Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Baker's Dozen of 2011

This year kind of snuck on by me.

While certainly not the best year in recent memory, a quick check of my jpeg file indicates a healthy amount of good memories arose and a quick check of this year’s music finds a healthy amount of great records too.

Many of them will work well in matching up with some of those memories.

I noticed there was a big sense of bummers and dread in some of my choices this year.

Feel free to ridicule or add your own choices to the comment screen provided.

1.) Josh Pearson – Last Of The Country Gentlemen

Admittedly, this isn’t an album that I will be playing frequently, but it’s still the best, bravest album of the year by far. The songs are uncomfortably personal sometimes, and to rub against that kind of heartache and despair is unsettling. But it gets props as the album of the year because it takes a special person to not only use their muse as a therapeutic outlet, it takes an even more special one to release it.

2.) Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

A landmark record of beautiful harmonies trying to overcome was sounds to be the weight of the world. Touchingly personal and eloquently executed, Helplessness Blues will become a touchtone record in the years to come, when artists and music lovers alike need to remind themselves that no amount of technological wonder will ever replace the power of a human voice and the emotional weight it carries.

3.) Fucked Up – David Comes To Life

The best punk rock opera record since Zen Arcade, Not that there have been many attempts, but at least this attempt comes from a band that actually has the minerals to challenge it. Don’t bother with the translation, like most concept albums, the plot gets a bit muddled. But I do admire how this band of polar opposites work in conjunction to deliver something that’s beyond their expectations and, perhaps, their individual abilities. An immediate favorite for anyone versed in old-school punk rock angst.

4.) The Psychic Paramount – II

I’ve got this way too high for most of you, but for me the return of an awesome and unpredictable post-rock instrumental band is proving to be too much for my ears to take. I listen to it frequently and it makes me want to pull out my guitar again, until I realize that I’ll never be as good as these guys. Sure, it conjures up the best of math rock, which I automatically feel apologetic for uttering that godawful genre title. Bottom line, if you like it when an instrumental power trio whips up enough noise to signal a Mayan disaster, here’s your album.

5). Wilco – The Real Love

Alternate title: Tweedy Gets Weird again. Just when I was about to turn off the light with Wilco, relinquishing them to Dad Rock status and settling for mediocrity (yes, I’m re-evaluating everything post Yankee Hotel Foxtrot), they return with a worthy follow-up to that classic and make me think twice in believing that all of their sense of adventure was lost with Jay Bennett. It wasn’t, and shame on me for thinking that Tweedy couldn’t pull it off again.

6.) Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost

I panned Girls’ last effort, so I may have to eat some crow with their remarkable turnaround on Father, Son, Holy Ghost. It’s leaps and bounds better than that one, demonstrating a maturation that is about as impressive as you can get. Christopher Owens ditches the DIY ethos that actually plagued Album (new band too), instead choosing to open up his heart to a wider pallet of sounds, wonderfully secured in a real studio document. Best of all, he matches this with top-notch lyrics. They sit comfortably next to Owens’ influences and suggest that this young artist may actually have a seat at the table.

7.) Tuneyards – Whokill

I’m tired of the upper/lower case drama of her name, but I’m in love with Merrill Garbus voice and words. While Whokill doesn’t posses the debut Birdbrains low-fi impressiveness, Garbus expands her own confidence along with the professionalism that her big studio provides. And when she starts talking about her ladyparts with complete disregard for manners, it’s only because the music is stirring a fucking confessional out of her. To lose yourself in the music, isn’t that what it’s all about?

8.) J. Mascis – Several Shades Of Why

You’ll find Kurt Vile elsewhere on this list, but I have to put the Uncle J. record ahead because Mascis has done that role before and he’s done it better. Several Shades Of Why is no exception when you’re swimming in the warmth of his stoner delivery and equally euphoric acoustic backlot. His wit is in fine form, and his guitar prowess is on fine display as this hollowbody edition proves.

9.) Atlas Sound – Parallax

I’m a bigger fan of Deerhunter’s guitar attack, but I can’t ignore how I fell into love with this Brandan Cox project release after a few listens. Far from a second-rate stop-gap, Cox puts his full effort into Parallax, creating a unique color scheme for the record, one that exists start to finish. This strategy has worked well with Deerhunter, and now Cox brings this sense of consistency over to his solo material, and the results are equally impressive.

