Friday, June 27, 2008

80/35 Music Festival

For additional examples of my total out-of-touchness with the Iowa music scene, which in itself contradicts the relevance of this here music blog, I was completely oblivious to the upcoming 80/35 Festival until…gasp…my wife tells me that she put her name in a drawing for tickets.
Now I am familiar with another festival in Des Moines called Lazerfest…Actually, that’s a lie: I don’t even know if they still have Lazerfest because, truth be told, it was a little too agro ‘n testosterone for my tastes. The kids apparently liked it, from what I understand.
So when she informed me of the 80/35 music festival, I assumed it would be nothing more than yet another metallic sausage fest with a disturbing blend of burnouts and buff athletic dudes who’s only telltale metal sign is the obligatory barbed wire tattoo.
I was half paying attention until she said something about the Flaming Lips playing there and a bunch of other bands that she’d never heard of. That in itself is a sign that, maybe, there would be a chance that other cool bands are in the line-up.
My wife ain’t exactly the cutting edge of music, you understand, but then again I ain’t apparently the cutting edge of music reporting, even when it’s a few fucking hours away.
$50 gets you the entire weekend while $30 gets you in the place for a day. Not a bad price. I’m not about to bash anyone that’s bringing in some decent bands, but festival atmospheres ain’t my bag. I’d go if someone paid the bill (or the wife gets a free pair), but Totale’s summer music circuit is already laid out, gas ain’t cheap, and it’ll probably be hotter than shit.
The line-up looks good, albeit a little heavy on festival-heavy bands (I swear I seem to always see the Lips and the Drive-By Truckers at this things) with Saturday looking like the day to check out.
So kudos, but is it just me living under a rock or is this thing being totally under promoted? I love how their website gets a boner over the May 22nd article in Pitchfork (“It’s not everyday a Des Moines festival gets mentioned on a web site like Pitchfork!”) and seems to rely heavy on the capital city contingency to support the event. Hey fellas, ever consider that our state’s second and third largest cities are just a few hours to the East of you? Might be some people interested in tickets over this way.
To be honest, I don’t know how you effectively market in this day and age and perhaps I’m so far out of the intended demographic that the marketing message isn’t intended for me anyway, which would explain why I’m just now catching wind of this thing.
Why the promoters wouldn’t want such a big shot like me and a cutting edge music site like Glam-Racket on board to assist with getting the word out is curious too. With three active readers, I’m sure one of them would briefly consider attending it.
Personally, I think that Cedar Rapids should do something akin to that hair-metal festival in Pryor, Oklahoma. That would totally sell out and I would totally check out a few nights, for sure.
However, for a first year festival, 80/35 is a nice start.
I’m still not sure of the name, though.

Friday, July 4

Main Stage
5:00 p.m. - Des Moines Boyz
5:45 p.m. - Ingrid Michaelson
7:00 p.m. - Andrew Bird
9:00 p.m. - The Flaming Lips
DJ Stage
5:30 p.m. - Al Brown
6:30 p.m. - Al Brown
8:15 p.m. - Flatform
East Stage
5:00 p.m. - Headlights
6:00 p.m. - Euforquestra
7:15 p.m. - Diplomats of Solid Sound
8:15 p.m. - Mr. Baber's Neighbors
West Stage
5:00 p.m. - The Dig Angees
5:45 p.m. - Colourmusic
6:45 p.m. - Rock Plaza Central
8:00 p.m. - Cracker

Saturday, July 5

Main Stage
12:00 p.m. - Public Property
1:15 p.m. - Dirty Little Rabbits
2:30 p.m. - Drive-By Truckers
4:00 p.m. - Jakob Dylan
5:30 p.m. - Black Francis
7:00 p.m. - Yonder Mountain String Band
9:00 p.m. - The Roots
DJ Stage
12:45 p.m. - DJ Flash
2:00 p.m. - Jade Reed
3:30 p.m. - TouchNice
5:00 p.m. - Tim Grimes
6:30 p.m. - Brad Goldman
8:15 p.m. - DJ Diverse
East Stage
12:00 p.m. - TBA
1:00 p.m. - David Zollo and The Body Electric
2:00 p.m. - North of Grand
3:00 p.m. - Neva Dinova
4:00 p.m. - The Autumn Project
5:00 p.m. - Brother Trucker
6:00 p.m. - Family Groove Company
7:15 p.m. - The Poison Control Center
8:15 p.m. - Pieta Brown
West Stage
12:00 p.m. - The Vandon Arms
12:45 p.m. - GaiDen Gadema
1:30 p.m. - Deanna Devore
2:30 p.m. - KaiserCartel
3:30 p.m. - MooseKnuckle
4:45 p.m. - Ezra Furman & The Harpoons
5:45 p.m. - Maxilla Blue
6:45 p.m. - Radio Moscow
8:00 p.m. - The Envy Corps

