Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Workplace Is Louder Than Yours

I seriously received the following email at work today. Aside from a few security deletions, the email (and jpeg of the chick holding her ears) are exactly as they were received.

From: X, Robin
Sent: Wednesday, October 27, 2010 2:42 PM
To: Totale, Todd
Subject: White noise

Maintenance is working on our white noise system. Sorry for the inconvenience. Hopefully it will be fixed soon.

Robin X
Senior Administrative Assistant

The contents of this message are confidential and only intended for the names recipient herein. This message should not be forwarded, transferred, copied or otherwise distributed to other users. Email is not a secure medium of communication and is subject to possible interception by unauthorized users; therefore, any reply to this message should not include additional identification regarding the individual and/or policy discussed herein.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The OCD Chronicles: Charlie Sexton-"Beat's So Lonely"

Blame Dylan.

What other excuse is there for suddenly having the one and only hit for Charlie Sexton streaming through my head the day after seeing him playing lead guitar (again) for Bob Dylan's band.

And aside from the nifty little minor chord progression of "Beat's So Lonely's" chorus, there's really nothing all that memorable for me about this song.

I can remember when the song first came out, the press was telling us music fans how Charlie was this guitar prodigy, a cool kid around my age that came from Austin, Texas and played with a bunch of cool people.

They told us how Sexton had teamed up with Keith Forsey-the mastermind behind Billy Idol's biggest hits-and was about to take over.

Then "Beat's So Lonely" came out, causing us to scratch our heads and ponder "Where's the guitar?"

The chicks dug him though; the only time I ever heard Sexton's debut album Pictures For Pleasure was through the cassettes of girls who thought he was cute.

Bob Dylan & His Band - Live At The McLeod Center, Cedar Falls, Iowa

The introduction remained the same:

"Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the poet laureate of rock 'n' roll. The voice of the promise of the 60s counterculture. The guy who forced folk into bed with rock. Who donned makeup in the 70s and disappeared into a haze of substance abuse. Who emerged to find Jesus. Who was written off as a has-been by the end of the '80s, and who suddenly shifted gears releasing some of the strongest music of his career beginning in the late '90s. Ladies and gentlemen — Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan."

But the show was a lot more upbeat and mischievous than previous Dylan shows I’ve seen.

In fact, those previous Dylan shows had me pooh-poohing the idea of dropping money on a ticket for the 2010 edition of “The Never-Ending Tour.”

I’m sure there are Dylanphiles who would view the setlist of his Sunday night show in Cedar Falls as nothing remarkable, and I don’t want to suggest that the concert at the McLeod Center was groundbreaking. It was merely a very nice Dylan show with a fan-friendly setlist and a nicely executed performance.

The last show that I saw featured Danny Freeman on guitar, but for this series of dates, Charlie Sexton is back causing me to make funny "Beats So Lonely” Tweets while secretly growing a boner over his stunning Fender Telecaster that seemed to be finished in brushed aluminum. It was gorgeous.

The entire stage was filled with vintage and retro-minded new guitar, all mic’ed up with fancy microphones and performed by five dudes wearing black. If I wasn’t drooling over Sexton’s Tele, I was loving his Victoria combo amp.

Ah, who am I kidding? I would have taken anything that stage provided.

Bob kept the irritating up-note ending phrasing of years past to about one or two passages. Instead, he’d bark out weird phrasing-also at the end of a line-which was more effective than humorous.

For “Highway 61 Revisited,” he ended the “next time you see me coming” line with a menacing “you better run” after an emphasis added two-second pause.

He poked fun at the university during “Tangled Up In Blue” when he changed the “some are carpenter’s wives” to the more appropriate “college professor’s.”

But nothing could prepare me for the fact that Bob Dylan’s performance in my old college town provided me with my first glimpse of female breasts since the “nipplefest” Kiss reunion over ten years ago.

Yes, it’s true: I saw boobies at Bob Dylan, but not in the jumbotron flashing that you’d expect. Instead, a young woman came and sat next to me towards the end of the show (I leisurely meandered around the arena throughout, landing on some nice bleachers in the back) and I noticed that she was holding something.

It was a baby.

The baby was upset, and my paternal instinct immediately pondered, “Who the hell would bring their infant baby to a loud rock show?" Yes, the audio was nicely mixed, but as is the case whenever Bob picks up a harmonica, you’re guaranteed a little bit of dog howling moments. And it just so happened that Bob was using a harmonica on the song that had me noticing the baby’s unhappiness.

It was then the mother popped open a nipple, which seemed to satisfy the crying baby.

O.K., so it wasn’t a full-on boob shot and no, I didn’t use anything but my peripheral vision to catch a glimpse at what was going on-but still, there was a bit of nudity at the last place I’d ever think would have it.

