Monday, November 29, 2010

Singles 45's and Under

I went to my folk’s place for Thanksgiving.

It’s different now that the parents live in a different town-sometimes it feels weird to be there after they spent decades at our old house, the same one I lived in since 1978.

In 1978, I had 165 45’s. I know this because I wrote the number on my record case. The following year, it increased by only 10.

I know this because I wrote that number below the first one.

The vast majority of my singles were hand-me-downs from my parents. It was their preferred format growing up while mine was most definitely the album.

But those old singles did provide me with a lot of memories and, more importantly, they taught me a lot about music. Singles-at least the ones I purchased-were used as a way to see if I liked an artist. I was the type of guy that listened to both sides, and if the b-side was a success then there was a good possibility that I’d like the whole album.

To hear my Mom talk, they would buy a bunch of their favorite hits in high school and then tote them around to each other’s houses for study nights, sleepovers, or whatever it was they did for fun as teenagers in small town Iowa.

Their record players enabled them to stack the 45’s up, dropping a new disc the moment the tone arm got out of the way. That picture is one of the three cases that I received to lug around those 165 singles. It’s probably in the best shape of the three.

I wonder what ever happened to the Amberg File & Index Company?

My Dad brought out the record cases one day over the holidays, presumably to ask if I want to see if there’s anything worth taking, while secretly hoping that I’d take the whole lot of them and get them out of his storage room.

I glanced through them to see if there were any gems, and there are several, but the issue is that they’re not worth anything and they are completely worn out in most cases.

I didn’t take very good care of those 45’s and no one told me to treat them with care, as they might be valuable someday.

So I did what any stupid kid would do: I wrote all over them. Mostly my name, but occasionally I’d just write stupid shit on them, some primitive form of ownership in case there were any doubts of who they belonged to.

On the floor of my parent’s furnished basement, I lamented over a bunch of Apple singles with “Todd” written with permanent pen on the green apple logo. I see a Peter, Paul, and Mary single with the entire label ripped off, only to be drawn back on with my 8-year-old hand. I see an old Beach Boys single with the yellow/orange swirl Capitol label on it, identifying not only the song (“Surfer Girl”), but also that “Todd is #1.”

My 1978 single inventory that was on that box also marked the moment when I began to start caring for my stuff. I noticed that I began keeping the sleeves of those 45’s around that same time. I began cleaning the grooves before playing them.

Most importantly, I stopped writing stupid shit on them.

Instead of taking these worn out and worthless (value-wise, not musically) singles home with me, I just began taking photos of them. I’ll post the photos of some of these and then relay a story about the songs-probably something in regards to what impact the song had on me or some other personal artifact.

Because what came from those grooves is more important that what those grooves are worth in mint condition.

At least that’s what I tell myself every time I see those desecrated Apple labels.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ozzy Osbourne - Scream

What happened? At one point, he was an adorable, self-proclaimed “Prince of Darkness” shuffling around his home for public consumption, releasing forgettable solo albums that took the bite out of any horrorshow he conjured up in earlier days. The next, he’s a puppet to his wife’s celebrity and a slave to her authority, shuffling around in a goddamn variety show while firing longtime guitarist Zakk Wylde, giving him the pink slip during an interview on a radio show.

Scream is Ozzy’s 10th album and the first with thirty-year old guitarist, Gus G. It has a thoroughly modern sound with lots of compression and heavily processed vocals that usually find Osbourne yelling some anthemic phrase like “Scream!” or “I’m Fearless!” or “Let It Die!” or “Soul Sucka!”

In fact, the album was almost named “Soul Sucka” before fans provided enough feedback to Ozzy….er, Sharon…that an Ozzy album with the title of Soul Sucka would be just as prophetic as a Black Sabbath album named Never Say Die!

There’s also a few mid-tempo tracks with positive messages to ensure they are played on rock radio next to the latest Nickleback songs.

Of course it sucks, and of course I’m bitter that the people holding Ozzy’s strings right now are dismantling his legacy piece by piece, making him as irrelevant as Kiss and Alice Cooper. What’s more frustrating is that the slow decline is logging a few decades now, but the descent is seemingly in freefall with Scream, a patchwork of technology and provocative one-liners.

“How will I know you, Mr. Jesus Christ?” he asks on “Diggin’ Me Down,” “Have you already been here once or twice,” seemingly referring to Christ’s visit to the Native Americans. Yes, Osbourne’s barrage of attacks against Christianity is so worn now that he is setting his sights on the Book of Mormon.

