Friday, December 31, 2010

The Baker's Dozen 2010

So. What the hell happened this year?

It’s like the crazy-juice that we supposedly banned after Obama got elected somehow got its formula changed and is now part of the Tea Party company.
And now it’s made with extra crazy!

Thankfully, new music was in full bloom which made narrowing down a list to just thirteen fairly difficult.

At least some things stay the same.

After considering a large list, narrowing it down some, and then breaking it down to the top thirteen with an obligatory honorable mention of thirteen more.

1. Roky Erickson with Okkervil River True Love Cast Out All Evil

It helps if you know the story of Roky Erickson before listening to True Love Cast Out All Evil, because it makes its impact a lot more noticeable. But even if you’re not familiar with Erickson’s incredible tale of redemption, True Love paints an aural biography for you, one that will undoubtedly have you discovering more about this man’s legacy. Truly inspiring.

2. Kanye WestMy Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

At these prices, you’d be silly not to check out Kanye’s tale of discontent. His issues with ego, fame, and his own talent are presented in this challenging record that is both catchy and clever. After watching Ye come close to getting crucified for some of the most ridiculous “controversies” that our lazy media conjured up, MBDTF comes across as a welcomed ball of vitriol that ends up being the best rap album in a long time.

3. High On Fire Snakes For The Divine

For years, Matt Pike seems pretty content with delivering album after album of solid metal. With Snakes For The Divine, he ramps up his ambition and delivers his first album that matches the brilliance of the genre’s most notable efforts.

4. Paul Weller Wake Up The Nation

Another impressive rebirth as Weller gets back to the Mod swagger of his youth. It is, quite simply-the best work since The Jam while managing to be more consistent than his old trio’s own output. Getting older has its advantages, but the Modfather sounds like he’s having a blast during his second wind.

5. Pantha Du Prince Black Noise

With probably the most perfect cover-the music sounds like it was created in a cabin in the Alps-Pantha Du Prince combines organic ambience with subtle beats into a deceivingly brilliant effort. This will no-doubtedly become an electronic reference point but Black Noise’s quality will be apparent to any music fan. A perfect soundtrack to winter, Pantha Du Prince has created a warm counterpoint to electronic music’s traditionally cold landscapes.

6. Vampire Weekend Contra

Not only does Vampire Weekend overcome the sophomore slump with Contra, they manage to explain the hype of their over-rated debut through sheer musicianship. They’ve won me over-hands down-with this quirky and complex gem of mood improving music, and if you let your own cynical guard down a bit, you might just hear it’s impressiveness too.

7. The National High Violet

Stunningly good. The first half sounded a bit too slow at first, but now I’m wondering if it’s a matter of pacing. Because the second half of High Violet is about as good as you can get in rock. It’s a perfect soundtrack for these troubled times, with references to the economy (“I still owe money to the money I owe”), the war (“It’ll take a better war to kill a college man like me”) and how the past decade was ruled through fear (“Venom radio/Venom television/I’m afraid of everyone.”). If the next decade is just as bad, The National will just get that much better.

8. DeerhunterHalcyon Digest

By my accounts, Deerhunter are probably the most consistently good American band operating today, and each record seems to further affirm how talented they are. Halcyon Digest builds upon a few layers of accessability, but it includes the band’s wonderful penchant for Velvet jangles (“Desire Lines”) and Brandon Cox’s love of atmospheric textures.

9. Best Coast Crazy For You

Just a cute little scurvy pop record that’s perfect for anyone who doesn’t mind limited songwriting, primitive musicianship, and an abundant amount of beach blanket bingo. A fun, thirty-minute distraction that could have easily been a guilty pleasure if it wasn’t so awesome.

10. Titus Andronicus The Monitor

Nothing like reaching for the skies when a bunch of New Jersey boys ape Born To Run and Rum, Sodomy and the Lash in equal measures. Titus Andronicus write and perform like it’s their last musical statement ever. And when it doesn’t fall over from the weight of its own Ritalin-aided spaz, it damn near reaches the heights of those aforementioned classics.

11. WavvesKing Of The Beach

Another shameless blast of 80’s pop-punk that also manages to place Wavves’ frontman Nathan Williams in a better light than his previous offerings. Thanks to a bigger production, Wavves is no longer a band of enormous hype and dubious talents, they are contenders who finally found out that clearing your head occasionally gives you the clarity to create a tremendous album.