What I did expect-and what I noticed in droves-were a lot of Baby Boomer fans who seemed resigned to see Bob out of generational obligation, only to be the first ones heading for the door before the band launched into a two-song encore.

To lift a line from Kiss, the Boomer-types didn't seem to have enough in them to rock and roll all night, but at 69 years young, Bob had no problem providing the faithful with a winning set and inspired “Like A Rolling Stone” as the last song of the evening.

How does it feel?

It felt better than the other Dylan shows I’ve seen during the last decade.


Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
Don't Think Twice, It's All Right
Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
Just Like A Woman
Rollin' And Tumblin'
Tryin' To Get To Heaven
High Water (For Charlie Patton)
Blind Willie McTell
Summer Days
Tangled Up In Blue
Highway 61 Revisited
Workingman's Blues #2
Thunder On The Mountain
Ballad Of A Thin Man


Like A Rolling Stone

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Here's To Ben!

Just did a review for the new Bryan Ferry album, in which I referred to Mr. Ferry as one "suave fuck."

I'm a fan of David Lynch-not so much of Fire Walk With Me or Lost Highway-and the reference used for my Olympia review was blatantly lifted from one of my favorite scenes from Blue Velvet.

And I can't tell this story enough:

Over the summer, E was outside playing and C was upstairs napping, providing yours truly with some quality Me time. I saw that Eraserhead was playing on one of indie-movie channels like IFC or Sundance.

Anyway, I begin watching it and E decides to come in right around the time time of the Lady in the Radiator scene. He notices her cheeks are really messed up and he begins to ask all sorts of questions about the movie, the characters, and the general lack of a linear plot.

By the time the larvae baby is murdered, he exclaims that he "Shouldn't be watching this!" which prompts me to break out in hysterics.

I hope he appreciates these moments when he gets older.

I'll never thank my Dad enough for taking me to Blackula.

Boredoms Make The Glam-Racket Bucket List of 'Artist To See Before Dying'

Next time Boredoms make their way through the Midwest region, someone give me a heads up.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Devo - Something For Everybody

It’s easy to forget that Devo was forged out of the anti-war movement of the late 60’s. Member Gerald Castle actually knew two of the four students killed at Kent State, the University he was attending. From that tragedy, the theory of de-evolution began, and with like-minded progressive artists in relatively small numbers in Ohio, the band Devo was formed.

Considering how subversive the band’s origins are, and with the recent milestone of the 40th anniversary of the Kent State massacre, one would think that there would be some reference to the volatile beginnings of the band.

There isn’t, which is why I’m obligated to reference for Something For Everybody, the first Devo album in two decades. It is indeed, as the title suggests, a plethora of mass consumerism-whether ironic or not-that picks up at the moment where Shout! left off.

If you’ll recall, Shout! was one dismal album, the moment where the band eighty-sixed the guitar entirely and went for the uppity electronica that they evidently want to be remembered for.

Their latest is a pop album, mildly off-center thanks to the name recognition and the occasional glances to their analog keyboard beginnings. Just to date them a bit, “Mind Games” whips out some neat 8-bit blips during the intro, making it irresistibly catchy and kitschy.

“Human Rocket” uses a friggin’ vocoder, but you know what? That’s O.k.! After all, Devo was using similar strategies on “Beautiful World” some thirty years ago.
Something For Everyone is a pleasurable nostalgia trip for fans of Freedom Of Choice or New Traditionalists. If you’re expecting a nostalgia trip that revisits the intentionally provocative vibe of their debut or the divisive mantra of their earlier projects, you’ll be somewhat disappointed.

Because this album could have been more special than just modernist tweaking and idol worship. Something For Everybody could have been the “We told you so!” album of Devo’s career. A bark of provocation that would entice even the most cynical of younger to dig deeper into the catalog and cast credence into what prompted them to make music in the first place.

Instead, it’s content with only reliving only the moments that brought the band their one-hit wonder celebrity, sadly ignoring the real story of their past. While their interpretation is a great summer paperback, Something For Everybody could have been Devo’s great, late-career novel.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The National - High Violet

I didn’t think a band is supposed to work this way in these times: follow up the most successful album of your career with one that could potentially become the least likely to succeed.

But I can’t say enough about High Violet, The National’s fifth album and most ambitious release to date, not only in terms of how its woe ultimately takes the wind out of any momentum that Boxer may have provided it, but how focused, smart, and goddamn good it sounds in those dark corners of personal abyss.

