Thursday, April 30, 2009

Harvey Milk - Life...The Best Game In Town

Confessions. If it were not for the Dead Kennedys, I wouldn’t know who Harvey Milk even was. And if it weren’t for a new film starring Sean Penn about the assassinated gay city supervisor from San Francisco, I wouldn’t have thought about Harvey Milk. And if it weren’t for looking for information about the Gun Van Sant film, I wouldn’t have discovered that the band Harvey Milk had released an album this year. And if it weren’t for Glorious Noise, you may not know that the new album by the band Harvey Milk, Life…The Best Game In Town is quite good.
I believe that every gay man and woman in America should know something about the life of Harvey Milk the man, just as I believe that every fan of the Melvins should know something about the band Harvey Milk. They harvest similar fields, a land where the most beautifully heavy terrains are the ones that you pass over at a combine pace. And to continue with that farming analogy, your Honda may be able to outrun that aforementioned farm implement, but the moment your vehicle’s standing still, that huge monstrosity would annihilate it.
Harvey Milk, even after doing this for seventeen years, can still gut bands half their age and still sound as if they’ve got the creative fortitude for another seventeen more. Life… incorporates a wider range in the margins of sludge. “Motown” finds a slow groove, throws out some harmonic double-tracked vocals and provides us with what may be the most accessible Harvey Milk track to date. “Roses” begins with a lonely piano and acoustic guitar with Creston Spiers’ gentle, broken delivery. After a minute, all the feeling is destroyed with towering chords of distortion and underneath Spiers’ sudden turn towards doom-laden wails. Milk also tackles Fears’ “We Destroy The Family,” which is currently creating an urge for me to revisit some of that seminal punk band’s own material, which is exactly what a cover should do to in the first place.
The best of the lot is “Barnburner” which is exactly that and “After All I’ve Done, This Is How You Repay Me,” another rollicking number with stop/start tempo changes and enough riffs to fuel an entire album by a lesser bands.
Then there’s the closer “Goodbye Blues,” which again rakes in the muck before unleashing a wonderfully sonic solo halfway through before revisiting the dirge pacing for the last three minutes. It carries on for over eight minutes, with Milk returning to the corpse of the riff they destroyed, seemingly to kick it around after it’s dead just for good measure. After the last moments of distortion pass, the band suddenly begins playing a spirited cartoon theme song before ending Life… with a hit to the gong.
Like the most recent Melvins album, Harvey Milk’s latest is impeccably produced. The drums sound just as menacing (and real) as the guitars and they’re vital to this album’s winning formula. It also points to a band that has been around the block enough times to know what to play, what not to play, and how the studio should serve as photographic evidence of the melee instead of a CGI-created reenactment.
While Hollywood is getting ready to address that with their own account of the real Milk, the band is ready for their close-up too. To think that I would have missed such an impressive offering if it weren’t for the timing of Van Sant’s work and Penn’s star power. Milk is released this week, but it is also a great opportunity to consider the latest from a band with the same name and just as much inner drive.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Last D.J.