12. Wolf Parade Expo 86

Another record planted firmly in the sonic landscape of the 80’s with a firm eye towards tomorrow. Expo 86 sounds as wide-eyed and nervous as the moment you tossed your graduation cap up in the air, only to ponder “Now what?” It’s also the first Wolf Parade album that sounds like it was created by a band instead of just a side-project. And what a good sound that is.

13. The Sword Warp Riders

A concept album of sci-fi proportions that fueled by laser-tight guitar chords and asteroid destroying tempos. There’s a bit more shitkicking in the guitar chords than other comparable metal band mining from the same creative pool, which makes The Sword a unique fixture in the genre and Warp Riders one of metal’s high points.

I'm sure that other albums will crop up after posting this, causing havoc on the overall list. While I'm confident that the Baker's Dozen will remain as listed, the real danger comes in the following honorable mention, which has changed about a dozen times prior to this post.

14. Arcade Fire The Suburbs
15. The Fall Your Future Our Clutter
16. Gil-Scott Heron I’m New Here
17. Holy Fuck - Latin
18. Serena-Maneesh SM2: Abyss In B Minor
19. Bryan Ferry Olympia
20. Morning Benders Big Echo
21. Love Is All Two Thousand And Ten Injuries
22. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists The Brutalist Bricks
23. ShearwaterThe Golden Archipelago
24. Bob Dylan The Witmark Demos
25. FoalsTotal Life Forever
26. No Age Everything In Between

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Big Dipper - All Going Out Together

It's a song about nuculer annihilation, but it's often misheard as a song about getting ready to go out on the town.

Big Dipper was/is one of those forgotten bands that probably deserved a lot more than they received. What they received was a blurb review in People of which this gem can be found on.

Here's some footage of the band performing what may be their best known song from 1988.

Post your own New Year's Eve plans and I'll read them while staying home watching Female Trouble.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Wavves - King Of The Beach

I’ll confess that Nathan Williams’ erratic behavior at last year’s Primavera Sound Festival sure looked like the crash landing of yet another internet darling, ending Wavves ascension almost quickly as it began. Primavera was the type of event that reeked of another example of what happens when we put notoriety before talent. It was perfect ammunition for the cynics, dutifully pointing out how the internet scenemakers are just as awful at picking tomorrow’s talent as the dumbasses at major labels.

Wavves’ frontman, Nathan Williams-the same Einstein who thought that combining ecstasy, Xanax, and Valium before performing in front of a bunch of paying customers would be a good thing-sounds like he’s put down the drugs long enough to deliver on all that promise and hype. King Of The Beach finds Williams putting the portastudio in the closet and stepping into a real studio. Whether it was that act-or an inherent need to prove himself after last year’s debacle-the album works as both an attempt at redemption and one that completely vilifies his prior acclaim.

The full spectrum production lets all the hooks, melody and charm shine through. Williams bounces from spastic surf pop to primitive Beach Boys harmonies to garage rock rave-ups. But producer Dennis Herring introduces elements of wiggy psychedelia and chillwave trances that would find a home on Merriweather Post Pavilion. Regardless of whatever twists and turns Williams finds himself navigating, King Of The Beach handles the road with the kind of confidence of an artist that’s completely in control of their senses and their creativity.

The concern then becomes if this sudden burst of sonic maturity has dulled Wavves’ sense of recklessness. Thankfully, Williams’ lyrics remain as childish as ever, including a completely unwarranted fear of the ocean, water, and yes-waves.

He waxes on and on about worthlessness, spinning themes of self-loathing into fun pop bursts. On “Idiot,” he offers a half-assed explanation for his poor behavior and a feeble attempt at an apology. “I’m not supposed to be a kid” he claims, “But I’m an idiot/I’d say I’m sorry/But it wouldn’t be shit.” And underneath his psychoanalysis lies a peppy “Sha la lala la la” backdrop, pointing out that his suggestion of stupidity is merely a cover-up, hiding a very smart artist that has the potential of being around for quite a long time.

Provided, of course, that he can keep his hands away from the pharmaceuticals and on the studio control board instead.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Foals - Total Life Forever

It’s going to take a few spins to appreciate Foals’ muse-for the first few plays of their second release, I put it in the increasingly growing category of bands that count Talking Heads’ Fear Of Music as their primary business model.

I also thought it was a re-issue of Catherine Wheel’s Chrome album until I looked at the cover art more closely.

