully authentic and comfortable in their new surroundings.
The sprawl of this double l.p. means that you’ll be continually finding new treasures with repeated listens. The obvious ones come first: “Tumbling Dice,” “Rocks Off,” “Happy,” but only because AOR radio attached their playlists to them, leaving a plethora of other incredible tracks to examine later.
I remember being drawn to “Shake Your Hips,” “Ventilator Blues>I Just Want To See His Face,” and “Sweet Virginia” after the initial listening, but now I’m stuck on side four. That’s the beauty of the album, it’s always growing alongside you, reminding you of its greatness along the way and assuredly acknowledging that yes, at one time, the Rolling Stones were indeed the world’s greatest rock and roll band.
Exile On Main Street was released today in 1972.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Bob Dylan - Slow Train Coming

If you’re not a Bob Dylan fan, I would encourage you to become one. There are moments, and this happened to me, when you suddenly discover how utterly awesome he is. You get past the endless and unfair criticism of his voice and all of those other quirks that deflect the obvious genius that is Bob.
You start to assume ambivalence towards those who don’t get it, or care to get it, and it’s a very liberating experience. So the next time you hear those things like “He’s an awful singer.” You just quietly think “Right….And you are?” because anyone who has half a brain knows that Bob Dylan is a great singer; his phrasing alone has influence countless people just as his words have influenced countless more.
The other aspect about the church of Bob is how you’re able to move on to a new phase in his career. So, no matter how many times I tell you that Dylan & the Dead is a worthless piece of shit (and it is), you’re still going to reach a point where you ignore me and examine that album anyway.
I was the same way with Dylan’s Christian phase, an era I remember somewhat if only for the underhanded rumblings of the opinionated dismissing this period entirely. And on the surface, the idea of Bob mixing it up with secular themes is indeed a ludicrous notion, just like using beer as a substitute for the milk in your Cap’n Crunch.
It doesn’t work. It doesn’t taste good. Stick with the 2%.
Bad analogy; Dylan’s Christian phase is more along the lines of soy milk: it’s not for everyone but for others, and I’m talking about those who frequent the church of Bob, it’s not as awful as those naysayers would have you believe.
First of all, there’s the production. A laid-back sheen courtesy of Mark Knopfler’s production values that sound tepid while managing not to sound dated.
It doesn’t sound that inspired either. Every note seems to drip from an arranger’s music sheet, immaculately performed by professional arrangements. This is a far cry from the manic bus wheel performances of the Rolling Thunder Revue from just a few years prior. Instead, we get the obligatory Knopfler guitar tone, an occasional backing horn arrangement, and female backing vocals that serve no purpose other than to take up some additional credit space on the liner notes.
Slow Train Coming, the first in Dylan’s three Christian albums, is a change in direction, no doubt about it, even if the change is more of a spiritual one instead of a musical shift. This is about as roots-oriented as you could get in the late 70’s, but compared to his late-career material or the folk delivery of his earliest efforts, Slow Train Coming could pass for a fairly credible MOR effort.
“Fairly credible MOR effort” is a polite description for, say, a Neil Diamond album, but for Bob Dylan, it tends to deflate the importance of his legacy and, yes sir, there was some serious deflation going on with his around this time.
And, somewhat unfairly, it started with this album.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Luna - Tell Me Do You Miss Me