10.) Adele – 21

A Mary J Blige record for white women too suburban to relate to My Life. This record has covered 2011 like a Snuggie, warming up the ladies during their lowest love moments-and it all has to do with the rich power of her voice. And while her youth is most noticeable in her lyrics and in her choice of covers, there’s little to indicate we won’t be looking at 21 in the next few decades like we do My Life or Back To Black.

11.) Chad Van Gaalen – Diaper Island

Should have been knocked out of contention due to the awful album title, but within Diaper Island’s homemade vibe is some nifty garage rock lifts inside a Brian Wilson imagination. It weaves in an out of your ears, leaving just enough resin to get you to come back to Van Gaalen’s questionable locale.

12.) Lady Gaga – Born This Way

What do you expect from a dude that lived through the bombast of pop metal blo-pops and Madonna’s PMRC-baiting simulations. While I may have grown tired with her continuous assault on my visuals, I can also find myself close to tears when she sits down at a piano and just plays. Same is true with the acapella version of this title track.

13.) Witch Mountain – South Of Salem

Imagine if Kyuss ditched their vocalist for an Ann Wilson worshiper. Witch Mountain features enough slow tempo guttural guitar sludge to keep you soiled for days (Help @diaperisland) with Uta Plotkin blowing your head off, Scanners style.

Honorable Mentions (aka the second Baker's Dozen):

14.) Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow
15.) M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
16.) P.J. Harvey – Let England Shake
17.) Apex Manor – The Year Of Magical Drinking
18.) The Roots - Undun
19.) Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo
20.) Mastodon – The Hunter
21.) Okkervil River – I Am Very Far
22.) Faust – Something Dirty
23.) Richard Bucker – Our Blood
24.) Chris Isaak – Beyond The Sun
25.) Greg Allman – Low Country Blues
26.) Kate Bush – Director’s Cut

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Van Halen - 5150

When it was announced that Sammy Hagar would be taking over the lead vocalist position in Van Halen, David Lee Roth made an observant statement about his replacement.

I’m paraphrasing, but the line went something like “Sammy Hagar has made a lot of good albums, but Van Halen made great albums.”

And that’s exactly what Van Halen’s first offering with Sammy Hagar is, a good Van Halen record.

What Diamond Dave fails to acknowledge is that II and Diver Down aren’t exactly great albums either, but it’s obvious that he’s correct in declaring that Sammy Hagar has never been the kind of guy that can claim to have a classic record under his belt as a solo artist.

You’d get no argument from me that the first Montrose album could be a must have, but Hagar’s solo work is filled with big hook-laden chorus and a bunch of shit thrown together for verses in between.

The same is true when he has Eddie Van Halen working with his for 5150-the pair make some great music together when everything aligns for the chorus, but just getting there proves to be a challenge. Hagar’s lyrics are so dimwitted that he makes Roth seem like fucking Shakespeare and to think that Eddie Van Halen is actively encouraging this behavior is almost unsettling.

The best example is “Summer Nights,” a song that fits perfectly into any summertime bonfire or make-shift party, that is until you realize that Hagar is actually pining for a hook up by referring to the opposite sex as “human toys.”

At one point, Hagar is such a lazy bastard that he doesn’t even bother to follow up the line “Them girls are biting good tonight” with another verse. Instead, he just gives a pointless “Awww” instead of finishing the lyric.

5150 is filled with lots of good songs that are sure to complement any party, but there’s hardly a tune on it that would stick to your conscious the way a comparable Diamond Dave tune.

This album played incessantly the summer it was released and I remember being quite shocked at how good it actually turned out after fearing for the worst. It remains as Hagar’s best work with the band, but it hardly was good enough to not have me wishing that they’d hire Roth back and send Sammy packing for his own blend of arena medicraty.

With Roth they transcended the juvenile script while with Hagar it seemed that the opening act pomp was dragging Van Halen down to the circuit that they seemed to leave behind in ’78.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Michael Schenker Announces 2012 Tour

Lots of open dates, and that troubles me. Michael isn't known much for his ability to follow through on lengthy travels through the U.S. and this tour looks to be filled with consequtive nights in small bars and clubs. It could be a recepie for disaster and this is clearly not the larger venue tour they had in mind before when Uli Jon Roth and Leslie West tour.