After a few more listens, I began to notice all of those math-rock influences that Foals’ members claim to have instilled in them.

So in addition to Fear Of Music, check out their love of Don Caballero’s American Don and watch how they turn Total Life Forever into a rhythmic avalanche of interloping guitar patterns and paradiddled high-hats.

Foals may be building to some form of release throughout Total Life Forever’s eleven tracks, but lyrically it sounds like what began the construction was dismal stuff.

“You were better than anything that ever came before” vocalist Yannis Philippakis pleads during “After Glow,” his voice breaking like the most heart wrenching Robert Smith moment, “Without you here to save me, save me from the door.” At that moment, the band kicks into overdrive before undertaking a polyrhythm shuffle, complete with cleanly picked staccatos and roller-coaster feedback.

Probably the most head-spinning moment comes after you’ve progressed through Total Life Forever a few times. It’s “Miami,” one of the record’s shortest tracks and certainly the most accessible, complete with sweet backing vocals and concise groove. Yannis asks, “Will you be there for me in Miami” before asking the significant other if they’re up to the task of saving him again from some other turmoil.

Total Life Forever isn’t without certain faults. That “Miami” track is probably my least favorite, but the one that will ultimately gain the biggest attraction; it’s bouncy appeal becoming the record’s most unnatural entry.

It’s about 10 minutes too long which means that a lot of those plucked guitars and tail-wagging grooves begin to sound alike after a while, only to have their identities come forward after spending additional time.

The good news is that additional attention is pleasurable and makes Total Life Forever a rewarding listen. It also means that the subtlety may make Foals’ impressive second album one that ultimately gets overlooked-a casualty of Philippakis’ sweet vocals and the band’s own ease at building beauty from their doubt and misery.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Under Shrink Wrap

I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about Christmas one last time, specifically what I got for Christmas that is music related. I do this because there is nobody except you readers that could appreciate it-my own family really has no idea the impact that music has on me. Growing up, I’d throw down records that I wanted as Christmas gifts, and inevitably I’d get “What do you want besides records?” to help fill in the gaps that couldn’t be filled with just a visit to the record store.

But of all things, my Mother-in-Law seems to be making an effort to understanding as evidenced by a Christmas present that wasn’t on any list.

She said that she had read my post on the Bruce Springsteen documentary, where I confessed that I never owned Darkness On The Edge Of Town and that I’d probably seek out the re-issue set sometime later.

Instead of doing the obvious-merely ordering that newly issued edition-she sought out an original vinyl edition. Not only that, but the copy I ended up getting was a sealed copy, complete with the promotional sticker “Contains ‘Badlands’.”

Now I’m at a dilemma: break the seal and listen to the record just like I would have in 1978, or keep it sealed. I do have one of those album cover picture frame things where the shrink-wrapped album could be displayed nicely, but it almost seems like defaulting on the integrity of the music of Christmas past.

I would always retreat and listen to my presents, absorbing whatever information I could about the gift.

It’s not about wanting the value to keep increasing on the album-I don’t think Darkness is that rare of a commodity-but it’s not every day where you can find a sealed record that’s over thirty years old.

Whatever the decision, it’s a great gift and it reminded me how something, which may seem insignificant to others, still means a lot to me.

Share your own Christmas music booty in the comments.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas From Glam-Racket!

I have no idea where this Glam-Racket tradition started and I have no idea how to stop it. But Happy Holidays with our annual revisiting of R. Kelly’s Trapped In The Closet saga.
Merry Christmas to all.
And to all, a midget.

Friday, December 24, 2010

David Bowie & Bing Crosby - Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth

I know there is an update version-a parody which is more creepy than funny-but for me, the original is (obviously) still the best and just as weird.

Because the notion of David Bowie-fresh off of the androgyny of Ziggy Stardust and still considered a fringe rock artist in the mainstream-sitting down to croon a duet with Bing Crosby was absolutely bonkers back when this song was done for a Crosby Merrie Olde Christmas special.

Bing died a month after recording this song.

Bowie was asked about the weird paring, admitting that he did it because his mom liked Bing Crosby. He didn’t like the song “Little Drummer Boy,” so songwriters wrote “Peace On Earth” to tack onto the more recognized classic.

I’d looked for a copy for years, under the assumption that the performance was only available as a bootleg. I learned through someone that a record collector in Waterloo, Iowa had a copy-probably more than one, actually-and that he might be able to sell me a copy.