Yes, High Violet is one of those albums: trudging through slow-tempo depression, looking for drugs you’ve hidden to shed a little light on your condition. But it’s also an effort of meticulous concentration. There’s not an inch of magnetic tape wasted and no notes that haven’t been democratically thought out.

It’s the album that everyone thought those other N.Y.C. bands that graced the music mags at the first part of this century would be making by this point. Instead, it was released by the least likely to succeed-the band that stuck to practicing and reading Dostoyevsky rather than waste the day shopping for clothes and reading N.M.E. cocktease articles about themselves.

Singer Matt Berninger admits “I don’t have the drugs to sort it out” on “Afraid Of Everyone,” but you get the feeling that it has nothing to do with the success that the National have found during their run. Instead, the discontent sounds like the same old shit that you and I stress about, the shit that has you popping an extra Vicodin, Oxycodone, or Adderall just to give some feeling to the machinery.

At first-particularly in High Violets’ first half-it’s hard to hear the splendor but by “Bloodbuzz Ohio” rolls around, things start getting great. Quickly.

Much of the band’s success falls on the throat of Berninger. Understand, I will do anything in my power to cut a lead singer down to size, but here, Beringer’s baritone is critical to the overall timbre of defeat. Put him in a vocal league next to Ian Curtis, Richard Butler, and Michael Gira, but he’s clearly ahead of his peers in the post millennium N.Y.C. rock resurgence. Strangely enough, Beringer has less of a range than Julian Casablancas or Paul Banks, but he sounds a helluva lot more honest that either one of ‘em.

As do the respective other members at play here. Brothers Dessner and Devendorf paint huge landscapes the record, as colorful as the album title may suggest. They do it with simple patterns and slow-build arrangements. The weird thing about their dynamics throughout High Violet is how the next step up in the song’s grandiosity may be an extra tambourine or some gentle strings. Their restraint is admirable and it allows the listener to put as much emotional weight into the song as they want to.

Truth be told, that may be a benefit as occasionally you’ll catch yourself getting all worked up only to hear Beringer utter “I was afraid I’d eat your brains” or “I’ll explain everything to the geese.”

But whatever, High Violet is so appropriately arranged, professionally executed and so blatantly intent on sounding like one of the year’s best album that it actually becomes exactly that.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

John Lennon & Yoko Ono - Double Fantasy

John Lennon would have turned 70 this month.

I know this because his birthday is less than a week away from mine, and I used to this that was a big deal.

His birthday marks the re-issue of John Lennon’s solo material. It got me thinking if I need new copies of Lennon’s solo output as I’ve already acquired what I want on cd. Is the fidelity good enough for another copy of Imagine or Plastic Ono Band?

But the one that caught my attention was Double Fantasy, and the promise of a “naked” version of the album. It’s a record that’s noteworthy as it was the first after Lennon’s domestic exile and the last of his life. Both of these things put the album in a much higher profile than, say, Mind Games.

I decided to revisit the record last week, during an impromptu game of Clue with the little man down in the man-cave. I raided the vinyl for the soundtrack and found my vinyl copy of Double Fantasy.

I discovered why it’s been decades since I’ve listened to that album/

Of course, a lot of it is because the album is mired in tragedy. I can’t think of the album without remembering that I got it for Christmas in 1980 and the room got quiet after I unwrapped the gift and held it up for the obligatory “Here’s what I got” announcement.

My grandmother who typically came to our house each Christmas probably made some comment about Lennon, thereby moving the rotation with some words of wisdom like “It’s so sad that their little boy won’t have his daddy anymore.”

She didn’t understand the impact that Lennon had on me, just like I didn’t understand that his impact on me probably wasn’t as major as someone who grew up with the Beatles. I’m thinking now of all of those bands that started after seeing The Beatles on Ed Sullivan.

But there’s another reason why it’s been so long since I’ve listened to Double Fantasy: it’s good but not great.

The controversial thing at the time it was released-and this is something that was discussed as far as the hallways of my middle school-was that Yoko Ono appeared on half of the tracks.

I’m not going to lie and suggest that her contributions to Double Fantasy are the entire reason for its lack of greatness, but it certainly helps.

I appreciate her impact on music and find her challenging material admirable, but in terms of the consistency of Double Fantasy, it’s the reason for its inconsistency.

Double Fantasy begins with the “I’m Back!” declaration of “(Just Like) Starting Over,” a breezy bit of middle-age rock with an obvious nod to the music of Lennon’s youth.

Immediately following is “Kiss Kiss Kiss” Yoko’s jarring new wave blast, an obvious attempt to show Yoko as the inspiration of the B-52’s ladies, at least until she starts reaching orgasm at the end of the song under the strains of guitar feedback.