It’s truly the end of an era for me as the land man standing was forced to sit down. Brad Company-aka Brad Dennison-aka Blake Davis-aka Solitary Seven-was unceremoniously released from his job at the local classic rot radio station, presumably before he was scheduled to converse with Heaven & Hell about their new album. I don’t know what would be worse: losing your job or not being able to talk to Ronnie James Dio.
I met Brad at a different station, one for which I wasn’t employed at. I was supposed to meet the Program Director at the station on a Sunday afternoon and Brad was the first one to open the door. He looked at me with suspicious eyes-the kind that led me to believe he was applying for the same gig. Later on after I got the gig, we realized a mutual love of rock music, even though his collection had a few more Keel cassettes than mine. It would be so easy to rail on about his taste in music-particularly around this time period-but his expertise grew and we’ve both grown to appreciate that to get to the good shit, sometimes you have to go through a few Warrant albums. Nobody reading this can claim to have perfect taste in music and there’s nobody cooler than a music fan who can stand up for what they like, regardless of what others think about it.
Unless that band is Saliva.
Brad was always up for a practical joke while on the air. One of the funniest things-and this is something that will make no sense to anyone who’s had no radio experience-was the time in which I dared him to start his airshift off with Fleetwood Mac’s “Over My Head.” To most of you, this doesn’t sound like anything. “Over My Head” is a perfectly fine song I suppose and there’s nothing about it that’s even remotely offensive. But in radio, dead air is one of the worst things possible and, given that fact, “Over My Head” may be one of the worst songs ever that a radio station can play. The reason is because “Over My Head” starts with an incredibly long fade in, so unless you start the song while another one is still playing, it sounds like someone has screwed up and isn’t manning the controls because of the few LONG seconds of dead air this song provides.
My girlfriend and I were getting ready to go out of town, and for some reason I thought it would be funny to have Brad start his hour with “Over My Head.” The hour started with the news, some commercials, the weather, and then a bright, upbeat station sweeper that identified the call letters. Brad agreed to do the joke and we were in the car anxiously listening for the dead air. Right after the call letters were announced by some namely choir of singers came….nothing. At least twenty seconds of silence while “Over My Head” began to be audibly heard over the airwaves. There is only three people laughing about this right now, because it’s such an inside joke that nobody else would consider it to be funny. My girlfriend and I laughed about it in the car, but what made it funnier was coming home to a blinking answering machine message. When we played it, we heard Brad. “Are you listening now? It’s ‘Over My Head.’ I started the hour with ‘Over My Head.’"
Even if that story isn’t funny to you, you should appreciate the fact that the motivation behind it was a sense of pride about every hour of your airshift. You wanted everything to sound tight, to give listeners no reason at all to change the station. Every aspect of your shift, even the music rotation, needed to sound perfect. We would continually make sure that “train wrecks” didn’t occur-those moments when songs that didn’t sound right together weren’t played next to each other. The playlist may have told you to play Michael Bolton next to AC/DC-and if you were stupid, you’d play them together just like your music log told you-but anyone with half a brain and a sense of pride would make sure that something else was moved next to AC/DC to prevent the dreaded “train wreck.” Or you could be like me and Brad and not play Michael Bolton at all, regardless of what the music log said.
There’s none of that anymore, and with people like Brad out of the business there will be one less person who took an active role in making sure their airshift sounded good. He will be replaced with someone who doesn’t consider this, or even care about what they’re playing, saying, or who their audience even is.
I’m sure that a lot of Brad’s enthusiasm over the finer things concerning his airshift diminished over the years as his station became more homogenized and less local, but I’m even more sure that he still cared about maintaining every listener that he had. I’m fairly confident that he’ll be replaced with someone cheaper and with no concern whatsoever about who is listening.
In other words, he’ll be replaced with someone who lets the dead air right before “Over My Head” play on without getting the joke.

Photo of Brad Company courtesy of My Motherfucking MySpace.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thrilla In Manila

Leftsez beat me to it, but trust me, I was going to blog about the HBO documentary Thrilla In Manila anyway, a film that focuses on the relationship, fight, and aftermath of the Muhammad Ali – Joe Frazier fights.
I was too young to remember those fights-the Foreman fight too. By the time I was aware of Ali, the myth making was in full swing starting with the "Black Superman" song. It wasn’t until he lost to Spinks before I realized that he was human, particularly when Spinks was just supposed to be a toothless walk over. Sure, he came back to win against him, but even then you could tell that something was wrong. The swagger slowed. The speech was slurred. They were all symptoms created during those Frazier fights.
Without knowing the back-story, you immediately think about how hard Frazier must have hit to create that kind of long-term damage. You’re swayed by the Ali myth-that Frazier was a patsy for the white man, placed to shut the loudmouth up as he returned to the ring after being banned. The reality-as the film shows us-was much different.
Joe Frazier was the embodiment of overcoming adversity, something that was totally ignored while Ali berated him in the press. Frazier wasn’t the most intelligent fellow in the world, but he may have possessed the hardest punch-until Foreman came a year later and put him on the canvas. The talent level of the heavyweights was so awesome back then that any one of those three-Ali, Foreman, or Frazier-would be long standing champions today.
But regardless of how dumb Frazier may have been, he was smart enough to know that fighters should take care of each other, and when Ali was feeling the pinch of not being able to get fight money, Frazier dipped into his own pocket to help him out.
A year later, Ali was calling him a “gorilla” and pitting Joe as the white man’s champion.
Joe pummeled Ali in that first fight and did nearly the same thing in fight number two. Ali was ready to “cut the gloves” before Round 15 in the second fight, an indication that he couldn’t go on. Frazier, on the other hand, was ready to go the distance, even though his eye had completely swollen shut and a previous injury made him equally blind to Ali’s right hooks. Despite Frazier’s protests, his corner stopped the fight. Even Ali’s corner deemed the fight-specifically the last two rounds-as close as you could get to having to men kill each other.
We all know what happened to Ali, but we seldom hear about Frazier. The entire Ali drama apparently stuck with him-all of the verbal abuse lobbied at him took a toll to the point where even now he’s resentful of Ali and the notoriety afforded him. Even his voice mail message on his cell phone makes light of Ali’s condition and attributes it to the blows he gave the champ.
Thrilla In Manila is just as riveting as When We Were Kings, the documentary accounting the Ali-Foreman fight. The main difference is that Kings helps retain the Ali mystique while Thrilla nearly dismantles it.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Do You Realize?