I was in college at the time, and I had a few rarities of my own. I called up the man unannounced and offered to meet at his place to discuss options.

I return for a promotional copy of Jimi Hendrix Live At Winterland, I scored a copy of “Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth” and an eighth of an ounce of weed.

Looking at it afterwards, I realized that RCA records had actually released “Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth” as a single. “Fantastic Voyage” was the b-side, and Bowie became upset with RCA Records for the yuletide cash-in, a full five years after the song was originally broadcasted.

And for a real hoot in parody, check out this stellar version from the Venture Bros. camp.

"Come in. Come in. Come in, David Bowie. Now."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Singles 45's & Under: Tobin Mathews Orchestra - "Ruby Duby Du"

Ah yes, another one of my 45’s.

You can tell it’s mine, because (again) I’ve indentified it as such with a childish handwritten “Todd” right under the publishing information.

I do this sort of thing with cars, electronics, and furniture, but it never seems to have the same results.

“Ruby Duby Du” is performed by the Tobin Mathews “Orchestra” (more on this later) and the label states that it’s from the movie Key Witness, both of which my parents have no recollection of.

Neither Mom or Dad could identify where this record came from and neither one ever recalled going to a movie called Key Witness, the only reason I could think of why you would even buy this single.

Thanks to the internets, I’ve learned a few things about this record-and the story is intriguing.

First of all, Key Witness was a movie-evidently an overacted drama about a witness to a gang killing….1960 style-that featured none other than the late Dennis Hopper. It also features Johnny “I Can See Clearly Now” Nash in a role. The plot sounded good enough for me to include it on my Netflix queue, but I’m not holding out for a stunning piece of work.

“Ruby Duby Du” is the theme music to the movie, but from what I understand, it is a different version that the Tobin Mathews’ version.

The version here is an original pressing from Chief Records, a small label out of Chicago that asked a bunch of local musicians to re-do the song. The head of Chief Records then put together a “front-man” by calling up a local guy and asking him if he wanted to be in a band to support the labels up-and-coming hit single. The label head named the fellow “Tobin Matthews” after simply lifting the first and middle name from his own son.

Willy Henson was a guitarist from Calumet, Illinois. By the time “Ruby Duby Du” hit number 30 on the Billboard charts, he was better known as Tobin Mathews. Although Henson…er, Mathews…was well known around the Chicago scene, he didn’t play a note on the song.
I find this fascinating-a label decides to record a cover version, and after it’s recorded they decide to build a band around the session performance.

Henson had enough talent and good looks to eventually parlay the “Ruby Duby Du” gig into a couple of contracts with Warner Brothers and Columbia records.

Henson/Mathews has his own blog where he’s cataloged some of his rock music stories and photographs from his past.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Captain Beefheart - Lick My Decals Off, Baby

There’s no middle ground with Captain Beefheart, so this review is for those who have already taken the big leap into the man’s polarizing body of work and are looking for the next step.

The assumption here is that you started with Trout Mask Replica, the massive document captured by Frank Zappa that’s perceived to be Beefheart’s crowing achievement. That perception is debatable, but I won’t argue its brilliance and I won’t fault anyone who chooses it as their first ride on Beefheart’s off-the-map journey.

It’s the first Beefheart album that captures his off-center compositions, a strange blend of that aforementioned train ride that’s piloted by an engineer under the influence of tainted moonshine and too many Howlin Wolf and Ornette Coleman records.

Trout Mask Replica gets people’s first attention because it had the benefit of the Zappa affiliation. That in itself was a weird form of commercial appeal, but not in the sense that Zappa made the album accessible enough that you’d actually hear the good Captain on the airwaves. His work on the album got people to take notice, in the same way you’d want to go check out Serrano’s Piss Christ because you heard Annie Leibovitz developed the negative.

So let’s assume that you’re like me: you’ve got your Trout Mask Replica record and you’re blown away by it because there is nothing on Earth quite like it and all you know is that you need more of that.

Where do you go next?

The next logical step is to get going forward from Trout Mask Replica, right into the follow-up album, Lick My Decals Off, Baby. This single l.p. offering follows the same pattern as its predecessor, but it features a touch more of the primordial weirdness that completely eliminates the jokester aspects that Zappa tried to display on Replica with false starts and studio novelties.

If Replica was recorded “through a flies’ ear,” then Decals uses legitimate recording technology, with microphones, tape machines and combo amplifiers. It takes the inherit weirdness from its predecessor and streamlines it, packaging the off-kilter arrangements into nice Van Vliet stomps.