These moments of audio back and forth become cumbersome, owing more to Lennon’s stubbornness than any declaration of love. If I were more responsive of Ono’s art, I’d find Lennon’s material as tame and mature. On the other foot, I’d find Ono’s music to be frustrating and too abrasive to mesh with John’s yacht rock pose.

Yes, Lennon’s material on Double Fantasy sound like they’re the work of a man who is about to begin his fourth decade, a man with such a vital history to rock and roll that a record mogul like David Geffen could do nothing else but sign an artist with the condition that his wife get half of the record.

Without the tragedy that is unfortunately bound to this record, Double Fantasy is nothing more than a record that teases us to consider what Lennon would do after he finished his domesticated comeback.

It’s that very tragedy that makes the record as memorable as it is.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Think I'll Pack It In And Buy A Pickup

It’s beautiful in Iowa right now.

I wish you could see it.

The reason fall is my favorite season has everything to do with the state I live in. I was raised on the Mississippi river, and all along the bluffs of the river valley would be a wide variety of trees, each one with their individual markings and genetic tendencies. It would wash the scenery with colors of red, yellow and orange, with the fading green leaves soon giving up the spotlight entirely to its more illustrious counterparts.

When I lived there last, I’d often drive to work on the river roads for both Iowa and Illinois just to get a peek at the trees, even though the route was longer.
The farmers are doing their part too, plucking the land of its final fruits, kicking up a dusty fog in the process. Their work lasts past sundown, so the floating dust gives the rolling farm fields a weird Children of the Corn vibe.

That’s the only pisser; the days are getting shorter.

You want to rock this kind of weather for all you can, because you know the onslaught of grey and cold is near.

The season also reminds me that I’m a year older. I’m thankful for the next year because my children provided life with a bunch of new adventures.

But on the day of my birth, I didn’t get a call from my parents. So I do what I normally do in situations where I feel hurt: I pouted.

The week before I tentatively planned to drive over to Des Moines for a late-season round of golf-thinking that we’d plan the particulars during the obligatory birthday phone call from the parents.

It never came.

And as most Swedes are apt to do, I kept it in. When I saw them last night for dinner, my birthday gift delivered late because of the physical distance between us.
It was a pair of Izod shirts that I’ll more than likely never wear, a golf-club cover with my university’s logo on it, and a vinyl copy of Chet Atkins with Les Paul called Chester and Lester.

Who knows why this particular record was chosen. My guess is that my Dad watched the Les Paul documentary recently and decided that I needed to learn more about these artists. My parents have every single premium channel on their DirecTV line-up because they haven’t invested the time necessary to call the company and have them remove these channels that are well past their free, “trial” period.

As a result, my father manages to record all of these movies, and he’s been telling about this Les Paul documentary for at lease two or three family dinners.

Regardless of the idea for the gift, it’s one that I’ll actually end up using.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Promise: The Making of Darkness On The Edge Of Town

I don’t own Darkness On The Edge Of Town.

But after seeing the documentary The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town, I want it.

I don’t have an explanation for not owning it, and radio never really gave it a fair shake except for “Badlands.”

And good luck finding a station that even plays that.

I think that any good documentary-particularly one that focuses on a piece of work like a record album-can measure success by gauging the extent in which you want to learn more about the subject.

After watching the documentary the other night on HBO, I wanted to hear that album immediately.

You get the songs in the documentary, including how they were made, the selection process, etc. They’re good enough to get you interested in the record, but it’s the story of the record that really drove my desire.

I wanted to hear what Springsteen did on this record, an album that came after some heated turmoil with Mike Appel and the long-deserved success of Born To Run. To hear the back story, and how Springsteen approached this record is riveting.

It also sounds like Springsteen was crazy-prolific during this period, and the box set captures some of those tracks that didn’t make the cut in two other additional discs. Since a lot of those cuts ended up on The River, I’d like to hear the other stuff that didn’t make that album either.

And I totally forgot that Springsteen penned “Fire.”

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Baker's Dozen Most Influential Albums Of The 1980's

The 1980’s were my salad days. It’s the decade in which I grew up and developed my opinions, my belief systems, my political affiliation, my sexuality-pretty much everything that I am today began during some point in time during the 80’s.

Let me clarify something: I still believe that I am a work in progress and there have been noticeable changes that have happened since that time. I don’t believe that I’m one to dwell too much in the past, even though much of this blog is devoted to that very topic-it doesn’t mean that I’m stuck there and longing for something that has passed by. In fact, I can sincerely tell you that the greatest joy I have ever known is happening right now with my two little ones. Watching them grow is something that I’m not really able to put into words at this moment. Who knows? In twenty years, maybe all of this will be about stories that are happening right now.