Thirty-year-old guitar wunderkind Gus G. provides Scream with plenty of bite and screaming whammy bar dives, but he provides no real identity to what kind of guitarist he is. Not that I’m a Zakk Wylde fan as the redundant guitarist was present for Osbourne’s previous low points, but at least he developed a persona that fans could attach to and associate with. There are also reports that the album-including the guitar parts-were already in place before Gus G. signed his contract with Ozzy Osbourne LLC. Even so, I’ll bet the thirty-year old guitarist already has a signature series guitar for sale from whatever company he’s using.

All of this talk about guitarists may mean nothing to the average Ozzy fan, but it should, as his entire career is dependant on the strength of what guitar player he’s working with. On Scream, he’s working with a very capable axeman who no one would be able to identify without the help of the liner notes.

The bulk of Scream’s failure has nothing to do with his guitarist, however, and everything to do with the man himself and producer Kevin Churko, whose fingerprints are all over this release that it will be impossible for Ozzy to re-create these songs live without the aid of an IT department.

One good thing that I can say about Scream is that it is the most consistent album he’s done in twenty years. Even though the material is an embarrassing attempt at gaining favor with the active rock outlets, it plays like a straight line in consistency with none of the songs jumping out for inclusion in a “classic Ozzy” playlist.

The other positive thing about Scream?

This one wasn’t produced by Timbaland.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Lookout Kid...It's Somethin' Ya Did

That’s a picture of my son with the mascot of our local hockey team from earlier tonight.

The week before, we drove up to the dome of my old university and watched a football game.

Sometimes I think he tolerates it more than enjoys it, feeling that it’s more of an obligation of what sons are supposed to do with their fathers. I’d like to tell him that it is indeed worth the boredom to tag along with your old man to an obligatory father/son outing. I don’t remember too many of them with my own father, and I’d like to believe that they’re meaningful enough later, when you begin recalling events to use against your old man.

There will not be a point where my son starts a blog and writes “I don’t remember too many of them with my own father” when tallying all of the sporting events the two of them went through.

It’s the trip to them that’ll probably be forgotten, but I’m taking steps to paint an audio picture that will trigger something-maybe subconsciously-whenever he hears those songs later on.

Tonight on the way to the hockey game, a bit of Back In Black seemed appropriate. It was a dark night, with steady drizzle and the dropping temperature of Thanksgiving eve could potential make the overpasses a slick affair.

I won’t debate the nature of the subject matter-which is pretty much junior high entendres anyway-but the drive and stomp seemed appropriate. Sure enough, they played “Shoot To Thrill” over the p.a. at the game during a stop in the action.

It registered with him.

My job was done.

On that weekend of the football game, I told him that I was going to play a song that would blow his mind.

It was “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”

“Who is this guy, Doctor Seuss?” he asked.

I think Dylan would have smiled.

I went deeper-this time on to “Its Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding.”

It’s not like I expected him to understand everything that was being said, but my suspicions about the silence in the backseat were confirmed when I heard him laugh at the “Sometimes the President of the United States must have to stand naked” line.
“Did he just say ‘naked?’” he asked.

That’s all I can ask for. That he pay attention sometimes.

It’ll come back, someday.

It did for me.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Black Cab - Call Signs

Released nearly a year ago, I’ve only now come across the third album from Melbourne, Australia’s Black Cab, which mysteriously made its way into my iPod and discovered through a quick search of the “Recently Added” playlist.

It was one of those pleasantly surprising moments where you actually pause to discover the unfamiliar sounds emitting from your player because those sounds are quite enjoyable.

Call Signs starts off in with a very pleasant, shoegaze fashion, reverberating the ambivalence in a sound reminiscent of the Doves’ great 2000 release, Lost Souls.

Rather than get caught up entirely in the shoegaze revival which is showing a very welcomed presence as of late, Black Cab add elements of Krautrock and analog keyboard backdrops. The result is an immediately infectious blend that combines familiar overtones alongside Call Signs almost intentional attempts at a concept record during certain moments.

The album features a bunch of instrumental interludes, ranging from the signal tones of that begin side one and two, to eerie synthesizer passages (the Mute Records-ish “Desden Dynamo” and the Autobahn propulsion of “Sonnenallee”).

When Black Cab does begin to speak up, it’s immediate identified with vocalist Andrew Coates’ lethargic baritone. The first full track, “Church In Berlin,” is probably his best vocal contribution and his ego isn’t large enough to want his chops on every note throughout Call Signs.

In fact, he lets Died Pretty’s Ron Peno handled the mic during “Ghost Anthems,” a jarring departure from the rest of the moody Call Signs. I’ve gotten used to his contribution now and like how the song signals the final third of the record.

But the gem is “Black Angel,” a gentle tribute to Judee Sill, which features a recording of the late folk singer introducing the number. Coates uses less dramatic moan here, opting for a more appropriately weary recitation while guitar James Lee provides a looped acoustic run. It’s the record’s standout track, and the most unique one to boot, turning against the rest of the album’s electronic leanings into and creating a memorable track of open sky authenticity.