You know, it just seemed too good to be true when it was announced that the Flaming Lips’ “Do You Realize?!” was voted to become the official rock song of Oklahoma. A few Republican lawmakers within the state recently attempted to stall the award by pointing out some less than honorable gestures the band made while accepting the award. Namely, Mike Ivins who sported a tweed jacket that wasn’t buttoned to conceal the red t-shirt he was wearing that sported the Commie hammer and sickle flag.
You know one of the things I love about the Lips? Is that nobody bothered to tell Mr. Ivins that the short probably wasn’t the best of shirts to consider wearing to the statehouse while accepting an award given in one of the most perceived backwoods areas known to man. I totally believe that “this is what I normally wear” excuse, but anyone else would have said “Hey, put on a different shirt before we go. Ok?” That’s like me wearing a Black Sabbath t-shirt to church. Just play the role for an hour, whatever.
But they get there, a few buzzkills notices Ivin is a pinko supporter and freaks, thinking that a bunch of ragtag longhairs don’t deserve such a distinction.
This is where I remind you that the aforementioned distinction is “The Official Rock Song of Oklahoma.” That’s right, Oklahoma.
What other songs from Oklahoma are there, and are they even remotely as cool as the Lips? There is no better form of advertising that the state of Oklahoma has than to pass this resolution and watch how thousands of people will change their opinion of the state.
Apparently, the Governor stepped in a signed something that stopped this thing from turning into an embarrassing side note. Its official: Oklahoma now has one of the coolest rock songs that’s officially recognized by its state of origin.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Motorhead - Motorizer