The 1st Anniversary, but we have been together longer and only went through with the legal proceedings because she wanted to.
Three weeks later, we had our daughter.
I started our weekend by forcing her to watch Tell Me Do You Miss Me, the documentary about Luna’s final tour, or the “farewell” tour that they didn’t tell anyone until about half way through it.
She lasted an hour, which is a record of some sort.
I miss Luna, that always dependable and always reliable link to hipster N.Y.C. via the Velvet Underground’s third album through Galaxie 500 as channeled through Tom Verlaine’s clean guitar tone. Sure, I get the notion that Dean and Britta have carried the torch somewhat, but I miss Sean Eden’s guitar heroics and the documentary catches the creative tension between Dean Wareham and Sean Eden quite wonderfully.
Wareham’s kind of an asshole, and his autobiography that I’m reading (Black Postcards) rather reflects that too. I don’t mean “asshole” as in barking orders at everyone, I mean asshole in the sense of a very quiet, sometimes selfish, mindfuck-ready asshole. Obviously, someone I can relate to, with the exception of the “very quiet” part.
I have the very first Galaxie 500 single somewhere in my parent’s attic, “Tugboat,” the one on Aurora Records before they signed to Rough Trade. I didn’t think too much of it first, and it wasn’t until the second album, On Fire, that I really understood what was going on.
When the album came out, I brought it home and about four or five of us huddled in the living room of our big college house, loaded a humungous bowl of pot and smoked it while playing the album for the very first time.
“Who is this?” somebody asked.
“It’s the new Galaxie 500 record”
“It’s really good.”
It is really good, and the follow up This Is Our Music is even better. And just at the point where they released a kick ass single of “Blue Thunder” with Joy Division’s “Ceremony” as the b-side, the fuckers broke up. I just was done reading where Wareham addresses this, and as much as it pains me to say this, I kind of understand why he did it.
I still don’t understand why he broke up Luna, even after watching the documentary. Sure, there’s some tension between he and Eden, but no more than any other band and, apparently, not enough to destroy the creativity that the two shared together. The underlying reason seems to center around the band’s lack of success and inability to go beyond the “we have to sell t-shirts and other merch just to make a profit on tour” reality that is most bands contend with starting out. Luna, however, wasn’t a band that was just “starting out,” and after a decade of sharing the same Econoline, enduring the same jokes, and dealing with the same bullshit, it must have been enough to Wareham.
My reasons for wanting them to stick around were just as selfish as Wareham’s reason for disbanding them.
I met him once, got his autograph (and the rest of Luna’s) when they played an off-night gig at Gabe’s Oasis in the mid-90’s. By “off-night”, I mean mid-week, because we don’t get those kinds of cool gigs on the weekends. I dragged Brad Company with me, but he spent more time hitting on this chick in the crowd than listening. Too bad, because they fucking ruled. When they came back for an encore, I yelled out for “Indian Summer,” their version of the Beat Happening song. The guy standing next to me yelled out for “Ride Into The Sun,” their version of the Velvet Underground song. When Sean heard the other dude screaming for “Ride,” he shook his head and said “Nope!”
They played “Indian Summer.” I was stoked.
I brought my sleeve to the Slide e.p. up to the stage afterwards and thanked Dean for coming to Iowa.
“Yeah….I don’t think we ever played here with Galaxie 500…Thanks for coming out tonight.”
I noticed a dialect, assumed it was Northeastern, but the documentary hints at a New Zealand accent, which I never knew about until reading his book that he moved to the states from there as a child.
Check out the documentary (the book is good too), I recommend it and I recommended that my wife get a schoolgirl outfit like Britta’s in the movie.
Maybe that’s the 2nd anniversary.
Sidenote: as part of the N.Y.C. chicdom that Luna emanates, we spent the night at the Hotel Vetro in I.C., and discovered a bunch of young fucks carrying cases of Coors Light to their room. Apparently, the high-end feel of the Vetro doesn’t prevent them from checking out rooms for high school prom goers and, indeed, we noticed a few drunken squeals throughout the night during our stay. The fucks also started filling up Formosa while we were there for dinner, which, by the way, may be my new favorite place for sushi here in EIA.
Check the clip of the doc.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Eric Clapton - From The Cradle

There are artists of enormous talents that can do incredibly silly things and then there are those that can do inexcusably devastating things, the kind that turn you from a fan into an enemy.
I was an enemy of Eric Clapton for the majority of the 80’s, starting with that ridiculous song about him getting off on ’57 Chevys and screaming guitars. It got worse when he thought that working with Phil Collins was a good idea.
But starting with the live 24 Nights and progressing slightly Unplugged, Clapton began to fall into my good graces again. It wasn’t until the roots-oriented From The Cradle, a record that I had been screaming for throughout his shitty 80’s period, that I began to accept Clapton again and could freely appreciate his talents.
Who knows why Clapton suddenly decided to revisit these blues classics; perhaps personal tragedies found him seeking solace in the blues.
Whatever the reason, he sounds rejuvenated in his guitar playing to the point where he hasn’t played with that amount of ferocity in decades.
Clapton, who’s lived a life of relative luxury throughout his career, doesn’t posses the road-weary vocal chops to carry the album completely; it would have been nice to hear a few guest vocalists or other material that could have better served his distinctive vocal range. At the same time, the choices that he did end up making when selecting the tracks on From The Cradle were of a caliber that got him to kick up his playing.
And that’s something that, for reasons that still frustrate and bewilder me, was completely forgotten throughout his 80’s material.
Even more frustrating, Clapton must have viewed From The Cradle as a commercial failure as he was back to his old M.O.R. tricks for the achingly tepid follow up, Pilgrim.
For his sake, From The Cradle was good enough for me not consider another late 90’s misstep as a reason to make him an enemy once again.