Call Signs is not the kind of album that you’d associate with Australia, but it’s good enough to remind us all that it’s necessary to glance down under to see what signals are being transmitted from that country’s endless roster of talented rock artists.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Blitzen Trapper - Destroyer of the Void

It doesn’t take very long into Destroyer Of The Void to hear that Blitzen Trapper is swinging for the bleachers with their fifth full-length. Aside from the overtones of late 60’s Beach Boys, you’ll also find strangely appealing prog-rock tendencies, somewhere between Bowie and Jethro Tull, believe it or not.

Don't worry: the influence is restricted to campfire acoustical moments and frontier arrangements. What's left is a weirdly compelling album that has hints of greatness as well as its share of hair-pulling moments.

Destroyer Of The Void works best with altered states-something that’s needed on occasion as Eric Earley’s lyrics jump from old west narratives to musical arrangements that could have be lifted from Deram Records circa 1968.

And like any project that’s forged from forcing hallucinations into creative statements, there’s a feeling the Blitzen Trapper is biting off more than they can chew. Destroyer Of The Void’s most damning complaint is that all of that hippie love buzz makes for an uneven listening experience.

It's what makes the transition between songs like “Love And Hate” and “Heaven And Earth” stand out like a sore thumb rather than blend together to form that big statement that Blitzen Trapper are obviously going towards.

“Love And Hate” is fueled with hippie optimism (“Why love and hate/Cohabitate”), fuzz guitar and Procol Harum organs before jumping into “Heaven And Earth’s” bold piano and strings serenity. It’s hard to follow Earley’s jump into those big, universal themes (“The canyons of our deepest dreaming lives”) immediately after he’s advising his old lady to move back into his place after an epic spat.

The good news-and there’s enough here to warrant your attention-is that every bit of Destroyer Of The Void sounds like it's coming from an honest creative burst hashed out in basement rehearsals and practice space sessions.

It also sounds like a transition record, and they sound good enough to adapt to either direction that’s prevalent in Destroyer Of The Void.

Now we just need an album focused enough on one of those directions to determine if Blitzen Trapper has decided to put down the joint or the horse saddle.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Mojo

Hot off the class-reunion jam of Mudcrutch, Petty attempts to bring a similar sense of noodling over to the Heartbreakers. The most glaring question is “Why?” considering the bands under-appreciated keep-it-simple-stupid approach on record and cole slaw grind while on stage.

With that sense of “Let’s ring up the fellas and play guitar awhile” approach out of the picture with Mojo, Petty’s twelfth album with the Heartbreakers sounds like lazy meanderings and the most uninspired collection of songs in his otherwise impressive catalog.

It’s clear that the time with Mudcrutch, road work with the Black Crowes, and the stark reality that Petty and the Heartbreakers are at a point where they should be a handsomely rewarded, perennial touring unit at this point, the band seems to be carefully considering life as a jam band. The shitty thing is-even with these reportedly first and second take songs-the Heartbreakers sound stiff and anemic throughout Mojo.

There are no wrong notes, no derring-do, nothing to suggest the performances wrinkled anyone’s shirts or brought a sweat to the brow of those involved.
Take the song that comes close to raising a pulse, “I Should Have Known It.” New drummer the dude-who-isn’t-Stan-Lynch, kicks out a big, wide open beat while Petty and Mike Campbell work out a snaky pattern on guitar. It’s wonderful on paper and well performed, so why does the band sound like they’re counting the measures to the abrupt stops before the chorus.

“US 41” tries hard to stir up some Delta snarl, but even with Campbell’s wonderfully toned slide guitar and Petty’s distorted vocals for an antiquated effect, the song is delivered so monochromatically that the color blue is nowhere near it.

But nothing will prepare you for the absolutely worst Tom Petty song of all time, a track so embarrassingly bad that you’ll prey for Jeff Lynne to burst in to start an intervention. The song is “Don’t Pull Me Over,” performed in the same ballpark of Eric Clapton’s “I Shot The Sherriff,” only an exclusively white ballpark. Yes, it’s a reggae-infused song about being driving high and seeing a cop in the rear-view window and yes, it’s worse than you could possibly imagine.

Around this point, you’ll inevitably come to realize that you’ll breezed through a good chunk of time to get to “Don’t Pull Me Over” and the album still has a few more time requirements. Whether or not you choose to spend them with the rest of Mojo is a matter for consideration, but it’s something you normally experience on other Heartbreakers albums.

Because Mojo fails on another level, and it’s the ability to get it done in a nice, efficient manner. It carries on and on, to a point where it goes beyond authenticity and hovers right around the avenue of self-indulgence. It possesses none of the virile passion its title would suggest and is a flaccid attempt at trying to sound loose while sounding too uptight to even get it up.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Wolf Parade - Expo 86

It’s album number three for Wolf Parade, and we’re finally getting a sense of them as a band rather than a press sheet bio of performers who sound an awful lot like or who run around with you know who.