The point is, music triggers memories for me. I’m creating new ones now, of course, but it’s one of the reasons why I love music the way I do. It’s a soundtrack to life, and when you compare it to the decade where I’ve placed the most notable building blocks of my belief and values systems-you’re bound to get some interesting results.

Which is why I came up with my own Baker’s Dozen of the 1980s. They are albums that promoted monumental changes in the way I ultimately look at music. They’re not “the best albums of the 1980s” and the list is not a “Desert Island Disc” list from that decade either. They are albums that I absolutely love-for sure-but they aren’t the ones that I play the most of or recommend that you seek out first.

They are albums that promoted an internal sea change, ones in which I wasn’t the same after I heard them. Some took a while to grab hold while others were loved from the first moment I heard them. A few even managed to change me as a person in some ways-and that is a rare event indeed.

There are a few on the list where I would definitely tell others to start elsewhere, which is totally ironic because I wouldn’t have even been a fan of the band’s music without beginning with the album listed below.

Yes, it’s true that many on the list feature albums that I first heard-prompting me to look deeper into the band’s catalog. But they also managed to do more than that. They all managed to change me to a point where I looked at life, music, and myself in a much different way than before I heard it.

Feel free to comment on the records from this decade that managed to change your life too.

1.) Black Flag - Damaged
Without question, a game-changing album. It was aggressive enough to speak to my metal side while being dangerous enough to appeal to the live-forever zeal of my teenage years. Damaged was one of the few things that seemed frightening back then. It spoke to the uncertainty of the Reagan era and it was subversive enough to proudly be considered an “anti-parent” record. Not only was that a perfect compliment to any teenager, it was also a record that had me looking beneath the radar of popular culture for more challenging material.

2.) The Smiths - Hatful Of Hollow
I wasn’t very good at communicating feelings as a teenager and wasn’t mature enough to convey emotion either. The Smiths help with that somewhat, or at least they became spokesmen for all of the ridiculous angst that comes with ones teenage years. I’m absolutely convinced that my world was made even more miserable because of Hatful of Hollow. Good thing the compilation is full of nifty, concise guitar patterns that made feeling glum sound so great.

3.) Joy Division - Closer
I only came to know this band halfway through the 80’s thanks to a life-altering record collection of a collegiate friend. The story of Joy Division when matched with their incredible (and brief) output may be as close to perfect misery as music ever gets. It’s a near-literal suicide note that is heavier than most metal albums and more gorgeously morose than anything in its wake.

4.) Sonic Youth - Bad Moon Rising
The first album that made me look at the guitar in a completely new and different way. And it wasn’t until I was comfortable with that notion of alternate tunings and other sonic mistreatments that I came to appreciate Bad Moon Rising. It’s still a little unsettling-which is a good thing, because it demonstrates how far reaching their vision was at that early stage in their career.

5.) R.E.M. - Reckoning
Just when you thought this list would be all bummers, along comes R.E.M. with an obligatory entry. It’s the second one for me-I finally caved from all of the great press that Murmur got and marched down to Disc Jockey and picked up this album on cassette. It worked with late-night driving, underage parties when the parents were away, and as low-volume makeout soundtracks. It made me aware of an alternate universe called “college music,” where people had smart conversations about rock and roll and listened to groovy Byrds-like records from Georgian bands.

6.) Spacemen 3 - The Perfect Prescription
It’s arrival came to me like an artifact. A cassette, in a cheaper-than-generic black case and hard to read album art with two dudes on the cover, both of them seemed to have their eyes closed, like under the influence of either drugs or music. Jesus & Mary Chain may have arrived before, but this mysterious band from England spoke deeper to me. From them began my life-long obsession to form a repetitious, one-chord band that plays the same thing forever. Spacemen 3 reminded me that rock music-at its core-is an attitude more than aptitude. The last time I felt that way is with the Ramones or the Sex Pistols, so Spacemen 3 are in good company in my world.

7.) Minutemen - Double Nickels On The Dime
I remember once after this record was released, a bunch of friends and I were riding around causing trouble. I suggested this tape and after a couple of songs the driving started protesting, stating that he didn’t like my selection. That guy was dumb. This is a double record of stunningly original material that sounded unlike anything else back then and it sounds that way today. Finger plucked bass lines, solid rhythms, and fluid guitar fills that sound like they’re played through a cheap little combo amp. It works, and with D. Boon’s political bite (“Being bored is power!”) and Mike Watt’s heart on his sleeve (“Punk rock changed our lives!”) it can still change lives today.