It’s that foot in the blues that leads me to think that Beefheart fans can become jazz fans, but not the other away around. He’s an accomplished blues shouter, which makes lines like “She stuck out her thumb, and the fun begun!” so much more authoritative than if it were uttered by Zappa, Alice, and whoever was on the Straight record label at that time.

Beefheart fills Decals with matters of the flesh, saving the smart stuff for those incredible moments of interplay and impossible chord progressions. There’s a chance that listeners not accustomed to this kind of “wrong” playing, but there are real images within those challenging passages. And when the Magic Band breaks into one of their recognizable grooves, you are very aware of how passionate their performances are, regardless of the measure.

And then there’s Vliet himself, who smartly positions political statements in between lines of absurdity. The sarcasm that fills his anti-Aquarius barb “Space-Age Couple” sounds like a prediction of the entire counter-culture crash a full half year before Altamont even took place.

Ironically, Lick My Decals Off, Baby was released during the same month as Altamont, and it died as quickly as Meredith Hunter. It seemed that there were very few people who were still interested into seeing where this strange cat was going after his bulbous double l.p.

But for those who did-and for anyone wanting to see where’s the good Captain’s ship was heading after stirring up the waters, this record is a sturdy vessel to navigate this artist’s weird waters.

It also shows that Vliet’s brilliance was not a fleeting thing. He was by this point a certifiable artistic figure that could shine very consistently-and he did so during future records.

And you didn’t need a “fly’s eye to see it” with Lick My Decals Off, Baby.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Friday, December 17, 2010

So Long Captain: Don Van Vliet R.I.P.

At first, I was dismayed at the way I learned of Don Van Vliet’s passing.

I learned about it on Facebook.

Some would claim that this is the power of the social network. That your circle of comrades will scour the internets and newswires-feeding back only the news of interest to your social strata.

I felt that the death of Captain Beefheart was deserving of a worthier announcement. It was an announcement that should be broadcasted from the top of Rockefeller Plaza. His passing should be on the bottom screen ticker at Fox News.

“Captain Beefheart, dead at the age of 69…” the closing sentence of Katie Couric’s evening news.

Then it struck me how the news of Van Vliet’s passing came from an update from the very same friend who introduced me to Captain Beefheart.

The same person who brought Captain Beefheart into my life also told me when he left it.

I’m reaching there-searching for clever metaphors that suggest how Captain Beefheart’s music will live on, and all that.

But the truth is I’m not so sure.

How often do you hear Captain Beefheart on the radio? A silly question, but the truth is, I just heard a song on the public radio station last Saturday night.

I got genuinely excited.

Because it’s a rare event, and Beefheart is one of those rare icons that created just for the sake of creating, that you can just imagine from his name that the results did not bode well for radio airplay.

Now that I recall it, my friend wasn’t actually the first time I’d heard Beefheart. The first time was watching him on Saturday Night Live performing “Hot Head.”

I hated it.

But then my friend turned me on to Trout Mask Replica while in college, and an entire world of wrong notes, vividly descriptive wordplay, and the closest thing to Howlin’ Wolf’s voice that I had ever heard, came through a lens of understanding.

From there, Lick My Decals Off, Baby.

From there, Doc At The Radar Station.

And so on.

Discovering Beefheart during a time when he wasn’t even active musically added to the attraction. What happened to him? Where did he go? Was he just another acid casualty?

You’re never forgotten on the internet, and someone put together a comprehensive Beefheart sight that advised everyone that the Captain was now just “Don” and those covers of his late-career material was, in fact, art.

It was good to know that he was doing well with his art.

You also began to get the picture that Don wasn’t doing so well health-wise. Multiple sclerosis. What cruel irony gave a man with such a vast imagination with a disease that devastates cognitive ability?

It prepared you for this day, but it doesn’t soften the blow.

I like how Don’s relationship with Zappa deteriorated when Beef felt that Zappa was painting him and his magic band as a freak show. This was serious stuff to Don, and he didn’t sweeten the mix with accessibility, or have a care in the world how his stuff was going to be marketed.

To be honest, Zappa may have been trying to do the only marketing that would have been possible with Beefheart: promote the zany sounds.