Maybe all of that name-checking and recommended if you like comparisons have prompted a darker hue with Expo 86, but I like the end result-which is also another way of saying that I didn’t think as highly of Apologies To The Queen Mary as everyone else seemed to.

Or maybe it was Ugly Casanova.

I lean more towards the Dan Boeckner material, probably because Expo 86 marks the first Wolf Parade that lives up to its lobos billing. Don’t worry, there’s still a bunch of that obligatory analog synthesizer wallpaper to match all of the pussyboy squeaks, yelps, and nervous vocal ticks that Boeckner and Spencer Krug dish up on the records’ eleven tracks. The fact that they’re manning up with guitars and letting the drummer kick the shit out his kit more than the snare ‘n bass drum simplicity of Apologies is a nice touch too.

All of the racket helps blur the line between the absurd (“We built this city on cocaine and lasers”-“Pobodys Nerfect”) and the damn-near witty (“The body takes the heart from place to place”-“Little Golden Age”), but more importantly it intrigues the listener just enough to put Expo 86 on repeat.

And repeated listens enable you to discover how Wolf Parade are learning the very important art of rocking the blues away-figuratively of course, because there’s no way that Howlin Wolf would sound as close to giving up as Boeckner and Krug do every time they seem to open their mouths.

A minor complaint would be that the band gets so wrapped up in their own chemistry that Expo 86 can leave the timid fans in their wake, the inevitable “Did I do that?” Urkelism once the crash cymbal fades and the guitar feedback ends. It’s about five to ten minutes too long to be considered a great piece of work and the closer “Cave-O-Sapien” begins with such wonderful abandon that it’s a shame that it ends with such a blue-balls slow fade.


Wolf Parade have finally delivered an album that’s closer to the gloating praise it’s received for lesser efforts.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Friday, November 19, 2010

And I Can't Stop Thinkin' 'Bout That Thing Between My Legs: Whatever Happened To Blue Hippos?

There were so many good bands that came out of the Twin Cities during the 80’s that it’s a shame you only know about two or three of them.

Blue Hippos were one of those bands that you’ve forgotten or never heard about, but back in the late 80’s they seemed like they could be one of those bands that was ready to fall in line with the more notorious acts of the Minneapolis area.

Blessed with a shit-hot guitarist by the name of Paul Osby and featuring former bassist for Riflesport (another Twin City gem), this trio cooked up some sloppy funk and hinted at upper Midwest soul.

Whatever that means.

Their records for Twin/Tone only told half the story. The other half could be found in their great live show, where Osby usually ended up sweating through his shirt while still managing to deliver jive with his sunglasses on.

Sometimes they’d bring on a saxophonist with them to really bring out the Fun House freak flags.

The rumor-and again, this is tenth tier scuttlebutt that probably isn’t true-was that Osby battled with addiction until the momentum was so far from the Blue Hippos that is was impossible to regain it.

Some favorites from back then include the fun “Can’t Stop Thinkin’” from Forty Forty and the legendary “Drug Party” from their debut e.p.

Below is a rare clip of that song, featuring the drummer falling out of time right at the beginning.

Because you can’t have sloppy funk without the sloppy parts.

Did you notice that can of Jolt soda sitting on one of the amps?

The night of that video, the band opened (that's why their gear is in front) for Run Westy Run who was opening for Soul Asylum.

Betcha that was a good show.

What’s crazy is that there are a bunch of Twin/Tone bands that only ended up selling around 2,000 copies during their initial run. To me, bands like Blue Hippos, Run West Run, The Magnolias, etc. all seemed like huge stars. Maybe a tier below the Mats or Husker Du or Soul Asylum, but still worthy enough that you didn’t dare approach them or carry on a conversation with the members.

That, my friends, is how rumors get started.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Twilight Singers Return With Their First New Album In Five Years

From the promotional department of Sub Pop records comes this bit of interest. I could have sworn that an Afghan Whigs reunion was immenant, but this press release from last week demonstrates otherwise:

"Considering the success and critical mass Greg Dulli has enjoyed over the past two years with The Gutter Twins (with his long time friend Mark Lanegan), it’s almost hard to believe that there hasn’t been a new album from his band The Twilight Singers since the 2006 release of Powder Burns. Finally, that wait is almost over.

Sub Pop Records will release Dynamite Steps, The Twilight Singers fifth album, on February 15th, 2011 worldwide. While long time Twilight Singers and now Gutter Twins fans will certainly find what they’re looking for with this release, Dynamite Steps goes further with it’s ambition both sonically and confessionally than ever before.