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Glam-Racket Pregnancy Pact

Death has me thinking again. The sentimental shit, you know, what does it all mean and all that nonsense. If you have kids, you understand this but if you don’t, as clichéd as it may seem, kids tend to put shit in perspective. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard fucking work: you get relatively little time to yourself or the one you want to fuck. The shit you want to do gets a back seat to whatever the kid(s) want. Like now, for example: It’s after eleven and I will have to get up in six hours or so to get ready for work. This is the only time today that I’ve had to myself, so I’m checking emails, downloading some shit, and writing this on the blog. I need to sleep now, but there are things that I want to do, to keep my identity somewhat. That’s why I’m up past my bedtime.
But part of the identity is being a parent, I suppose, and it’s also about being a student too when you get down to it. You learn dumb shit, like how the most retarded of comments or reactions can suddenly make your fucking day.
The other day, I was at Wal-Mart…I hate going there, but it was next to Lowes and thanks to the cost of gas (more on this later), I combine errands together and try to limit the amount of fuel I’m burning. So it was a trip to Wal-Mart, Lowes, and Aldi’s all on the same jaunt because, essentially, they’re in the same parking lot together.
Digression: I love Aldi’s. I used to go there when I was poor and working in radio. It was within walking distance of my apartment and it was all my girlfriend and I could afford at the time. That was the first time I had ever shopped there and it was a bizarre experience. For those of you not familiar with this chain, you pay a deposit to use a cart (it’s actually fucking ingenious), you have to bring your own bags (again, very eco-friendly when it wasn’t even originally intended to be so) and you shop amongst pallet-jacks worth of off-brand items with weird names like “Sweet Valley” or “Spice King.” It’s run by a skeleton crew and all of this leads to some pretty good deals. Occasionally, they’ll have some name brand specials and every week they’ll have a sale item that is completely out of place. For example: my in-laws routinely by laptop computers at Aldi’s when they’re available, usually around Christmas. You can laugh all you want, but I do believe my brother in-law is still rocking a $400 laptop he purchased a few years ago and swears by it. I take his word on such things because he’s one of those IT dudes, the kind that you call up and go “Why is my computer doing this shit?”
Anyway, I started shopping there again because of gas prices and I couldn’t enjoy the bizarreness of it more. I got tiki torches there for $1.99 each, hoss. They rule!
I learned that the store is of German origin and, get this, the stores there look and follow the same rules as our do in the U.S.! Admittedly, they may not call their shit “Sweet Valley,” but you get the idea.
But there are things that you just can’t get at Aldi’s, which is why I was forced to go to Wal-Mart. While I was there, I was taken in by the glorious image of fishing t-shirts priced at five fucking dollars each. Now, I don’t fish, but I do like kitschy things and I’ve been kicking myself for two years now for passing up a t-shirt I saw at Hy-Vee that read “I Love Shroomin’!” This was around morel mushroom season here, you understand, but from my drug background, it made the shirt take on a completely different meaning. I passed on those shirts; they were only priced at ten bucks each and I talked myself out of that minor investment. I wish I had listened to my impulses.
So I would be goddamned if I was going to pass up a big picture of a jumping fish with the declaration “Walleye Fishing Is My Life,” particularly when said shirt was priced at a mere five fucking dollars. I could wipe my ass with it at that price and it would still be a bargain.
So I’m feeling proud about my purchase while my wife immediately notices how retarded said purchase is and offers a very reasonable “You’re not going to wear that thing in public are you?”
“You’re goddamn right I am…Walleye fishing is my life!!!”
Ethan notices the shirt and immediate offers his opinion:
“That is AWESOME!”
Needless to say, we had to go back to Wal-Mart and get him a fish shirt too. His Mom picked out his, it says “I’m a keeper” on it, but he doesn’t mind because it has a badassed jumping fish on it too.
My point is this: it is moments like this that make being a parent so fucking great that it’s hard to describe. I know that I haven’t really proven anything here or developed a logical reason as to why having kids is awesome, but trust me: go out and have as much unprotective sex as you can and get pregnant. Form a pact if you want to, it’s awesome, and there’s plenty of cheap shirts available at Wal-Mart with fish on them, so you’ll always be clothed.
In reality, I don’t think I would have had this much fun if I had kids earlier. I’d be one of those that would scoff at the fish t-shirts, make fun of those that shopped at Aldi’s or bitched when a baby started crying at Ruby Tuesdays, thereby “ruining” my dinner atmosphere. Fuck that shit. With every dirty diaper, restaurant meltdown, or late night blog updating, there’s nothing like kids and the only dread is watching them grow up too fast.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Deleting George Carlin

I’m going to wait the obligatory six weeks before I officially acknowledge George Carlin's death. Watch the video and you’ll understand why. I think there’s a phase in any fan of stand-up comedy in which you try to dismiss Carlin’s relevance or brilliance. But then you come to understand it, finally appreciating his style and genius and it grows as you get older.
He was around for years, so it was easy to dismiss him. Carlin was always there, turning out another HBO special.
Then there was the brief moment of insight a few years ago when Carlin admitted to having a problem. From that moment, George’s life seemed a little more precious.
Then we started to contemplate the idea that George was fallable…was fragile just like the rest of us.
The difference was that he wasn’t afraid to talk about his weaknesses…most comedians aren’t…but with George he seemed to transcend such conditions like addiction. While his peers struggled and noted their own demons, Carlin seemed able to transcend them. To him, painkillers would be considered nothing more than another one of those American excesses, fueled by the greed of the pharmaceutical companies. So when he fessed up to being controlled by them, well shit, I guess everyone’s got a weakness.
You always knew he would come out of it, armed with new material and a new dynamic to the human condition. I think that his material in the past three years happen to be some of his finest. It’s an excellent resource in growing old and there are some themes that I plan on using as I age.
Including the shitting my pants part.
I’m going to wait the obligatory six weeks before I write George Carlin off. Watch the video and you’ll understand why. I think there’s a phase in any fan of stand-up comedy in which you try to dismiss Carlin’s relevance or brilliance. But then you come to understand it, finally appreciating his style and genius and it grows as you get older.
He was around for years, so it was easy to dismiss him. Carlin was always there, turning out another HBO special.
Then there was the brief moment of insight a few years ago when Carlin admitted to having a problem. From that moment, George’s life seemed a little more precious.
Then we started to contemplate the idea that George was fallable…was fragile just like the rest of us.
The difference was that he wasn’t afraid to talk about his weaknesses…most comedians aren’t…but with George he seemed to transcend such conditions like addiction. While his peers struggled and noted their own demons, Carlin seemed able to transcend them. To him, painkillers would be considered nothing more than another one of those American excesses, fueled by the greed of the pharmaceutical companies. So when he fessed up to being controlled by them, well shit, I guess everyone’s got a weakness.
You always knew he would come out of it, armed with new material and a new dynamic to the human condition. I think that his material in the past three years happen to be some of his finest. It’s an excellent resource in growing old and there are some themes that I plan on using as I age.
Including the shitting my pants part.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Joy Division - Closer