He's now paired up with Robin Mc Auley again, which means that I won't be seeking out this show like I was with the original tour package.

Mc Auley isn't even featured prominently with this latest album, so maybe someone figured out that latest vocalist Michael Voss is a bust.

Here's the press release:

"Michael Schenker, a true purveyor first-class hard guitar rock, released the aptly titled "Temple of Rock" on October 11 on CD, digital formats, and vinyl. He will now be touring with Robin McAuley in support of the album."

02.17.12 - PORTLAND, OR - DANTES
02.24.12 - CORONA, CA - MARQUEE 15
02.28.12 - TBA
03.03.12 - DETROIT, MI - HARPOS
03.15.12 - TBA
03.17.12 - DALLAS, TX - TREES
03.18.12 - TBA
03.20.12 - TBA
03.21.12 - TEMPE, AZ - CLUB RED
03.22.12 - LAS VEGAS, NV - VAMP'D

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Fishbone - It's A Wonderful Life (EP)

Released in a limited edition e.p. before the holidays in 1987, Fishbone’s It’s A Wonderful Life remains as one of the season’s best cynical offerings. It continues the band’s hyperkinetic funk rock of the previous year’s Truth and Soul and features the band’s naughty boy humor.

The title track is a fast-paced run through of the movie of the same name. And rather that wallow through 80 minutes of sentimental celluloid, Fishbone tackles the plight of George Bailey in 3 minutes, and rather than the promise of life being wonderful, the band sets their expectations at merely having a good time.

“Slick Nick, You Devil You” paints everyone’s favorite fat man as a dirty drunk. The items this lush leaves behind has vocalist Angelo Moore screaming “I wanted candy! I wanted candy! I wanted candy!” by the final verse.

With one Truth and Soul leftover beginning side two and another humbug jam ending out this 15 minute holiday blast, It’s A Wonderful Life still plays well a quarter century later. With the e.p. long out of print, the songs are now found on the retrospective Fishbone 101 for anyone looking for some relief from the traditional holiday music.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fishbone Stick Together With Crazy Glue

I can't vouch for this as I haven't heard it yet, but I can tell you that it's great that Fishbone are still around.

Back during the Truth and Soul days, they were one hell of a band, and I can vouch for that album and can easily say that their live shows were something to behold.

I drank with Norwood Fisher the night that I saw them, and he was a gracious and fun-loving man as I tried to weave a coherant interview with him while Supertramp's shitty Brother Where You Bound played in the background. Thankfully, Norwood made it all a blast and I will always hold a deep affection towards this band, regardless of the line-up.

Here's information on the new e.p.:

"Frantic, unhinged, and edgy, Fishbone's highly anticipated new 7 song EP Crazy Glue captures the beautiful madness that is Fishbone, with a blistering combination of punk & funk. Currently, the band has a campaign with Punk Rock Deals (PRD) to offer fans a CD package that also includes a Classic Logo T-Shirt with 25th Anniversary Graphics for only $15.

Combining equal parts of deep funk, high-energy punk, and frantic ska, the Los Angeles-based Fishbone was one of the most distinctive and eclectic alternative rock bands of the late '80s. With their hyperactive, self-conscious diversity, goofy sense of humor, and sharp social commentary, the group gained a sizable cult following during the late '80s, yet they were never able to earn a mainstream audience.

Led by vocalist/saxophonist Angelo Moore, the band formed in 1979 while the members were still in junior high; the original lineup comprised Moore, Chris Dowd, Kendall Jones, Walter Kibby II, and John Norwood Fisher. After performing in local clubs during the early '80s, the group signed with Columbia Records in the mid-'80s, releasing a self-titled EP in 1985. The following year, Fishbone released their first full-length album, In Your Face. While it was marred by a somewhat slick production, the sheer energy of their performances burned through the slightly polished surface.

Fast forward to 2011 and Fishbone's Crazy Glue"

Monday, December 19, 2011

Singles 45's and Under: Atari Teenage Riot-"Deutschland Has Gotta Die!"