The album explores the thin line between life and death, mortality and immortality, resignation and celebration—that mythical moment when your life flashes before your eyes, drawn out here over the course of eleven songs.

Clearly the next chapter in an already long and stellar career for Dulli, Dynamite Steps reaches a whole new level of catharsis and progression, evocatively cramming all the highs and lows of the maverick singer-songwriter’s past half-decade into unexpected sonic trapdoors. The opening track “Last Night In Town” encapsulates that vibe, setting the stage for the emotional thrill ride that’s about to come over the rest of the album.

Dynamite Steps was “shot on location” at various locales significant to Dulli’s life. You can hear the sense of place emanating up from the grooves: here, the weary nighttime decadence of New Orleans rubs up against the oppressive sunshine of Los Angeles and the desolation of Joshua Tree’s desert vistas. Various guests make contributions to the album including: Ani DiFranco, Joseph Arthur, Petra Haden, Nick McCabe (The Verve), and of course Mark Lanegan.

Since the late 80’s Greg Dulli has been a musical force to be reckoned with. Rising to fame as the magnetic leader of the Afghan Whigs during the 80’s & 90’s. As the Whigs split up at the end of the decade, Dulli followed his muse and began to innovatively fuse post-punk, soul and electronic sounds in his post-Whigs collective The Twilight Singers, who released their first album, Twilight As Played By The Twilight Singers, in 2000. Their beloved second album Blackberry Belle followed in 2003, followed by a covers album She Loves You in 2004. 2006’s Powder Burns made many critics “Best Of” year end lists.

In 2008 Sub Pop veterans Dulli and Mark Lanegan returned to the label as The Gutter Twins for their debut album Saturnalia. The band toured the world over for two years, made SPIN’s Top 20 Albums Of The Year list and performed on Later With Jools Holland and the Late Show With David Letterman.

Greg Dulli is currently in the middle of his stripped down retrospective “An Evening With Greg Dulli” tour where after seeing his New York performance the Village Voice stated, “His voice is a soulful rasp that can spit out invective as easily as it can seduce a lover into believing his lies… the music he's made throughout his career straddles the gap between early Amerindie's spitfire and soul's hip-thrusting.”

Prior to the start of the tour, Dulli made one of the new Twilight Singers tracks “Blackbird And The Fox” available for free download from their website – .

The Twilight Singers will announce their worldwide touring plans for 2011 shortly."

Full Track Listing For Dynamite Steps
1. Last Night In Town
2. Be Invited
3. Waves
4. Get Lucky
5. On The Corner
6. Gunshots
7. She Was Stolen
8. Blackbird And The Fox
9. Never Seen No Devil
10. The Beginning Of The End
11. Dynamite Steps

For more information please visit:

Here's something from the Twilight Singers a few years back, a clip so awesome that you'll wonder why they aren't playing venues as big as some Disney teen act. Dulli's a bit heavier now that in his fighting days with Afghan Whigs, but the life that brought him a few extra pounds also brought him some additional perspective. Tell me that your heart doesn't get a little weak when he turns it on around the five minute mark, dropping to his knees to preach a little rock and roll to the crowd.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Whadya Mean It's 'Too Rough To Feed Me?' Gimmie A Sandwich, Cookie

Thirty five years ago, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank into Lake Superior.

A year later, you couldn’t go more than an hour before you’d hear Gordon Lightfoot’s six-minute history lesson called “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” on the radio.

It was awesome.

Still is.

It’s a spooky little nugget filled with a few historical inaccuracies (some of which Lightfoot has even apologetically commented on) but it’s also filled with such compelling narrative that you’re locked in so tight throughout the entire song.

Play it for a kid, and I’ll bet you can see their brain move from all the visuals going on in their head.

The “big lake they call ‘Gitche Gumee’” line.

The defeated goodbye of “Fellas, it’s been good to know ya’.”

The church bells that rang 29 times.

Damn right it’s on the top five best songs about death, Laura’s dad edition.

When it was released, a friend of my folks (whom I’ve referenced before on this blog) bought a bunch of records one week, one of them happened to be Gordon Lightfoot’s Summertime Dream.

He was spellbound by “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,”and not just because the song was good.

It was also because it had relevance to him.

He was a member of the coast guard, and he would later be stationed in a lighthouse on Lake Michigan.

I’m sure that song played in his head a few times before the move to Michigan and probably a few times more when he had to face Mother Nature when the gales of November came early.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Who Is Harry Nilsson? (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him?)

I’m not sure how this Netflix Wii feature works, but it’s thoroughly entertaining.

I understand that not all of my Netflix queue movies will work as an immediate download-probably some licensing bullshit issues that I don’t care about-but it seems that some titles appear randomly and then disappear, making the game console feature the equivalent of another movie channel, but with the benefit of getting to play the titles when I want.