If I’m counting correctly, we’re up to the fourth edition of Joy Division’s two proper releases, Unknown Pleasures and Closer, with the latest being pegged as a “Collector’s Edition.” I did give pause about buying into these latest editions, figuring that they were nothing more than a blatant attempt at milking Anton Corbijn’s film Control.
And believe me, as a Joy Division fan-boy, I know all too well about feeling used. A few years ago, I forked over a hefty sum for a limited edition import box set (Refractured) only to discover that my hard-earned money went to some cheap collectibles, two cds of poorly mastered live recordings, and a few supposedly “rarer” live tracks tacked on the end of one of those aforementioned recordings.
I bring this up because both of Joy Division’s reissued studio albums contain another pair of live recordings, meant to entice saps like me who have already purchased said studio albums in three prior editions. So that leaves the live recordings as the sole reason to consider this new package, which in itself presents some debate.
I can vouch that the majority of Joy Division’s live records are nothing more than audience recordings, often plagued by faulty equipment in addition to the low fidelity. Even the legitimate releases sound as shoddy as the boots, no mater what the packaging or catalog number, so an obligatory pause is always in order when considering “new” or “unreleased” or “live” Joy Division output.
Closer, in any form or any editions, is one of the greatest rock albums of all times. The album’s original nine tracks not only managed to surpass Unknown Pleasure’s lofty wake, it provided an unachievable benchmark for anyone considering using the word “dark” in their band bio. “Unachievable” because Joy Division’s leader, Ian Curtis, lived every shade of black that he put on paper, and Closer is the sound of a band (and, to be entirely fair, the sound was enormously treated by producer Martin Hannett) providing a musical backdrop for a man who was literally contemplating ending his own life. It is one thing to suggest such a notion, but Ian Curtis meant it. A month-and-a-half after completing Closer, Ian Curtis proved the extent of his written discord by hanging himself.
It’s impossible not to talk about the tragedy when discussing Closer and, when you get down to it, its entire foundation is built upon Curtis’ unstable state of mind. This doesn’t in anyway discount the dark, atmospheric treatments and overall melancholia that runs throughout the album. Instead, the tragedy puts an additional layer of heaviness on each minor chord, every nervous synthesizer, and every resigned phrase that creeps from the speaker. Joy Division made a masterpiece with Closer but it took Curtis’ suicide to have everyone realize it.
The album is filled with clues. None of them sounds like a cry for help, but instead, they provide an exasperated eulogy of words that never manage to conceal the author’s magnitude of discontent.
Then there’s Curtis’ delivery itself, a weary baritone that sounds decades older than it actually was. Producer Martin Hannett wisely puts his treatments on almost every instrument except Curtis’ voice, understanding that it holds a deeper power on its own. He effectively captures the nuances of Ian’s performance rather than trying to add gradation to the mix.
Speaking of: the “Collector’s Edition” mix is a marked improvement over previous releases. I did notice a wider spectrum and, as a result, a few hidden performances that I hadn’t heard before. It seems to have been meticulously attended to, rather than just blindly “enhanced” with louder compression and slapshot mastering techniques.
The packaging provides a nice reproduction of the old Factory Records label and some thorough accounts of the album’s recording process and obligatory remembrances from all of the surviving members, who now seem to acknowledge Closer’s greatness while admitting that they weren’t too keen on how the record sounded both during and after the sessions had ended. The biggest complaint was how different the band came across, particularly when compared to their live performances.
This is exactly why someone like me starts salivating at every fucking J.D. live recording that I come across. Joy Division was a less refined unit on stage and the live documents, regardless of how shitty the recordings are, clearly demonstrate this. There is less atmospherics and much more blunt trauma happening, occasionally transforming a track into a completely different beast.
Closer: The Collector’s Edition includes a show recorded in February of 1980, a few months before the album was released. The concert was recorded at the London University Union (Killing Joke was the supporting act) and the performance was previously made available as a bootleg entitled They Keep Calling Me. Again, there is no real improvement to the fidelity of that unauthorized released, but the band is very tight and aggressive. There are only a few examples of equipment problems and the crowd is very vocal. Since this is an audience recording, a “vocal” crowd means you’ll be noticing a few conversations and endure the never-ending barrage of song requests that occur between each song. With that being said, the performance is a worthy release that’s sure to please any hardcore fan of Joy Division while not being much of a requirement for anyone else.
But Closer, the proper album, is required listening by anyone who prides themselves on learning more about rock music’s array of genres and essential starting points of it even wider array of sub-genres. Joy Division is one of those bands who’re probably responsible for a good three or four of those sub-genres today while directly impacting about a half dozen more.
And from that enormous black cloud of influence lies Closer, the band’s final offering. The “Collector’s Edition” release is exactly that: an edition created to entice those Joy Division collectors who already own it, but won’t be able to pass up the additional material that they probably know they don’t really need.
The single disc edition is enough for those who’ve yet to experience the most honestly bleak album ever put to tape by an ephemeral band who’s leader meant every word he sang.
This is the way. Step inside.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Happy Birthday Todd Rundgren