8.) Metallica - Master Of Puppets
I thought I hated Metallica before this record. And then on one night, I heard a guy in our dorm at the University of Northern Iowa playing his electric guitar. It was quick, aggressive, and complex to my ears. “What was that?” I asked him. “Damage Inc. by Metallica” is what my long-haired neighbor told me. Master of Puppets not only changed my opinion of Metallica, it changed my opinion of metal as well.

9.) Public Enemy - It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us BackWhile Master of Puppets changed my opinion of metal, Public Enemy’s first masterpiece changed my opinion of rap. Prior to it, I had an attraction to rap, but wasn’t sure if it could pack the same emotional punch as my rock counterparts. There is so much unchecked aggression going on in It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back that it’s easy to overlook the impossibly creative sampling and turntable scratching going on with the Bombsquad. Add them both together and you have an album that’s brilliant regardless of what genre you prefer.

10.) Husker Du - Zen Arcade
I got to Husker Du before any other twin cities band, through an uber-aggressive song called “Real World” from one of those SST compilation. A few years later, I heard the band’s first masterpiece and learned of the versatility of this power trio that focused on the power. “Dreams Reoccurring” makes perfect sense under the influence of hallucinagens, but “Never Talking To You Again” sounds beautifully wicked no matter what state you are in. The first record that got me to consider that bands could deliver their own classic double album if they put their mind to it.

11.) The Pixies - Surfer Rosa
It begins with a snarky “This is a song from Hell!” but within moments you begin to understand that The Pixies aren’t just making it up as they’re going along. Hardly. Every measure of dynamic tinkering is fully thought out and every bit of simplistic intent is the record’s ultimate power. They were a smart and intense rock band that should have been larger than they were-but in my sophomore year of college, this record was in the top ten for quite a while.

12.) The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses
I got this as a promotional item from Silvertone Records. It came with a t-shirt, a picture of a sliced lemon, or some other citrus. I wore the t-shirt until it became all stained and grubby, and I played the promotional item (a cassette) until the fidelity dulled. Little did I know, the band was creating a lot of those same traits in their native country. I went around looking for another copy of the debut album after the oxide wore off and found a used one. It was an original pressing as it didn’t have “Fools Gold” tacked on the end of it. I was forced to buy a new copy of the comp Turns Into Stone to get that song. This is the cream of the crop when it comes to shoegazing.

13.) Galaxie 500 - On Fire
True story, I brought this album home to review it over the weekend. That Friday night, a few friends stopped over and before long, the entire living room was moving with pot smoke-the result of an oversized bowl on my leaky bong, a bowl that took at least an eighth of on ounce of marijuana to completely fill. This was the record that played as the bong made its way around the room that evening, and everyone seemed to agree that On Fire was an awesome soundtrack. I’ve never used that bowl since, but I’ve played On Fire numerous times. Galaxie 500 seemed like the perfect band to follow after playing the piss out of Velvet Underground’s VU, the rarities compilation that was released right around the same time that this Boston trio began making inroads in the collegiate radio network. Oh, and the radio station I worked for at the time played “Strange” the following week.

We’ll leave it at that-no “honorable mentions” or anything else to just ease my mind. Some thought went into this, but I would put the list away whenever I did start to think about it too much.

Like with the only rap entry here. I definitely wanted to reward Public Enemy for taking the genre to the next level for me. It was at that moment when I knew rap would be around forever and it would continue to press the rock music into new directions too.

But I was torn between P.E. and Run-DMC, particularly King Of Rock for being the first rap record that changed my opinion of the genre, from being more than just a novelty, turning it into a real art form.
And don’t get me started on Paul’s Boutique and De La Soul’s Three Feet High and Rising.

So you see, lot’s of head-games and second-guessing going on with my list, but I’m comfortable with what I’ve come up with and would enjoying hearing your life-changing lists too-the albums from your past that changed the way you looked at music,.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Paul Weller - Wake Up The Nation

The big news with Paul Weller’s tenth solo album is that it finds him working with bassist Bruce Foxton again, and as any real Jam fan will admit, this is probably as close to a Jam reunion as we’ll ever see.

The story behind 2/3’s of the Jam collaboration is, unfortunately, based in tragedy: Weller recently lost his father and Foxton his wife. The good news is that loss has not only prompted Weller to rekindle with former bandmates, but to reconnect with the sounds of his past to create an audio scrapbook that has him creatively moving forwards with a keen eye on celebrating life on the way ahead.

“My faith has been sure inspired/I’m schooled in the textile time,” Weller cheekily declares right out of the gate, hinting at the fire under his ass as of late and the impressiveness of his wardrobe collection.

While his daily attire might change as often as the singles in his record collection, the image he’s projecting with Wake Up The Nation is fun, honest, and as uncluttered as a well-worn pair of Levis and an un-ironed t-shirt.