And last night I wanted to watch the new movie about Harry Nilsson.


It’s one of those documentaries where you immediately want to go out and buy a bunch of Nilsson records, making mental notes of the song samples that come up so you know what to look for later.

For me it’s the song that sings a increasing tally of past years-1941, 1945, etc.-presumably an annual autobiography on events from Nilsson’s past.

And if you know anything about Harry, much of his past was surrounded by turmoil.

Who Is Harry Nilsson? (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?) is a detailed glimpse into this criminally neglected artist, providing a refresher course into the man’s repertoire while painting a fascinating narrative of the man’s personal speedbumps that continuously arise.

I was prepared for the drunkenness; Harry Nilsson was the first person I thought John Lennon might have been with when I first learned that he’d been shot. Nilsson’s exploits were well known to me, and I thought that would have been the only explanation why Lennon would have been shot in the first place.

But Lennon as it turned out had found comfort in family while Nilsson continued on his downward spiral.

The revelation to me is pre-Nilsson Schmilsson. It’s an era of his career that I’m not at all familiar with, aside from the obvious hits.

If I was prepared for the shenanigans resulting from his excess, I certainly wasn’t prepared for how beautiful his voice was for that first record.

I didn’t know that he destroyed that beautiful instrument during the Pussycats sessions with John Lennon.

The film has a wonderful variety of interview subjects, from the slightly irrelevant (Robin Williams) to the long-forgotten (Paul Williams). But the most sentimental are the ones from the musicians and producers who worked with Nilsson first hand, the ones that know the real devastation of his passing.

And now, thanks to this comprehensive retrospective on the life of Harry Nilsson, the rest of us can understand that devastation too.

Monday, November 8, 2010

We Hear The Playback, And It Seems So Long Ago

It’s my fault.

On my IPod, I’ve created several playlists that are labeled as radio stations. So when I want to listed to reggae, I might play my reggae playlist called “K-JAH.”

If I’m in a metal mood, I tune to “K-IRON.”

And if I let the kids sweet talk me into “their” music, I may dial up “K-KID.”

There is very little actual kids music on it. It may have a couple of Laurie Berkner tracks and it may have a song or two from Yo Gabba Gabba, but it is essentially a bunch of tracks that I remember liking as a kid and lots of cutesy cuts that I imagined that my kids would find endearing.

I’ve had luck with my selections, proving that if I know you long enough and if I know a little about your musical tastes, I could probably whip up a good mix-tape that you’ll enjoy.

Except my wife. I still haven’t figured out her.

But the little ones are easy. The only thing that’s annoying is how when they find a “favorite,” they’ll want to hear it over and over again.

If you check out my track listings, you’ll notice that The Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb” is my most played track ever.

Want to know how it got that way?

Because some three year old girl keeps requesting it in the car.

My wife receives the brunt of it, mainly because she doesn’t say “No.” For me, music is important enough that I have a firm line drawn in the sand so that my ears ignore the request line in the back seat.

As a result, if you look at my wife’s IPod tally, Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” is the number one most played track on her device, and it continues to add up because of a certain princesses daily request.

I’ve stopped the growth of “Cherry Bomb,” but there’s a new fear with another song.

The song is The Buggles’ “Video Killed The Radio Star.”

Ironically, The Buggles have undertaken a reunion, to which I’m curious if their set list is anything beyond that song. I actually think that the reunion thing is merely a one-off performance, as I’m sure Trevor Horn understands quite well that The Buggles’ notoriety is as a one-hit wonder that kicked off MTV.
My three-year old daughter doesn’t know this.

Hell, my wife was born when “Video Killed The Radio Star” was first released, so I’m sure she doesn’t know it either.

And all I know is how cute it is when my little girl is in the bathtub singing that chorus.

Then, just as I’m conditioning her hair (I did mention she’s a princess, right?) she looks at me and asks.

“Daddy, what does ‘rewind’ mean?”

Before too long, she’ll want to know what the word “video” means too.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Regarding The Awesomeness Of Joe Pernice's "Prince Valium"

Overcome By Happiness is where I first learned about the Pernice Brothers, or specifically, Joe Pernice. I have no idea how I discovered them. In fact, it wasn’t until I fell in love wit that album before I knew about Scud Mountain Boys or that everything was pretty much a project of Joe’s. In fact, I assumed that the Pernice Brothers were some kind of brotherly project, like the Bee Gees or the Beach Boys or any other band that’s fronted by siblings.

Needless to say, I fell in love with Overcome By Happiness and wanted more. In the process of discovery, I found my favorite song ever by Joe Pernice-a song that came from a solo effort.

Or at least from a solo effort from the album Big Tobacco.