Todd Rundgren turns sixty today, so happy birthday Todd. Awesome first name, by the way. I’ve written about Todd before, so this is kind of a follow-up in regards to that first post. I downloaded the majority of Utopia’s Oblivion before being banned by the uploader, an occurrence which is frustrating, but I think I figured out why it happens to me on a regular basis. At first, I took it personally. But now I realize, thanks to a message from a user who also chose to ban me, that I have been frolicking along, downloading as I please, while letting no-one take a look at my own goods. You see, I had to re-add SLSK several months back and I inadvertently neglected to change my configurations. So when I downloaded whatever I wanted from your files and you attempted to look at mine, you would be met with a big fat no. Sorry about that.
I guess that is what happened with the person I was downloading Oblivion from. The bitch of it is, this seems to be the only person on Earth that actually has Oblivion, so every time I go and look for the remaining tracks I need, and the same dude comes up. I’ve spun the few tracks that I did manage to glean and they were even more uneventful than I remember them. First of all, what the fuck is with the drum sound on that album? It seems that in the process of trying to sound “modern” back in 1983, they actually managed to secure the entire album in ice and, to that point, the album even sounds retarded by 1983 standards.
I’m showing my gayness here, but I still think the song “I Will Wait” is a wonderful slice of love-song pap and I continue to get a kick out of “Winston Smith Takes It On The Jaw.” It seems that everyone circa ’84 was into the whole George Orwell trip.
Both of those songs, by the way, don’t appear to be Todd Rundgren composed tunes.
Yes, it seems that Rundgren has spent the past quarter-century M.I.A., releasing product that isolates him further from the mainstream and fringe fans (like myself) that enjoy his stubbornness but don’t appreciate his apparent laziness at creating an album that’s listenable from start to finish.
I think it came to a head when I received a Todd Rundgren album at the radio station that I was working for that declared it to be a live recording. Upon further examination, I learned that the fans who were allowed into the venue were met with a note that informed them that they needed to shut the fuck up during the performance. That’s right: fans were not allowed to clap, hoot or holler before, during or after each song. What’s the point? I think Rundgren gave some lame ass excuse, but if you’re not interested in creating a true live document, why not forgo the inclusion of an audience? Just rent the fucking venue and record your shit.
More recently, there was the announcement that Rundgren had signed on as a member of The New Cars, a project started by Cars’ guitarist Elliot Easton and keyboardist Greg Hawkes after Ric Ocasek advised them that he would not be interested in a Cars’ reunion. To his credit, Ocasek realized that bassist/vocalist Ben Orr was fucking dead and, therefore, a true Cars reunion would never be possible.
To side-step such a dilemma, Easton and Hawkes then hired Todd Rundgren to fill in for the missing Ocasek, while occasionally allowing him to sing a few of his own songs too. Now, not only is this a pretty shitty thing to do, it doesn’t bode well for Todd that his main motivation for this decision was, as he admitted to, money.
If money is such an important factor, Todd, then why did you release an album created entirely from your voice (A Capella)?
Rundgren is such an unbelievably frustrating artist that you wonder if there’s something in his wiring that has him intentionally sabotaging any chance of consistency in career path. I understand the need to be challenged, but serious, is there any challenge to covering “Just What I Needed?” Where is the challenge is trodding out the hits for another Ringo Star All Star Band tour? What’s the fucking reason why you made those drums sound so retarded on Oblivion?
Happy birthday, Todd. You frustrating and contradictive sell-out.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

One Week Later

Ok. So now I’m officially tired of talking about the flood. It has nothing to do with any of you or with my own empathy towards those that felt the burden of the impact. I am merely tired of my company’s continual response towards the event (status reports, volunteer drives, fundraising drives, changes around the campus meant to assist with recovery, etc.) and the continual inquiries from people who ask if everything is ok. Some of it is genuine and some is just the obligatory lead-in to the topic at hand: business.
Some have even used it at an excuse…my money didn’t get there on time because of the flood…and to that I have no tolerance for. You’re forced to politely explain that the location where they’ve sent it to had no bearing on the fact that they waited too long to send their money and, yes, there is nothing in our company that is underwater….including their fucking payment.
I understand the continual inquiries…hell I do it too…but to hear it over and over again is mind numbing. And to hear my canned response is perhaps the main reason for my, pun intended, saturation.
There is one thing about it though, and it may sound somewhat clichéd, it’s the way that people react in these times of trial. Cedar Rapids is the second largest city in the state of Iowa and when people move here they tend to forget their traditional small-town upbringing. Oh you didn’t think the 200,000 people in this area were actually born here, did you? Maybe some, but the majority are from other parts of the state, tired of not having anything to do yet not willing to move out of state, so they end up here. We’ve got Best Buys, Ruby Tuesdays, and every other little thing that declares “big city.”
So how ironic was it that the biggest impact in this city…the downtown section…the area with the most uniqueness…the area with the most character…ends up being the place that gets soaked. It’s like God is telling us to clear-cut this city’s history and put up yet another landmark that happens to share its features with every other Goddamn city in the country.

“Yes that sounds good
Tear that part of downtown down
That sounds real nice!”
-The Magnolias

Now I don’t think that the downtown area is going to undergo some kind of complete overhaul as a result of all this. For those of you who are not familiar with my city, everyone’s upped and moved to the suburbs (including yours truly) leaving only the specialty stores, the college, and the poor behind.
Then again, this is the perfect time for a clean slate: nearly half of this city’s poor housing is in the area most affected by the flood. Many of their residences, as shitty as they may have been, are inhospitable thanks to the water and the trained eye of the aftermath inspectors. So if the city is looking for a way to finally shore up that downtown the way they would like to, now is their chance. We will get to see how heartless they can be during the rebuilding process, as most of those former inhabitants are going to be displaced and forced to move to another part of town while they bulldoze the riverfront into a place where the beautiful people mingle.
There are tons of barrack resembling apartment buildings throughout town that are just perfect for these blue collar folk. To me, these drab and questionably built units seem just as dismal as the homes they were flooded out of. While they may provide the enticing amenities like dishwashers, air conditioning, and the smell of new drywall, they lack the camaraderie that their current neighborhoods provide them. Driving by these neighborhoods every day, you see their front doors wide open, as they dry out their homes, pausing from the task of taking inventory of their salvageable possessions to converse with their next door neighbor who’s doing the exact same thing.
The stronger neighborhoods will stay together.
The ones who feel like our government has let them down will not.
Of course, this is all taking into consideration that the major investors would even want to drop money into an area that has now demonstrated to be very vulnerable. Sure, we have never seen an event like this before, but would you be willing to risk a few million on the notion that it will not happen again for another 500 years?
As shitty as the downtown area is/was, and as much as I would love for a “real rain to come and wash the trash off the sidewalks,” my heart aches for those working at a lame job for next to nothing, trying to make ends meet in a home that is now destroyed. It’s events like this that can push people from “just getting by” to “nothing left to lose.” It’s events like this in which it’s time for the government to step in to provide some assistance, leadership and hope; so that those that are the most vulnerable in this situation don’t feel that their piece of the dream didn’t float downstream.
It’s a week later, and they are just now being allowed to return to their homes to assess the damage. That is, if the sign out front allows them to go in. If your home has a green sign posted, that means an inspector has assessed the damage and determined that it is safe to return to. Not necessarily safe to live in…that comes much later…but safe enough to maneuver inside and determine what is salvageable and what must be thrown out.
If the home has a red sign, the structural damage is significant enough to be dangerous. The people that reside in these homes are not allowed to enter until the home is repaired.
Which, of course, many cannot afford to do.
Which is why many of them were living in these areas to begin with: because it was the only place they could afford.
So we’re at a crossroads now, one that is much bigger than the revitalization of the downtown. Cedar Rapids is at the verge of having one of the largest contingency of displaced residents in our state’s history and they should have top priority when financial relief starts to arrive. Because even though the floods may have swept through one of our city’s last examples of character, our leaders need to make sure it hasn’t swept away their character either.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Kiss - Dynasty