But listen closely and you’ll hear that those wacky chords are very complex. This was not a nut-job working like a monkey for Warner Bros. This was an artist who pulled the unthinkable by landing on a major label and still managed to release some heady, life-changing records that sound just as challenging now as they did when they were released some forty years ago.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Best Of Billy Joel

Admittedly, this video isn't for everyone.

My wife, for example, wouldn't think this is funny by any means.

But for me, it's a riot-all of Billy Joel's greatest hits played at the same time.

I laugh at the moment it begins; all bold from the first notes of a new hit record from Billy Joel.

And while it kicks off into chaos, it progresses into a weird blend of existential weirdness.

No wonder he had trouble with the drink!

And then the "heart attack ack ack ack ack!!" thing can be heard, and I lose it.

I'm admittedly not that familiar with "Captain Jack," the song that weirdly ends the proceedings.

I could have sworn it would have been "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant."

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Big Joe Polka Show

I don’t know if the Big Joe Polka Show is on in your area, but I do know if you have access to it, you must give it a sample.

The Big Joe Polka Show is a polka show-think of the Lawrence Welk Show with nothing but polka music-hosted by a large elderly man with white hair by the name of Joe Siedlik.

Here’s where it gets weird: there is some kind of contractual dispute between Big Joe and the station that carries his show-RFDTV, which is some kind of rural only channel from Omaha that specializes in poorly produced polka shows and shows about horses.

Evidently, the producers of the show and the station that broadcasts them are embattled in a bitter dispute to this day with allegations of “slander and defamation.”

If you’ve ever seen an episode, you’ll understand how hilarious this all is. The Big Joe Polka Show is Joe sitting on a chair, introducing polka bands and their next songs. Joe is very jovial about his introductions, sometimes telling jokes and declaring how some of the guests were invited back by popular demand.

The cameras keep a close eye on the audience-which usually contain a few dozen couples dancing to the music on a plywood floor. Some come in matching outfits-the louder the better-and some have a natural attraction to the camera-hamming it up whenever the cameraman is near.

The median age of the crowd is 70.

Al Grebnich recently came out of retirement to perform a few classics from his catalog on Nebraska records (I’m not making any of this up), which include “You Are My Sunshine.” I know this because Big Joe mentioned that Al is “still in the record and cassette business” and even admitted that he has a few 8 tracks still available.

Again, I’m not making this up and again, this was from an episode that was recorded in 2010.

Al looked to be napping while performing and he sported the same loud grey plaid suit that he bought forty years ago

But let’s not single out Al for his attire: the entire crowd looked to raid an old clothes trunk from decades past, or at least live in some kind of secret Polka society that is immune from any outside contact with the world circa 2010.

Peter and Paul Wendinger sported some newer clothes with a blue shirt that had a floral emblem. They also wore hiking shorts and cute little Czech hats. They performed their hit “Minnesota Polka” (every state seems to have their own Polka) which contains the verse:

“Fishin’ Minnesota
Fishin' Minnesota
You’re sure to hit your quota
When you fish in Minnesota”

The song ends with an offer to “have a beer in Minnesota” and even the fish themselves serve up an offer to come visit and kill them for consumption.

For some of you, this may sound like an alternate universe, but here in the Midwest, there are still Polka dances taking place and some radio stations broadcast a weekly Polka show. I’ve heard there’s even a younger contingency of Polka supporters in the Decorah, Iowa area-but there’s a lot of Norwegian up in that area, so it may just the genetic make-up.

Also of note: do you know the Grammy's no longer have a Polka category? They said that with one of the last polka awards feature at the Grammy's, there was only one nationally released effort that qualified.

Hell, I should have been looking for a gig in the Polka genre. I'd get to be on a nationally syndicated television show for exposure and have a good shot at a Grammy in a few years!

And here's another example of why SCTV may have been the funniest comedy show ever.

Fishing With Dean Ween

I don’t know why I didn’t learn about this before, but it’s awesome.

For anyone wondering what Ween does in the off-season, the answer is that we now know that half of the members are fishing…and making a living at it!

I guess I always assumed that Ween had been fully engulfed by the jam band populous that they could afford to constantly tour under the moniker and make a living.

After all-and I learned this later on-Ween is probably in peak form when they’re on stage.

Check out Ween covering Led Zeppelin.

Evidently that is not the case, and the duo must find other sources of income when the Ween machine is not on the road.

And for Dean Ween, that other source of income is taking you out as a sportfishing guide.

Want proof?

Take a visit to Mickey’s Guide Service which gives you the option of several guide packages to choose from and a list of credentials that is impressive.