In the process of trying to help you discover how awesome this song is, I could only come up with an audience member video of a solo acoustic performance. The original version is a lot better and the lyrics are utterly stunning.

Hopefully, the greatness of this track transcends the quality of the video and you’re able to hear the words of my favorite Joe Pernice track ever.

I’d recommend Overcome By Happiness first; as a whole record, it’s much better than Big Tobacco. But if you’re not a completists or if you’re not one that needs to have the complete release, then go over to ITunes and spend the buck or so on “Prince Valium.”

If you need proof of the greatness of the lyrics, they’re reprinted below.

Follow along and weep; I swear I lived this track at one point in my life.

Once or twice to kill my pain
And once to bring it back again
Though I never leaned so heavy on a song

It’s the losing end that will bring you down
So broke and lonely you won’t be found
Though you pray sometime you’ll go back there again

Because the cure is long and coming
And it never lasts so long
Guess a little was just a little too much to ask you for

Maybe once or twice, for the last time try
And once to let my feelings die
I can’t remember if we both survived

Always knew you’d be going
But I did not know just when
So help me Lord, get me stoned again

Update: In the quest for these lyrics, I found out that there’s an artist with Caesar that has a song named “Prince Valium.” It’s not the same tune, and I don’t know why someone wouldn’t tell Caesar “Hey, you know Joe Pernice has a song that’s also called ‘Prince Valium,’ so you may want to change yours a bit because Pernice’s version is incredible.”

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Lessons Beneath The Surface With Geoff Bartley

I understand why kids flunk out of college.

When you’re eighteen, you know the difference between right and wrong and you think you know independence, but you really don’t know shit.

It’s difficult making the transition without your parents or some authoritative figure present. You get swayed by booze, drugs, and the very idea that you’re in control of your life can be a bit overwhelming if you’re not ready for it.

The notion that you have to get up for an 8:00 am class without the help of a nagging mother to assist takes responsibility. That responsibility also comes into play the night before, when your friends think it would be fun to go out and get drunk. The choice is yours, and there are some students who just don’t get the idea that maybe it’s best to stay home and study, or at the very least, go home early instead of waiting until they’re blotto and the bar tells them to go home after last call.

You want to socialize; it’s a new environment and you don’t have the luxury of your traditional support system present-so you try to build new ones in bars, dorm rooms, and vague parties that you’ve caught wind of from someone you vaguely know.

Do you go to that party, or do you do the right thing and stay home to study?

For those who “get it” and understand the reason why you’re at university in the first place, you stay home. I lost track of the number of people who chose to go out instead, only to find themselves with their funding cut at the end of the semester, or worse, their grades reduced to shit, to the point where they are asked to leave.

We would then hear about their decision to “take a break” from college for a while or how they were going to a community college part time or going back home to work to get a little extra money.

For those that managed to get by, we didn’t press the issue with our defeated counterparts. We accepted their explanation because we understood how easy it was to make the wrong decision and get caught up in this newfound freedom.

On one particular night, I was forced to make a similar decision. Several friends in my residence hall had decided to go out for a weeknight celebration. There was a test that I needed to study for, so I passed on the festivities. My roommate also decided to stay behind, something that he would often do in these situations. His girlfriend from back home also went to the same university, and they would frequently just hang out in our room and watch television.

Because of this distraction, and because I understood the need to leave lovebirds alone, I packed my things and decided to study in the student union.

Of course, the student union provides its own distractions if you allow it. There’s the obligatory fast food options, a couple of rooms with big screen televisions, the continual influx of students and on this particular evening, the sound of a man playing an acoustic guitar.

There was barely an audience, but he was good enough to get my attention. I left my study materials and backpack at my table and went over to the performer, finding a spot in a big cushion chair close by.

The artist was Geoff Bartley.

I don’t suspect that you’ve heard of Geoff Bartley, and there was even less recognition of him back then. He had a self-released album to his repertoire and he was in the midst of what was probably a very lonely and never-ending tour of collegiate one-nighters and public radio appearances.

He was a folk artist who expertly maneuvers around his hollowbody with a lilting, fingerpicking style of playing. He choice of genre meant that he could travel light and could probably book live dates on the fly if needed. I wondered if his Cedar Falls stop was more of an afterthought than a predetermined date given the sparse audience until I noticed a Xerox flier that announced an earlier performance on Live From Studio One, a weekly live show at KUNI.

Evidently, Bartley had walked from the show at the radio station and set up shop for an impromptu performance in the student union. Since very few students actually listen to the folk-heavy Live From Studio One show, there were not very many people (including myself) who even knew that Bartley would be there aside from a couple of student workers who moved a few tables to give the performer some room to work.