It’s my intention to review every single Kiss album ever because I am retarded.
I’ve already resigned myself to the fact that I’ll pan pretty much all of them, so why bother. I bother because I need to better understand why a band that I’ve despised for so long can carry so much influence among rock ‘n roll fans. It seems that around every corner there’s an example of Kiss’ contemptuous attitude towards their fans and their genre. So there must be something, somewhere, that shows me how all of this can go overlooked.
There must be one Kiss album that transcends all of this.
One of the examples of Kiss’ contempt is “I Was Made For Loving You,” a song that blatantly traded their fan base, their bread and butter, for the possibility of greater mass appeal.
The album that featured Kiss’ foray into disco was Dynasty.
I can’t be sure, but I have a strong suspicion that Kiss probably felt that the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You” gave them permission to try a little bit of 4/4 action. The trouble is, “Miss You” sounds like a little slice of N.Y.C. underbelly, with the elements of the Stones audibly present. There’s no mistake that Charlie Watts is propelling the whole thing with the rest of the band clearly performing.
“I Was Made For Loving You” sounds like it’s the work of session musicians with Paul Stanley laying down the vocal track after a night out looking for anonymous gay sex at Studio 54.
It sounds so out of place with the rest of their catalog, and as I learned, the rest of Dynasty, that it’s amazing that they weren’t run out of town before they started work on Unmasked.
Nonetheless, I was prepared for “I Was Made For Loving You” because I had heard it before. I wasn’t prepared for the song that not only should have been a hit, but could have been one entirely on the band’s own merits. “Sure Know Something,” a surprisingly good offering from Paul, pointed to the idea that maybe the rest of Dynasty wouldn’t be so bad.
Additionally, Ace’s “2000 Man” was decent too, even though I vividly remember him butchering it when I saw them live.
But then I started rolling my eyes on Peter Criss’ “Dirty Living” until finally, the fifth song in (side two’s lead off cut), I wanted to punch somebody. And the composer? I sure know something: I fucking can’t stand Gene Simmons. I immediately knew he was singing “Charisma,” anyone can tell from his tone-deaf warbling that it’s him. What I wasn’t prepared for is how fucking stupid the song is. Seriously, this dude can’t play, can’t sing, can’t write, what the fuck is he doing in the band? Didn’t anybody consider that, anyone could have decked themselves out in some rinky-dink monster make-up and played his role, literally, a million times better? The only talent Gene seems to posses is firebreathing.
Paul’s “Magic Touch” is typical, unforgettable Paul Stanley filler. From what I gather, Paul Stanley bats about .200 (which is still better than Gene), which means that each Kiss album contains probably one or two decent tracks penned by the star child.
Someone forgot to tell the rest of the band that Ace Frehley is probably their best asset, so why not give him a few more opportunities? “Hard Times” is a good tune, and the only problem with it (and this is a characteristic throughout Dynasty) is that the production quality is a bit tame. This could have easily been a nice dirty-sounding ditty, but “Mad” Vincent Poncia tries to make things nice a syrupy for the masses.
Gene comes back for another shit-stain called “X Ray Eyes” and Ace delivers a turd called “Save Your Love,” a song in which the tone-deaf backing chorus offers “Save your love. Save it! Save it!” with the same enthusiasm as labelmates Village People.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

American Music Club - The Golden Age

Now consisting only of two original members, Mark Eitzel and guitarist Vudi, the second album into American Music Club’s reformation finds them revisiting the more introspective moments of their past and they admirably succeed on The Golden Age.
This is an important rediscovery, particularly considering that I had pretty much written off Eitzel thanks to some fairly unremarkable solo efforts and that ambivalence carried over into 2004’s proper A.M.C. reunion, Love Songs For Patriots.
I almost let The Golden Age go too and, to be honest, my first spin of it was marred with too many distractions for it to fully take hold. So be careful: it’s subtle enough to discount and the allure is within that understatement. Eitzel and Vudi fall in together like a pair of well-worn jeans, and the moment you notice agreeable their arrangement is the moment you begin to appreciate that they’re still making music together. It just may take a few spins to come to that conclusion.
This does point to idea that it is this duo, Eitzel and Vudi, who are entitled to the A.M.C. moniker. They may have come to the realization that neither one may be able to achieve their best without the aid of the other and that moment of resignation may be The Golden Age’s laid-back core.
It’s then up to Eitzel to step up on the notion that he’s one of America’s premier songwriters and that designation is only really apparent when he maintains that down-and-out, barfly gutter-poet. Thankfully, he sticks to that formula here rather than overreaching on topics beyond the range of his weary baritone. The Golden Age is littered with dismal character studies of broads, booze and bullshitters.
Someone once called American Music Club this country’s answer to Joy Division. Thankfully, Eitzel’s too busy down at the bar taking notes to stay at home and watch Werner Herzog films. Just make sure you’re not too engaged to overlook how good it is to have A.M.C. back and firing on their two remaining cylinders.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise

Friday, June 13, 2008

Trapped In The Courtroom

Until now, I have stayed the fuck away from the mess that is the R. Kelly trial. To be honest, I’m fairly unmoved by his music, as I am with most R&B artists that specialize in the fucky-fucky groove, and view the entire incident for what it is: a glorious sideshow of epic proportions. It’s as captivating as the O.J. trial, without the 24-hour coverage, unfortunately.
Part of the reason for this is the actual subject matter. Americans can get all involved in a brutal double homicide, but balk at the idea of a grown man pissing on an underage girl. Hey, I get it…But I guess I’m just as repulsed by murder, so whatever.
Not to suggest that I wouldn’t be all over the coverage if it were in front of me. The entire thing is fascinating: from the idea that a singer is above the law to suggest that he could get away with such abuse or to the rumors that Kelly’s penchant for younger girls went unchecked, unchallenged, and unnoticed for several years. Don’t people in entourages have brains?! If one of my friends confided in me that they were getting intimate with a 14-year-old girl, I would 1.) Be aggressively vocal in my dissent of those actions and, in lieu of no immediate change in their behavior, 2.) Take steps to distance myself from them while using a free hand to call the fucking police. It ain’t about loyalty; it’s about fucking around with someone who should have to contend with getting intimate with an adult.
R. Kelly is crazy. Make no mistake about it. And while Trapped In The Closet has provided me with enormous entertainment at the expense of this lunacy, there’s something about it that just reeks of “This guy is completely serious.” He views it as an “urban opera” and, I’ll confess, a lot of time, energy and talent went into making it. It’s as if Picasso had painted a violent car crash that is both intriguing and disturbing at the same time.
R. Kelly’s fans are crazy. Not to advocate “blame the victim” here, but from what I understand there were those that introduced the victim to Kelly even after they knew he had “issues” with underage girls. So how does one sleep at night knowing that their actions or lack of responsibility lead to Kelly not only acting on some fairly irreprehensible acts, but fucking videotaping them to boot.
In a strange twist, Chicago reviewer Jim DeRogatis was tapped at the trial to testify, essentially putting DeRo at risk for having to reveal his sources when he was investigating Kelly’s sexual exploits. The judge also hinted that he would be asking for DeRo’s notes that he made during the investigative piece. I will now publically declare that Jim’s reluctance to do this has brought him a ton of respect in my book; he refused to answer most of the judge’s questions and turn over the notes, which point to the individual responsible for dropping off the golden shower video to the Sun-Times office. The answer, as it turns out, was none other than Barry Hankerson, Kelly’s former manager and Aaliya’s uncle, who sought out the help of the Sun-Times to bring down Kelly.
Fuck Trapped In The Closet, this trial is your urban opera.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

And A River Runs Through It

I’m no stranger to flooding. I come from Southeast Iowa where floods are a regular event. The thing about it is, the flooding where I’m from typically hits the town of Alexandria, Missouri…A total shithole of a town that is overrun with retards that don’t have sense to move away from a floodplain.
Across the river in Iowa, we usually had to contend with the riverfront spilling over into Victory Park, that is until the flood of ’93 when the ramps to bridges were suddenly underwater and other thoroughfares were breached. It isolated many people and, yes, a few homes were impacted. We thought, and the experts told us, that it was a bad flood.
I was working in radio then, and I remember for at least a week or more the flood was all we talked about. Music was replaced by cancellations and pleas for volunteers. I lived in a third floor apartment at the time, so my shit stayed dry and I began to get sick of talking about it all. Again, most of the impact occurred across the river in Illinois in small towns that were accustomed to floods. The difference that year was that everything was higher and more widespread.
Fifteen years later, I’m in a much larger town with a much smaller river cutting through the middle of it. The Cedar River is not like the Mississippi where I grew up; it’s a small stream by comparison, about a third of the size in width. But the flood that’s happening here now has managed to produce enough water flow to create a Mississippi river flood. The problem is: the Cedar River is not the Mississippi River. And when you try to put the amount of water that would flood the Mississippi into our small little Cedar River, you get major problems.
On Wednesday night, I drove home from work on the interstate over the Cedar River and looked at the water flow. Our courthouse is built on an island in the middle of the river and there are about six bridges that span it, east to west, all of them teaming with traffic and spectators looking at the rising water. At that time, the water was about two feet below the top of the bridge span.
By the next morning, the water was flowing over the bridges.
It was also flowing throughout the downtown area.
The picture above was taken from one of the skywalks at about 9:00 am on Thursday morning. It’s twelve hours later now, and the river has yet to crest. The first floors of our city’s tallest buildings are underwater. Some of the most notable older architecture is also impacted; the beautiful Paramount Theatre is filled with river water. There are rapids, no pun intended, that are running through the streets of the downtown.
And Cedar Rapids is not built on a floodplain, at least not on a floodplain that they’ve seen before. This flood is already over ten feet higher than flood stage…and it’s getting higher.
I’m in the Northeast suburbs, well away from the river, and the only thing that is really affecting me (so far) is there are only two roads that can carry traffic to the Northeast side. Those who live near downtown not only have to contend with the water, but there is no power either.
The only thing I’m contending with is no internet (I’m currently stealing from someone’s unsecured network).
I’m totally worried about losing power because, if the power goes, then my sump pump goes. It’s going on non-stop, pushing back the saturated groundwater from entering into my basement. The basement, by the way, is where all of my man shit is: the guitars, the drum set, the stereo, the TV, the music. If the power fails, the water will creep into the basement and ruin my shit. My neighbor bought a generator tonight for added security and I immediately thought that I should do the same thing.
But I really haven’t budgeted for a fucking generator right now, if you know what I mean.
We’re fine, some of our friends and coworkers are not, and the rain keeps coming. Seriously, I have never seen a stranger weather pattern than what we’ve had for the past twelve months. I feel like punching anyone who disputes global warming, or the obvious fact that there is some strange shit going on with our climate and I’m positive that we’ve had some impact in that.
“Mother Earth is pregnant for the third time…For y’all have knocked her up”