Not to alarm anyone…from what I understand, Lemmy is doing fine…but I think we need to start considering that there will be a point when Motorhead is no longer with us. I mention this because it’s so easy to take institutions like Motorhead for granted when they’re still around, touring every year, and making albums that largely unnoticed because, well, because they sound just like virtually every album in their catalog.
You did this with The Ramones. Admit it. And it wasn’t until they called it a day until you realized “Holy fuck! The Ramones aren’t around anymore!” Then ¾ of them died and you felt bad that you took it all for granted. You had all of those opportunities to see them live, but you squandered them.
Don’t let that happen with Motorhead. Go see them before it’s too late. Christ, they’re probably playing at some dive right now down the street while you’re dicking around on the internet.
Like The Ramones, Motorhead is torchbearers of simple rock and roll music, gutted to a point where there’s nothing remarkable about what they do. But because they are they are so stubborn, ignoring trends and unwelcomed advice, they are vital contributors to today’s hard rock landscape. And there lies the irony of the band’s brilliance: their simplicity and reliability becomes the reason you forget about them. But the moment they’re gone, is the moment your guilt manifests.
They’re on album twenty-four now and, yes, it could easily be album two, eight, or fourteen. Motorhead records are now measured by how far they’ve strayed from the original blueprint. Their best are the ones that sound timeless, while the worst are the ones you can pinpoint within a couple of years the date they were recorded.
Motorizer is one of the former Motorhead albums, an ass-kicking piece of work that’s a testament to their consistency and contribution to rock music. It won’t change the world and it won’t add to their fan base, but Motorizer should reaffirm their supporters that not only is the band still serving their heritage well, they’re serving it in fine fashion.
Lemmy made a point when I last saw them of introducing the other two members of Motorhead (drummer Mikkey Dee and guitarist Phil Campbell) and their length of tenure (1992 and 1983, respectfully). This incarnation as the longest serving membership of any lineup and it shows not only on paper but throughout the performances on Motorizer. Dee is more showy than he needs to be on some tracks (and in concert too) while Campbell traverses a fine line between metallic solos and the more traditional Motorhead chord structures. But taken as a whole, the two do a great job of enabling their sixty-something year old leader sound as vital as ever. Speaking of, Kilmister’s all-midrange bass and gravely vocals punch the entire thing through your speaker cones turning Motorizer into a high-velocity yet unmistakable Motorhead album.
Punching everything through your speaker cones is Kilmister’s all-midrange bass work and atonal gravel vocals.
Lemmy runs the gamut with his lyrics, from nonsense (“Goin out to sea/Goin’ over land/Get made up/Like the Elephant Man”-“Runaround Man”) to the silly (“Here come the bass/Thunder in the guts/Rock you ‘til you can’t stand”-“Rock Out”) to the astutely political (“I’ll tell you why they run to fight and die/Because the people over them are full of shit and lies”-“When The Eagle Screams”). For each topic, Kilmister sounds both credible and unwavering in his attack. There’s no evidence that he’s considering an early retirement and, more importantly, no evidence that it’s needed. Motorizer is an impressive and attention-getting late career album that should serve notice to anyone who’s overlooked the band in recent years. It demonstrates that, not only does Motorhead still “play rock and roll,” they can still play it better than most anyone else.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Monday, April 20, 2009


There are moments of American violence that has stayed with me for much longer than the required requiem. It started with a viewing of the Zapruder film at too young of an age and continues, culminating recently with the 10th Anniversary of the Columbine shootings.
I’ve come to believe that my initial interest came at the hands of the original reports of how disenfranchised Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Now that reports are surfacing that those initial accounts were filled with bullshit. It turns out that Harris was just a batshit crazy dickhead and Klebold a moderately crazy pussy that was Harris’ dickswinger.
Would I have used such pointed jabs if we found out that Harris and Klebold were indeed victims themselves of bullying and intolerance? Probably, as I know that their community was not the kind of place that bred the type of struggle that a child from the inner city would experience. Knowing that, I question how hard it really must have really been for a pair of white boys from upper middle-class families. Seriously, doesn’t any normal teenager want an environment where they can swindle out of family interactions? It takes a real fucked-up kid to spend that kind of freedom on drawing up plans for such mass destruction.
I’d be drawing up plans for a massive hydroponic weed operation. Get high and get paid.
Plus, they’d be too high to give a shit about what others thought of them, and my guess is that some of the people that they disliked could be charged extra for their weed.
I remember feeling annoyed at all of those stories about the entire corny “Do you believe in God?” altercation. I’m glad that the conversation now seems to have never occurred and how we can take that sort of scripted parable can be laid to rest. You had me at disgruntled youth-you didn’t need to make it disgruntled youth who digs Satan. Let’s keep the story arc to a manageable level.
So who knows, maybe the realities of what really happened will change my perception of Columbine. For a moment it seemed like the kids weren’t alright. That the idea of world connectivity and instant gratification would be too much of a responsibility for the youth and that it would spawn generations of manifestos and vendettas, an entire planet of spoiled kids with little empathy, too much time and too many guns. A place where beefs are settled by triggers instead of fists.
Of course, some of the responsibility would have fallen on my generation too-not just the parents-for failing to point out to our younger brothers and sisters that high school is so fucking temporary. Seriously, how many of your high school friends do you still keep in touch with now? It’s such a small enough part of your life that it certainly doesn’t necessitate killing off everyone that wronged you.
The way it sounds now is that even the two boys responsible for that tragedy 10 years ago made a slight reference to those that crossed them, but ultimately the source of their discontent came from deep inside their heads.
And that’s something that’s harder to comprehend than some simple act of revenge.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Saint Vitus Reunion

Well drop my E string: Saint Vitus is apparently back together again and touring recently. This is the Wino Weinrich-line up, which is probably the most notable era in terms of popularity. Here’s a recent video of the band performing live in New Orleans in preparation for their big show at the Roadburn Festival. It's awesome.