It was a soothing, northeastern baritone that drew me closer to the gig, but it was an instrumental piece that had me considering something to take home. I noticed an album, Blues Beneath The Surface, which was available to purchase.

The title track that impressed me the most, that and a gentle folk love song called “Who Should Know.” Both were good enough for me to feel sorry for Bartley, sorry for the fact that his student union performance wasn’t promoted better.

I was also sorry for the fact that only a handful of people were paying attention while a much larger crowd of students continued on with their students, and most of them were too busy socializing rather than truly studying.

Bartley clearly did his own studies and I’d like to think that the evening’s chance encounter made it possible to understand the long-term reward of working hard. I’m sure there were other places that Bartley would have preferred to be at instead of a student union at some Midwestern university filled with spoiled kids, but did his set, endured the indifference of his tiny audience, and quietly packed away his gear in solitude afterwards.

He thought that his performance was one of such anonymity that he was gone after I had gone back to retrieve my backpack and collect my things. I wanted to buy a copy of Blues Beneath The Surface, but it seemed that fate and Bartley’s lesson of hard work would be one that I’d only be able to remember on my own.

I went back to my table by a bank of pay phones and noticed one with an acoustic guitar case leaning against the outside glass. Inside one of them was Bartley talking on the phone to someone, the smoke of his cigarette rising up towards the florescent light at the top of his booth. I waited until he was finished, surprising him with a request to buy his record.

I still have that record, and after playing it recently, I was reminded of this story. A quick search of the internet shows that Bartley continues to perform regularly at a local restaurant and at various coffeehouses around the Massachusetts area.

He doesn’t appear to tour much anymore, so it’s a good bet that I won’t be able to see him live again. But I still appreciate the one, chance moment when I did see him, on a night where I set out to acknowledge my responsibility and invest in my adult independence only to be distracted by music once again.

Nevertheless, Geoff Bartley taught me something that my over-priced textbooks simply couldn’t.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ye vs Bush2

According to former President Bush, the worst moment of his presidency came when Kayne West uttered his unscripted tirade against the president during a Hurricane Katrina fundraising effort.

It was during the moment when Ye remarked that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” which caused me to do a spit-take and caused Mike Myers to shit his pants on live television.

As awesome as that moment was, the fact that it ranks as the worst moment of his presidency is curious. I’m reminded of my own mantra that if you begin a sentence with “I’m not a racist but…” and then follow it with your own warped take on race, then you are indeed a racist.

The fact that a rap artist who is notorious for creating controversy by saying/doing a lot of stupid things at the spur of the moment created such a lasting impact on the former leader of the free world, speaks volumes to me.

It makes me think that George Bush indeed, does not care about black people.
Could there be any other explanation?

I completely understand that if you believe that you feel you’re not racist and someone comes up and says “You’re racist!” you immediately get defensive and want to make a comment contrary to it.

But if the offending comment comes at the hand of an attention-seeking performer who is speaking from unconfirmed perception, then one should be able to see that the person is ill-advised to make such a broad statement and have enough temerity to argue against such falsehoods.

They then should be able to move along, particularly a president who must face all sorts of criticism-both reality based and irrational ones-on a never-ending basis.
Not George. He’s clearly fixated on this one off-the-wall comment without recognizing that the source is completely irrelevant to the topic.

So if he’s still dwelling on it, it makes me consider that George Bush really does have issues with black people and that anyone who suggests that he might have issues with people of color, a weird defensive stance gets triggers within him, a fear that has him considering that others recognize his hidden racism.

Another theory might be that Bush has an obsessive personality that prompts an unhealthy attention towards anyone that he perceives as a threat.

It certainly was the case with Saddam Hussein. He publically stated that Hussein threatened his “daddy” which translated into a war that was started under the guise of protecting America’s security.

Could it be that the war with Iraq was triggered by a verbal threat from an alientated dictator?

Could it be that similar obsessions on the perception of racism triggered these feelings of defensiveness, to the point where he’s still troubled by it today?
As callused as Bush’s response (or lack thereof) to Katrina was, there wasn’t anything that blatantly suggested racism. On the surface, it seemed that it was yet another example of this inept president bungling yet another disaster, thanks in large-part to an administration that was focused on skull fucking their ideology on the American people instead of utilizing the time needed to tackle the disaster head on.

Kayne or anyone else is welcome to imply that this foot-dragging is the result of racism, but that doesn’t mean it’s true and, more importantly, it doesn’t mean that you should define that kind of comment as the “worst moment of your presidency.”

One would think that every human life lost on 9/11, or the soldiers and innocent civilians who perished as a result of the two wars that came after the attack would rank as a lower moment for the president than any misguided comment from a rap star.

So does the hurt result from the pointed jab of Kanye West’s verbal sucker-punch, or is the sting the result of the truth smacking back at Bush’s white guilt