Monday, June 9, 2008

Fun In The Cubicle

Since the last Fun In The Cubicle post, I’ve received some feedback, which has encouraged me to post some additional examples of what I would like to consider being “karma.” You can’t go through life without expecting that, occasionally, some of your bad behavior will come back to haunt you.
So think of these as random examples of people who may unwittingly think that they can treat people with contempt, disrespect, and rudeness with total immunity. While they may believe that because they aren’t speaking face to face with an individual that they can somehow get away with it, the reality is otherwise.
The individual below became unnecessarily upset with my company because we sent him something in the mail. To explain: he was a customer of ours and then decided not to be. He didn’t advise us that he wished to end the relationship, so we continued to send correspondence advising that, if he wished to continue with our company, he needed to send in the payment. He made a phone call, one in which he was upset that we didn’t automatically assume that he wished to cancel, where he plainly stated “Don’t send me any more notices because I don’t want your business anymore.” Fair enough. The problem was that this phone call happened at the same time we had sent out our third and final notice to him.
I was the lucky one to be on the receiving end of that particular phone call.
It amazes me how irrational people can be over the smallest of things. One thing that I have totally learned at my job is that there are thousands of people, perhaps living right next to you, that our 100% bat shit crazy. How they manage to survive on this planet is something I’ll leave to someone smarter to contemplate.
There are also those individuals that are legally sane, but lacking in manners and logic that I would think would be needed to truly qualify as being a card-carrying member of the human race.
This gentleman was one of those individuals. As much as I tried to explain why he was receiving correspondence from us and as much as I tried to assure him that the correspondences would now stop, the more he went on and one about it. Eventually, he started spewing out such nonsense at how he was going to arrest us for “mail fraud” should we send him one more piece of correspondence. Understand that this was an individual who was a customer of ours for over ten years, so I’m assuming that because the length of our original relationship, he assumed that we could read his mind and determine that he no longer wanted to continue that relationship for an eleventh year.
Here’s a letter that he’s hopefully received recently:

Carl Howard Browning
666 Tuscany Road
Periwinkle, WI 48655

Ralph Burns
666 S. Fuckwad
Tulsa, OK 74137


I don’t know about you, but the idea of people stealing mail from my mailbox sickens me and I’m going to do something about it. I am asking for your assistance in rounding up some of the cocksuckers that continually violate my privacy by stealing my personal information, private correspondence, and monthly subscription to Club International magazine.

I’ve developed a device that automatically plays not one, but two versions of the song “Sukiyaki” whenever the mailbox is opened. This small device is not only compact, but relatively inexpensive and it requires no additional maintenance.

The idea is this: when a cocksucker opens up my mailbox to steal my mail, they will be met with the wonderful sounds of the song “Sukiyaki.” I believe that this will sedate the cocksuckers in much the same way it sedates me. While the cocksuckers start to feel introspective, they will then understand how stealing people’s mail is not only a violation of someone’s privacy, it is also a federal offense.

The words of “Sukiyaki,” in case you’ve forgotten, are as follows:

It's all because of you
I'm feeling sad and blue
You went away
Now my life is just a rainy day
And I love you so
How much you'll never know
You've gone away and left me lonely
Untouchable memories seem to keep haunting me
Another love so true
That once turned all my gray skies blue
But you disappeared
Now my eyes are filled with tears
And I'm wishing you were here with me
Soaked with love all my thoughts of you
Now that you're gone
I just don't know what to do
If only you were here
You'd wash away my tears
The sun would shine, once again
You'll be mine all mine
But in reality
You and I will never be
‘Cause you took your love away from me
Motherfucking Sukiyaki keeps the cocksuckers at bay

The Japanese version of “Sukiyaki” is as follows:

ue o muite arukō namida ga kobore nai yō ni
omoidasu haru no hi
hitoribocchi no yoru

I did not have a Japanese translation for the word “cocksucker,” but I believe the words, regardless of language, will have the same impact.

Please let me know if you feel this is a valid idea. More importantly, I need additional information from you as soon as possible so that I can develop a device that addresses cocksuckers that like to place explosive devices into mailboxes and/or hit them with a baseball bats from a passing vehicle.

Your help is greatly appreciated!


Carl Howard Browning

Sunday, June 8, 2008

OCD Chronicles: Pat Travers Band "Snortin' Whiskey"

It was a conversation that prompted me to seek out Pat Travers Band's Crash And Burn album, a record that packs everything decent into the first side while allowing the second side to completely implode with mediocrity.
But don’t let that discount how good side one is and, in particular, the one song that the two burnouts were referring to while eavesdropping on their conversation.
That title, “Snortin’ Whiskey,” was easy enough to remember when looking for the record a week or so later, but it was/is great enough for me to remember nearly thirty years later.
It occasionally pops up on classic rock stations. I’m assuming this because I don’t really listen to classic rock stations and, from what little I’ve heard of current rock stations, they play songs that I’ve heard before, but couldn’t name the band or title if you paid me to. For example, I know there’s a tune where the chorus goes “You’re such a fucking hypocrite,” which is funny as the station drops out the offending word. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that word/line is the only reason why people like it. I mean, musically it’s about as non-descript as you can get, swimming in a sea of anonymity that will fade away the moment that it’s fans cash in their rock ‘n roll tastes for a country artist that will speak to their moment in five or ten years.
“Snortin’ Whiskey” isn’t that type of song. It’s a lifestyle that stays with you even after you’ve left the booger sugar behind and replaced it with an atypical world of Bud Light twelve packs and the obligatory D.U.I. conviction that comes with it. When Travers declares, “I’ve got so much cocaine/Ain’t ever comin’ down!” you know because you’ve been there. You never forget about the nights of too much coke and too little to talk about, eyeballing the next line with the greed of the Reagan administration. You may remember the incredible sex drive that the snowstorm creates, which also can create an inability to climax or, just as bad, get it up, depending on the amount you Hoovered.
Do you want to know one of the reasons why I think the movie Sideways is so awesome? It’s because of the scene where they go back to the waitress’ house to get Jack’s wallet, after forgetting it when her old man came back unexpectedly and caught him porking her. As Miles goes in to retrieve Jack’s wallet, he navigates through the unkempt house while “Snortin’ Whiskey” plays in the background. The couple is in the bedroom fucking, both seemingly turned on by her unfaithful actions, making them the perfect stereotype for this song. Indeed, I could see either one of the two men in that concert line playing the role of that character from Sideways.
But make no mistake, “Snortin’ Whiskey” is by no means a Neanderthal song. Travers is an awesome guitarist and he teamed up with another great six-stringer (Pat Thrall, who later went solo and started a band using his own name on the marquee) and delivered a shit hot solo smack dab in the middle of the tune. The riff itself is pretty sweet too.
Travers’ band also featured Tommy Aldridge on drums, perhaps one of the greatest rock drummers ever. Aldridge, for those of you who dig useless trivia, actually replaced Nicko McBrain after he left, eventually becoming the long-standing drummer for Iron Fucking Maiden.
Anyway, “Snortin Whiskey” and it’s awesome riff have been going through my head like a heart-racing coke binge lately and I’m here to tell you that it’s just as good sober as it is under the influence.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Disfear - Live The Storm