Wino looks pretty worn-hell, they all do-which rather makes them even cooler. They always had this older-brother with the Sabbath-records vibe to them. Now that it’s a quarter-century later, those older brothers are closer to retirement than the high-school shop class where they all met. I don’t know that for a fact, they just look like a bunch of dudes that hooked up in shop class and started a band after school.
I didn’t like the original line-up (with Scott Reagers) all that much. I was just discovering early Black Sabbath at the time and needed to go through them before I could handle all of their imitators. Yes, Saint Vitus were Sabbath imitators right down to their name, but only because there weren’t any bands at that time that took Sab’s molten riffage and maintained the torch. Vitus did, even when it wasn’t commercially viable to pay such a tribute. Hell, even Tony Iommi had taken Sabbath into a blatant bid for mainstream acceptance, so Saint Vitus may have been the only band in the early 80’s that was working that style of doom metal.
In the ensuing years, particularly after admiring Kyuss’ own Sabbath fetish during the 90’s, I began to appreciate that first Saint Vitus album featuring Reagers, but I liked Wino’s tenure even more, particularly Born Too Late. That album title probably reflects the band’s mind-set as they could have easily been lifted straight out of ’72, judging by their band photos around that time.
I thought that I was alone in even knowing who the band was, until I noticed the soundman at Gabe’s Oasis wearing one of their t-shirts. I knew him, but didn’t know he was a fan.
“You like Saint Vitus?” I asked him one night.
“They’re fucking great.” He said, looking down at his black t-shirt that prominently displayed their logo. “I picked this up the last time they came through town.”
I had no idea that the band even came through the Midwest and I was somewhat sorry I missed it. The soundman detailed an enchanting story of sonic mud and walls of fuzz, citing how the evening would qualify as one of his most treasured moments while running sound for the club.
It’s not clear if the band will continue with a new album/tour after the Roadburn Festival. Wino has a solo album to promote after he returns, so the signs point to “prolly not” after this brief encounter with Saint Vitus.
Viddy the whole NOLA show here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I Am A Nightmare Walkin'...