From that ivory-pounding opener “Tombstone,” to the anthemic title track, to the Northern Soul heartbreak of “No Tears To Cry,” Wake Up The Nation passes by so fast that you’ll be knee deep into it before realizing that the hooks are so nonstop that Weller may have slipped a best-of solo collection under your nose without you knowing it.

The ease in which he delivers such a song-by-song winner not only makes Wake Up The Nation such a surprise, it completely erases any missteps that you may have lobbied at Weller during his solo career. It has the uncanny ability to become a great starting point for not only the novice, but also for any jaded fan that may have grown intolerant for his prior indiscretions.

Wake Up The Nation is a sixteen-track an aural love letter to the power of music, and its ability to heal and build bridges. If one considers the low-ebb that must have been Nation’s starting point, you can certainly hear the smile that it ended up becoming. It’s also an effort that once again finds Weller making music with purpose instead of just making music because it’s expected of him.

“I could be stable/I might be fine/I don’t want to fuck it up this time” he sings on “7 And 3 Is The Strikers Name,” the trippy workout with My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields that almost singlehandedly points at how Weller has a lot of mental sweat equity in the grooves of this disc.

The track is Nation’s best moment, but let me preface that statement by saying that I plan on playing Wake Up The Nation a lot over the summer, so the distinction of Nation’s “best moment” will probably change throughout the season.
As of right now, however, it’s top of the pops because it manages to touch on Weller’s past influences while managing to turn it into an intriguing and promising future.

All in the span of a three-and-a-half minute freak-out.

It’s vintage Weller, not in the sense of its sound, but in terms of this iconic Englishman testing our limits and his own. Wake Up The Nation finds Paul Weller adding to his legacy once more instead of merely trying to repeat it.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Zakk Wylde Cancels Iowa Show After Run In With Local Tall Boys

I hope to God that Sharon Osbourne wasn't right about Zakk Wylde. It's been hinted that she dismissed Zakk from Ozzy's band because he was too much in love with the bottle to be a very productive member.

Which is hilarious when you consider how unproductive Ozzy has been throughout his entire career.

Never mind the on-going bitterness that Ozzy has against Black Sabbath for suggesting that he was too loaded to continue fronting them.

And what did they do?

Fire him.

Zakk certainly hasn't delivered his Blizzard Of Oz yet and it doesn't look like he's those of us firmly entrenched with anti-Sharon feelings.

UPDATE! It has nothing to do with the drink, apparently, and everything to do with blood clots. So unless this ailment is code for "The Shakes," there doesn't seem to be any concern for Wylde's liver.

(New York, NY) - Black Label Society was forced to cancel a scheduled tour stop on the Black Label Berzerkus tour last night at the Anchor Inn in Omaha, Nebraska due to frontman Zakk Wylde's health. Tonight's appearance in Clive, Iowa at the 7 Flags Event Center has also been cancelled. Wylde was admitted to a hospital in Nebraska late yesterday afternoon and was diagnosed with a blood clotting condition in his leg. Wylde first suffered from blood clots in August, 2009. As of now, the Black Label Berzerkus is set to continue in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at the Eagles Ballroom this Saturday, October 2nd.BLS apologizes to ticket holders of last night's and tonight's shows. Every effort will be made to reschedule the missed tour dates. Ticket holders can hold on to their tickets or tickets can be refunded at the place of purchase. Meet & greet package refunds will be processed promptly. Further updates on Wylde's medical condition will be made available as they become known. For more information, please visit: and

Mo Tucker: Tea Party Member

I suppose it shouldn't surprise me, but in a way it does.

There is video footage of Velvet Underground drummer Maureen Tucker at a Tea Party protest in George from last spring, providing support for the political movement.

She even provides a quote for the local news team covering the event, which sounds like the kind of quote you'd expect from a Tea Party supporter.

I also wonder if Mo hasn't lost some teeth-it looks kind of barren in there, but it is not very conclusive from the video.

What irks me-and the think that's disheartening-is how there was much to be said about Mo's financial situation among V.U. fans prior to the reunion in the 90's. For those of you who don't remember or don't care, there was plenty of discussion that Mo worked at the local Wal-Mart and how the low-paying gig did not leave her with much more than enough to pay the bills.

It was the burden of working for this infamously shrew employer that supposedly sparked the anger that is very evident on her awesome solo album I Spent A Week There The Other Night.

All of this seems slightly out of wack now that Mo has alligned herself with a group that wants the government out of our lives even after big money businesses have used D.C. Laissez-faire attitude to bring about the greatest economic collapse of our country since the Great Depression.