There is a reason why Disfear seems to take for fucking ever to release an album. Their formula is particularly limiting and, to be honest, an album every other year would probably result in a certain degree of ambivalence among the populous.
The other reason is that these Swedes keep busy with other projects, carefully honing their chops until they regroup a half-decade later under the Disfear banner and unleash a monumentally rewarding effort of full-on metallic crust.
Live The Storm is thirty-five minutes worth of lager-ready gang chants, pick-scraping punctuations, and fist-throwing anthems that are sure to please anyone who’s proud to embrace their knuckle-dragging heredity.
Yes, this is dirt-under-the-fingernails stuff totally devoid of pretention and wonderfully captured in timeless production that’ll be just as greasy in twenty years as it is now. At the same time, listeners expecting something beyond d-beat drum patterns (think of the drum intro of Black Flag’s “Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie” at double-speed and you’ll get a good idea of what that term means) and crunchy guitar riffs that barely fret beyond the key of C-minor should stay close to their more featherweight playlists.
Disfear’s lethal weapon is vocalist Tomas Lindberg, a thirty-five year old screamer who’s shred his larynx in over a dozen different bands in the past two decades. Not much has changed in his delivery with each line-up that he has participated in, but then again, there’s little that he needs to change. The main reason he’s in such high demand is because Lindberg consistently manages to stand tall against every Marshall stack and bass drum kick that he’s up against and, as Live The Storm demonstrates, he succeeds admirably.
Underneath every out-of-breath track is a foundation of cone-destroying guitar work, wonderfully indebted to Fast Eddie Clark to the point where the album opener, “Get It Off,” sounds like Disfear’s answer to Motorhead’s “Ace Of Spades.” This is rock with a capital “R,” heavy on the riffs and light on the flash, with Lindberg finding enough motivation in his nihilistic lyrics to counter each heavy gauged haymaker that guitarists Bjorn Peterson and Uffe Cederlund throw at him.
There’s little that translates into new territory, but there’s enough blatant testosterone swirling around each of Live The Storm’s ten tracks to not give a shit about it. These are men, old enough to know better yet aged to the point where they vividly remember the power of their influences and stick close to that proven formula.
With any luck, a few young pups will follow Disfear’s stringent blueprint and create a tsunami of their own.
This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Knack - Get The Knack

If you’re young, it’s hard to explain just how much controversy Get The Knack stirred up when it was originally released. First of all, there was the leadoff single “My Sharona,” a song so awesome that it was played every 90 minutes on Top 40 radio while it was requested every 10 minutes. It was a song so huge that everything paled in comparison. It was a song so huge that every critic, novice or professional, looked for any detail to latch on to.
And Get The Knack provided them with plenty to work from, starting with Doug Fieger’s offensive, occasionally misogynistic lyrics that, when you take a deep breath, were the same topics that rock music’s foundation was based on. The difference? Fieger incorporated shit like “she’s sitting on your face” and “don’t fuckame fuckame today” while the old bluesmen used cutesy metaphors like “squeeze my lemon.”
On top of that, Fieger had a keen sense of humor, adding a barely audile “It hurts!” after the “sittin’ on your face” comment and including a song about Siamese twins that plead for someone to kill the other sibling.
The critics won. In a year, the backlash was in full swing and “Knuke the Knack” buttons were selling more than the band’s follow up …But The Little Girls Understand. Nobody gave a shit by the time Round Trip was released and the band is now fodder for those “one hit wonder” jokes even when the band actually charted four top 40 singles in their lifetime.
Quibbling aside, the real proof is in actually playing Get The Knack, an album great enough for practically anyone to recognize.
This is power pop with a capital “P” delivered in twelve tracks of impeccably performed and wonderfully captured glory, hinting at the reality that these guys worked long hours honing their craft and solidifying their arrangements. The album plays like a tight setlist, ebbing and flowing with stunning efficiency, each track sounding just as memorable as the last.
I won’t even address the other criticism, trivial potshots at the cover art and blatant Beatlesque poses, which hundreds of other bands are equally as guilty of. The Knack was nowhere near as great as the Beatles were, but they did manage to make an album as great as Meet The Beatles.
Whether it’s a case of believing their own hype or letting it destroy them, The Knack were never able to rebound from the backlash. But before they let them get their hands on ‘em, they did manage to release on of the greatest debuts in history, one that was unfairly pegged as a pre-packaged blueprint.
The reality was that Get The Knack was a legitimate document of a band blessed with twelve great songs that were religiously rehearsed and tremendously catchy. Whether or not they deserved their demise is one thing, but Get The Knack proves that they certainly deserved their initial success.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Showbiz Pizza Place

Over at Glorious Noise, an awesome new MGMT video that features a cameo from Showbiz Pizza Place’s Billy Bear. You can meander on over there to view it, but before you do, check out this wonderful Showbiz Pizza Place training video that I’ve been dying to link here for ages, and finally found a reason to do so. Fuck Chuck E Cheese, Showbiz was where it was at. I still have a few tokens that I'm saving for a new pair of penny loafers.

Motherfuckers done took down the video!
Sorry...It was awesome.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Pump It Up

I’m busy as fuck, with the kid(s)’ birthday and with the simple fact that it’s finally been nice enough to hang outside. We bought some deck furniture for our house in preparation for the folks coming up to celebrate said birthdays and for the simple fact that I need a place to put my beer when I’m outside.
So after we’ve celebrated the aforementioned birthdays what do we do? We have another fucking celebration, this time at Pump It Up, a fucking place that is nothing more than a warehouse filled with inflatable shit. From the kid’s perspective, this is the equivalent of Heaven, and for the adults, half the fun was watching them jump around like retards.
Calli ran around like one of those chicks in the Girls Gone Wild videos, stopping occasionally to squeal, raise her sippy in the air, and dance to the music which was surprisingly heavy on 80’s material.
First song of the night was, no shit, The Clash’s “Police On My Back.” How awesome is that?