Taxes done…with a day to spare, Mo’ Fogie. I hate taxes…the pressure…like if you fuck up the man will come looking for you. I can’t handle the man. He will outwit me, I know this. Because I do not know what the fuck I’m doing with taxes. I just plug the numbers into Turbo Tax and she magically gets done.
I do remember a few years ago, after I had sold my house and bought a new one in the same tax year, it was late in the day and I have hours to spare. I plug in the numbers and see that I owe over $10,000 in taxes and just freak. What am I going to do? This can’t be right! I can’t pay that! I was trying to stop smoking at that time and I immediately got in the car, drove down to the convenience store, and bought a pack of smokes.
Good thing too. The drive and nicotine got me thinking the right way and I realized that I plugged a wrong number into some space when calculating one of the real estate things. I got it down to where I didn’t owe anything on federal and had to pay a few hundred in state taxes.
Speaking of Iowa. Motherfuckers declared the ban on gay marriage as unconstitutional, which makes us pretty badassed. Personally, I think they should take the ball and run with it-promote nationwide that we wed gay couples-and take advantage of some easy tourism dollars. Are there any other reasons why someone would want to visit Iowa? Please…
Now you’re probably thinking that we’ve got a bunch of hicks that are trying to put a stop to this moral erosion. While the West side of Iowa is unexplainably Republican, and while a vocal percentage of those Republicans are indeed Christian Conservatives, probably the most vocal is a Baptist Reverend from Des Moines who happens to be black. Chew on that one a bit longer: an African-American from Iowa is leading the fight against the State’s Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage.
Speaking of race relations. My city of Cedar Rapids has pretty much locked down the streets downtown that are heavily frequented by blacks. You see, a young black man beat a Cedar Rapids cop to the point where he suffered severe brain damage. Since that attack (and other violent acts that have suddenly cropped up in Cedar Rapids), the cops have blanketed the area, arresting nearly 150 people since early March. Over half of those picked up? African Americans.
Here’s the thing, if there’s a bunch of crazy shit going on in my neighborhood, where teenage boys are beating up elementary-age kids, young men chasing each other down the street shooting handguns, and crazy bitches stealing cars and committing manslaughter with them, I’m going to be personally up the cops’ ass screaming for them to grab a baker’s dozen at Donutland and camp in my yard for a few weeks.
The only thing that I can’t speak too is being a minority and understanding what it’s like to have some cracker cop all up in my grill axing questions. Thankfully, they have a little get together at a church last night and aired some shit out. It was nice to hear members of the African-American community telling the neighborhood that there is a little bit of accountability that should be acknowledged. Again, if some cracker in my neighborhood is knocking cops into a fucking coma, I can expect a lot of heat around my home. But it beats having me get into a situation where I could be the next one getting cold-cocked into a coma.
Someone needs to get a handle on all of those immediately surrounding the incident. You’ve got Moms-with a record-who tried to physically stop the cops from arresting her son, pointing the finger at the cop saying that the only reason her son hit him was because he was plan-clothed. Thing is, dude can be wearing a Slayer jacket, but if I see badge, handgun, and the words “Freeze! Police!” and I would totally treat them like Johnny Law. Mom’s boy, on the other hand, just lays the motherfucking dude out. Then, she slyly suggests that the rough treatment she endured from the cops has aggravated an old shoulder injury might result in a lawsuit against the city. Could someone tell her that about 99% of the whites who read that story have totally used it to justify their prejudice over blacks? Would someone explain that her bullshit bellyachin’ may have set back community race-relations about two decades? Thank God members of her neighborhood spoke up and halfway acknowledged that the family is straight up crazy and headed for the poky anyway.
The main thing is that shit is tough enough, so why create more drama with some bullshit racial tension. Iowa is a very homogenized state, but to beat the shit out of a cop and not expect the neighborhood it happened in to get extra saucy attention is just inventing tension.
So there you go: Iowa with all of its hints of progressive ideals still meandering around the same old bullshit. Maybe I’m just sad because the race relations issue is again making the rounds, much like they were when a survey found a large percentage of property owners who refused to lease to minority tenants while promoting their vacancies to white applicants.
This type of shit was so much better when it was up in Dubuque.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Safety First

Your Humble Proprietor over at I'm Gonna Blog A Little Over Here submits this very important training video to help remind us to keep it safe at work. It's all fun and games until someone rolls over a mini-forklift.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Rosebuds - Life Like

There are a lot of entries in the “couple-core” movement, some more worthy than others. But for my money, The Rosebuds are heads and shoulders above anyone else currently working under that nifty label. As enjoyable as She & Him, Mates of State and Beach House might be, The Rosebuds have been quietly releasing better records that improve with each outing and with each listen.
The duo’s third album found them exploring territories of 80’s new wave, a move that found some fans questioning such a decision while others such as myself felt that such a change was intriguing and successful.
To those that could not appreciate such an approach, you’ll be happy to learn that The Rosebud’s latest effort, Life Like, manages to hark back to their original blueprint while managing to retain the studio gloss and dark corners of their most recent work.
Husband and wife team Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp have put the synthesizers back in the closet for the time being and have created a fully arranged album with landscapes of textured guitars. It’s reminiscent of such 80’s luminaries as The Cure and Echo & the Bunnymen, yet the lineage to their own past work is quite apparent.
There are enough hooks throughout Life Like to make even the most curious of topics palatable for the most pop-entrenched ear. Crisp and Howard work in tales of man-eating catfish (“Cape Fear”), reanimation (“Life Like”), and Jim Morrison talking to kids via a Ouija Board (“In The Backyard”) with such amazing pop sensibilities that its curious wide they haven’t managed to reach a much larger audience.
Life Like reflects the band’s growth as both songwriters and complex arrangers. It draws from the challenging sidetrack of their last effort and combines it with the infectiousness of their earlier work. It all adds up to an album of such somber beauty that places the couple of the year crown on a pair that has been unfairly overshadowed by lesser duophonic offerings