But the credential that seems to me to be the most important is that he claims to be a “pretty good conversationalist.”

For real, if I had money to burn, I’d totally hook up with Captain Mickey Melchiondo and spend a day fishing with him. If things got too out of hand, he’s Red Cross certified in first aid and CPR.

Photo of Deaner courtesy of his website.

Friday, December 3, 2010

RIP Armando Javier Acosta

I don’t expect you to know who Armando Javier Acosta is and I’m not going to pretend that I’m an expert on his life.

In fact, I don’t expect many of you to know that Acosta was the drummer for a band called Saint Vitus.

I would like you to know that he passed away today, and some recognition is needed for his contribution to Saint Vitus-a doom metal band with roots in the late 70’s that borrowed not only their name from a Black Sabbath song, but also their ability to cause men to bob their heads in time to a layer of repetitive sludge.

You see, following the blueprint of Sabbath in an environment of hardcore So-Cal punk was in itself pretty punk rock back in the day.

Combine that with the fact that Black Flag regularly named this oddball bunch of longhairs to open for them is in itself pretty amazing.

“Mondo” was not particularly a great drummer, but he was great at what he did with Saint Vitus: turn their riffs into a slow motion anvil, rarely raising the heartbeat of the audience, choosing instead to just hammer away at the rib cage with the intent of stopping the vital organ altogether.

Saint Vitus were the precursor of bands like Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age, “Born Too Late” as one of their album titles explained, while never getting the recognition they deserved until after the band broke up.

In a weird case of syncronicity, my cousin sent me a copy of the recently re-issued Hallow’s Victim just days before Acosta passed away.

He was 58 years old, and while that is way too young to pass away, it surprised me that he was approaching 60. It’s hard to believe that he was approaching 30 when Saint Vitus was beginning to take off with the other early SST labelmates.

In catching up with the band’s whereabouts, it seems that Mondo left Saint Vitus after a recent reunion with the Wino line-up, with another member hinting of some personal issues between him and the other band members, which resulted in a new drummer being added to the fold for a recent set of appreciative shows.

Here’s a clip from happier times with Armando behind the kit. Check out how everyone raided the Black Flag merch table when they ran out of clean clothes.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Singles 45's and Under: Glen Campbell - Where's The Playground Susie

Here's a look at the Capitol label circa late-60's/early 70's.

Here's a Glen Campbell gem that he performed when I saw him in Riverside this summer.

Unfortunately, not everyone was so lucky. Some crowd favorites weren't performed at all.

I heard a middle-aged woman lament to her husband on the way out that Glen didn’t play “Dreams of the Everyday Housewife.”

If that was my wife, I’d say she was trying to drop a hint.

She looks in the mirror and stares at the wrinkles that weren't there yesterday
And thinks of the young man that she almost married
What would he think if he saw her this way?

He didn’t notice. They kept walking together to the casino door.

Speaking of, the review of the show continues to receive comments of anger from some Campbell fans who felt I was too harsh on the aging country superstar, focusing too much on his advancing sunset and not recognizing his contribution to country and pop music.

But the fact is that I love Glen Campbell, and teleprompter or no teleprompter, I had a great time at the show with my Boomer neighbors. They simply have a hard time understanding that the Glen Campbell we saw on that afternoon was a different man than 30 or 40 years ago.

It’s obvious that Glen is showing the signs of age-which is why it’s critical that any fan with a passing interest see him now before it gets embarrassing.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Singles 45's and Under: The Beatles - I Want To Hold Your Hand

Case in point: here we have an original 45 of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” b/w “I Saw Her Standing There.” Note the nifty Capitol swirl! Note my declaration of “Wow!” wonderfully hand-written by yours truly at the age of three or four. Note how, even at that early age, the seeds of cataloging seem to be in place, thanks to my documentation of "1964" on the left side of the label.

The fading of the orange color represents my feeble attempts later on at trying to remove the markings with a pencil eraser.

Somebody do the legwork and tell me what this thing goes for in mint condition.

Aside from the horrendous condition of the label, the grooves of this single are completely shot, changing the color of the vinyl from traditional black to a near grey quality. This is probably due to a cheap needle from my old record player and a curious tradition of taping loose change to the top of the tonearm with Scotch tape.

One thing is sure: I played the piss out of this single when I was young, entranced by the power of rock and roll with no regard for how much the Beatles’ first American smash hit might be work in the decades to follow.