And Mo, remember how hard it was to get good insurance from that big box distribution center? Maybe that explains the troubling dental work.

Because of the lack of geeky indie rock nerds in the Albany, Georgia area, and because Mo now looks like a non-descript Tea Party member, bloggers like myself are just now getting hip to the fact that at least one member of America's most subversive rock and roll bands didn't buy all of the pretentious N.Y.C. liberal bullshit after the band imploded.

She probably also understands that comments like this are needed, particularly in view of the Jewish dominance of our liberal media.

Of course, none of this is more shocking than Lou Reed's love of Tai Chi and Iphone apps.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Gov't Mule & Yonder Mountain String Band Live in Iowa City

For anyone dealing with the heat in the West Coast or the rain in the East, let me toot the Iowa horn a bit and just tell you that the weather around here during the past week has been magnificent. Sunshine and blue skies with temperatures in the mid-70’s; just a perfect fall week that is going to turn colder very shortly.

In other words: get out and enjoy it while you can.

Which hasn’t been a problem as the boy is in soccer, which means his little sister and I are in soccer with him, what with practices, games, and schedules that require us to rush and get to places at specific times.

This city is soccer crazy, with vast soccer fields just north of where we live in suburban bliss. There are cornfields to the left and right of the complex where the parents drag their ass every weekend to watch the kids play.

Tonight there was a game in the late afternoon featuring Ethan’s team, a group of seven and eight year old boys with vast amounts of energy and drive. They’re undefeated after four games so far this season, and most of the scores have been blowouts.

My son is a carpetbagger. A boy who is content with the throw-ins and kick-offs, letting the other, boys that are more aggressive dominate the offense. He relishes in the victories while not contributing (as of yet) to the score.

It’s not just his passiveness; the other boys aren’t very good at sharing the ball even when a teammate is painfully open. Ethan started to notice this after a few games but he doesn’t do much to publicize “I’m open!”

He’s showing improvement, but the real obstacle seems to be that he doesn’t really like soccer that much because it requires work. He complains that in practice they don’t play soccer, they play “scrimmage.” I politely informed him that “scrimmage” is indeed “playing soccer,” albeit with boring focus placed on the fundamentals of the game.

Tonight was also a kickoff of the University of Iowa’s homecoming festivities, a bunch of typical rah-rah stuff followed by a parade and after that, the university puts on a concert in the Pentacrest.

The shows are free, the perfect type of musical event to bring the family-provided that you allow for proper distance between your crew and the drunken college kids that will used the closed streets to their advantage by going to a bar for a few drinks and then head over to catch a song or two by the band.

This year, the band was Gov’t Mule-a southern rock band with ties to the jam rock crowd. In other words, a band that’s perfect for college kids who no longer have the Grateful Dead to follow around anymore.

I counted for sets of boom microphones recording the proceedings, with the other hardcore followers pushed towards the front of the stage during Yonder Mountain String Band, who even had their own loyal followers in attendance.

And rightfully so; Yonder Mountain is the kind of bluegrass band that’s designed to appeal to the collegiate Deadheads with quirky plucked reworking of Talking Head covers and originals that recall the days in the dorms when you stuffed paper towel rolls with Bounce sheets to cover up the exhaled pot smoke.

“Some of the parents in the crowd are smiling right now,” observed Yonder vocalist Jeff Olsen “because they remember those days too.”

He was right; I got a kick out of his wink-wink nudge-nudge reference to collegiate pot smoking.

The pandering continued with their ode-to-weed “Two Hits And The Joint Turned Brown” before calling out Warren Haynes himself to assist on guitar for “Death Trip.”

It was nearly an hour after the Yonder set before Gov’t Mule took the stage to advise us to settle in for a long set.

We lasted for a half-dozen songs.

With one tired soccer boy bundled in a hoodie and a blanket on a folding chair completed passed out and a three year old girl desperately trying to stay away by dancing with her daddy, the buzzkill look of my wife suggested that it was time to leave the proceedings and take the kids home to bed.

Speaking of buzzkill: she also didn’t like my idea of buying a bunch of candy cigarettes to hand out during Halloween. I still contend that the humor won’t be lost on most people and with other, stricter parents in the neighborhood; it will ensure that they stay away from us and create a family dialogue about how their children should not smoke.

So up we went during a great Mule version of “She Said, She Said” followed by an awesome instrumental medley of Beatles songs. The sounds of “Tomorrow Never Knows” reverberated off the downtown Iowa City buildings as we made our way back to the warmer confines of our mini-van.

If one of the four tapers present at the Mule show on Friday night happens to be reading this, a copy of your recording would be appreciated.

I'll be sure to play it for my wife whenever she asks why I never take her to music shows anymore.