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

Fuck all the haters, The Black Crowes are a straight-up great rock band. And as it is on every Good Friday, I’m reminded of the Crowes’ song of the same name. Video footage is from over a decade ago. Let’s hope that Chris Robinson has eaten a few cheeseburgers since then. How can a pothead be that thin?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

OCD Chronicles: Prince-"Sometimes It Snows In April"

The weather in the Midwest has been unpredictable this April. One day it’s in the mid-60’s and the next day it’s snowing. Prince gave me a song for that years ago on his Under The Cherry Moon soundtrack, Parade, a woefully boring movie and a criminally overlooked album.
It contains “Kiss,” which in itself is enough. But one of my favorite songs ever by Prince is tacked on the very last track of side two.
“Sometimes It Snows In April”
I didn’t notice it until years later when I saw a ballet performance set to Prince music. The performance began with a routine set to that song and it was the most lasting impression of the show for me. What makes it so unique is that it sounds different from Prince’s usual “sound,” if that’s possible, given how unpredictable he is. Upon further examination, you’ll notice that the reason for the sound difference is because the music was written by Wendy & Lisa, with Price merely contributing the lyrics. It’s the perfect song for a sudden winter storm in April and it comes up in my brain’s playlist the same time every year.
Sorry, I looked for a clip, but could find nothing but cover versions and animated tributes post-911.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

2009 80-35 Festival Line-Up Announced

Since I totally missing anything that related to the 80/35 Festival until the last minute last year, I must either be more in tuned with this year’s festival or they’re doing a better job of promoting it.
I noticed a few weeks ago the organizers were offering early bird VIP tickets with the caveat that you needed to wait a few weeks before a line-up was announced. Not having enough information to determine the buying power of the festival’s promoters, I decided to wait before forking over any money just to see whose playing.
I’m glad I did.
They announced the line-up for this year’s festival and include a blend of both jam bands and alternative performers. It was confirmed that House of Large Sizes will be one of the local performers on the second stage and the press conference yesterday announced the following artists will be headlining.
G-Love & Special Sauce-I have a lot of friends who like music. None of them own an album by G-Love & Special Sauce. For the life of me, I can’t name a single song that these guys do. Maybe they’re great, but I wouldn’t know it. There’s something about the “special sauce” moniker that makes me wary. Childish? You bet. But I’m not forking over a bunch of cash to hear a band for the first time that loves Thousand Island dressing so much that they named themselves after it.
Ben Harper-I hear this guy is popular. I do know of a few friends that dig jam band material who dig his stuff. Evidently, what little I’ve heard was so uneventful that I didn’t feel inclined to pursue it more.
Steve Malkamus-Didn’t he just play in a club? I’ll wait until he comes around again. Guess Steve didn’t get the memo that we’re waiting for a Pavement reunion, not another go round with The Jicks.
Public Enemy-I should be excited about this. It Takes A Million and Fear Of A Black Planet are just awesome albums. I’m suspicious. Do they even tour with the Bomb Squad anymore? After all, vintage P.E. was 45% Chuck, 45% Bomb Squad and 10% Flavor Flav. Without the Bomb Squad, it still won’t equal half of what I consider to be Public Enemy.
Tempting? A bit. Worth every dime? Not so much. I think 80/35 needs more names to break out of its neighborhood festival mode. If I’m not psyched about it to the point where I’d drive a few hours, then what makes them think that others will drive any farther? I guess the only unknown would be Harper; I have no frame of reference to gauge his popularity. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I realized how popular Jack Johnson was. It was then that I realized how every album of his sounded just like the last one.
Check out the full lineup and comment if you think there’s an artist listed that is worth the price and drive.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Hey! Ho! Let's Go!

It took 23 months and 26 days until my daughter spoke for the first time.
Today, I was so overcome with joy when I heard my daughter utter:
“Hey! Ho! Let’s Go!”
I’m so proud. Of course, she has said a bunch of shit for months, but nothing as important as this.
I started on Dee Dee’s autobiography the other day, The Last Will and Testament of Dee Dee Ramone, he’s a good writer and possesses an active imagination. Too much at times, I ran across one passage that was too violent to be true (Dee Dee kills a Norwegian cop) and now question every godddamn thing he says. Including the parts where he claims his three-piece solo band sounded good playing those old Ramones classics.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Christ Cornell

Believe it or not, there are still a bunch of people who give a shit about Chris Cornell.
If you haven’t heard, Chris Cornell released a really shitty album last month. If you’ve got a picture of a shitty Chris Cornell album in your head right now, multiply it by a hundred.
That’s how bad the new Chris Cornell album is.
Through years of success with Soundgarden, a few popular soundtrack songs, and continued success with Audioslave, it’s not surprising that Cornell still has some fans. What’s amazing is their ability to tolerate not only the worst album in Cornell’s career, but to embrace one that seriously undermines all of that man’s prior highpoints.
For those of you who don’t know about this, Cornell enlisted Timbaland to help with his latest solo album. It’s really bad. End of story, really.
But there is a contingent of uber-fans, ones who disagree with my “hate” fueled assessment, even though there’s obviously something wrong with it and, potentially, Chris Cornell.
Evidently there is a family dispute between Cornell and his ex-wife Susan Silver, a heated one in which the former-Soundgarden manager held 15 prized guitars from Cornell. He was very mad and apparently there’s a conspiracy between Silver and record reviewers to systemically chip away at the Chirs Cornell juggernaut in the form of heated reviews about Scream.
Never mind that the thing is a turd with very unpleasant matrix of programmed beats surrounding it.
Here’s some irony: former members of Soundgarden (including Kim Thayil!) teamed up with Tom Morello and Tad Fucking Doyle for a brief set by Tadgarden. Thayil looks older but awesome. And Tad Doyle looks like an older Tad.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

25 Years After The Death Of Marvin Gaye

Today marks the 25th anniversary of Marvin Gaye’s murder. His Dad shot him. Remember? I remember there was a big deal when "Sexual Healing" was released. The Big Chill was still vivid in my mind…not an easy thing to remove as Baby Boomers like my parents played the piss out of that soundtrack…and Marvin Gaye was firmly attached to that record. Not in a good way, either.
Admittedly, “Sexual Healing” was pretty badassed, but I never fully appreciated Marvin until I began college and got to listen to a few of his records at the public radio station. I had a lot of time on my hands while running satellite programming on the weekends. A lot of it was spent listening to all those records I should have known about, through the cue speaker in the studio consol.
Suddenly, I understood how fucking up that shooting April 1st, 1984 was.
Years later, I’m looking for spare reel-to-reel tape for a stupid guitar overdub. I find an old reel at the radio station I’m working at and hope there’s enough oxide on it to capture anything. There is, but there’s an anomaly when I begin to play back the tape. On it, I hear the original radio report from 4/1/84-maybe the following day-announcing the death of Marvin Gaye. It goes into detail about the shooting, identifying the father as the man who pulled the trigger, and it leaves a very ominous tone when the report ends. It serves no place in what I’ve just recorded, but I leave the report on the reel anyway. On the final edit of the song, it begins with the report of Gaye’s death, immediately goes into guitar feedback, a steady bass drum beat, and then it’s followed by my stupid little song.
It was about cocaine.
Gaye did a bunch of cocaine in his lifetime.
I may have been on to something after all.
Anyways. What’s Goin’ On? is the shit. Let’s Get It On is the shit. Go buy them. I remember once trying to impress this guy I worked with-a fairly substantial black man with a nice music background-by bragging that I had made love to my girlfriend while listening to What’s Goin’ On?
“You couldn’t find anything better?” he said.
“It’s Marvin!” I emphatically replied.
“I know” he said, “but when I think about making love to a woman, an album about saving the planet ain’t the first thing that comes to mind!”