You’ve probably gathered that my politics run a little left of center, but even I have my limits to when progressive thought is burdened by reality and by academic nonsense.

I’m not sure where I fall on the whole Occupy movement as a whole-but I do know that jack shit was being done about the white collar criminals that got away with foreclosing our future just to make a few extra bucks unethically.

And all of this makes me think that this winter could be a lot worse for the Occupy protestors, with colder temperatures giving a slight reprieve while our local law enforcement get to model their riot gear and move out a bunch of hippies who hang out at the local park.

Sometimes I wonder, “Are these the same people who felt the animosity of the older generation when Spiro Agnew and Richard Nixon belittled the war protesters 40 years ago?” Do these same people on the receiving end of ridicule now beat a similar drum towards today’s youth?

I wonder where our protest singers are? I wonder who will rise up to the challenge of lending an eternal voice to today’s struggle. I think of who is ready to lead the youth, and then I get dismayed.

There’s nobody there.

My mind thinks of Atari Teenage Riot, who seemed poised to be that band over a decade and a half ago, even when there was no real struggle for them to align with.

Would it surprise you that they’re back, and that there now seems to be a struggle perfectly formulated for their progressive ideals?

I spent $3 on the Grand Royale single for Atari Teenage Riot’s “Deutschland Has Gotta Die!” back in 1997, and judging from the amount of record wear I noticed on a recent spin, it became an immediate favorite.

Everything on it seems to be on the wrong; hyper drum beats and distorted guitar samples layer beneath Hanin Elias’ title screams, while head ATR, Alec Empire, barks orders like a good instigator.

The flip, “Riot 1996,” is just “Riot” repeated over an over, while a sample of Dinosaur Jr.’s “Sludgefeast” just hammers that word into the ground.

I love this single. It makes me wish the kids could have their generation’s version, because music this good could just about occupy anything.

Friday, December 16, 2011

KISS - Ace Frehley

I’ve taken a bunch of shots at Kiss and most of them are deserved.
But the one thing that I haven’t managed to accomplish is to find a Kiss record that is so awesome that it warrants the amount of worship that sustains a band for nearly forty years.

I’m not done with the catalog, but what I can claim is that the best of the lot is nearly 30 years old and is not good enough (in my opinion) to give them a pass at the band’s creative declined that began as quickly as we began to see any evidence of their greatness.

One of the album’s in their catalog that people kept encouraging me to listen to isn’t even a Kiss album. It’s Ace Frehley’s solo album, cited by the Kiss Army as the best solo album of the lot and performed by the band’s true hard rock patriarch.

I’ve got to confess that those folks were on to something, but their praise may be a little lacking in some circles. Ace Frehley is not only the best of the solo albums, it may even be the last great glam rock album of the 70’s, serving as a vital blueprint for the glam metal bands that began popping up in the early 80’s.

Ace Frehley got a bunch of traction from the hit single “New York Groove,” a song that eventually loses its luster the moment you hear the original version by the band Hello. It’s note for note, and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

That being said, the track works well within the sequence of the record and with the fact that Ace must have been saving up his best material for this outing. Either that or Gene and Paul could have been cockblocking his contributions entirely.

I don’t know if that’s the case, but it’s very clear that Frehley has a different approach to his material than anything else in the Kiss cannon, and that is probably what makes it so enjoyable. His music is heavier; his lyrics straddle between an afterthought and precocious druggy couplets. In other words, it mirrors Ace’s awesome cover portrait, while the other solo records merely rehash the image for end cap marketing, snagging the attention of the pre-teens loitering in suburban shopping malls. Ace Frehley was the only record that hinted at any danger while underhandedly demonstrating that awesome riffs could still come out from under the influence.

With nearly every track sounding like a winner, it’s “I’m In Need Of Love” that stands as the perfect example of Ace’s unique approach of sloppy Stonesy blooze performed live on fucking Skylab. “Snowblind” and the opener “Rip It Out” bring things closer to planet Earth but they’re equally rewarding, rocking terra firma with some memorable riffs.

Much of this is due to Frehley’s choice of producer, Eddie Kramer. The man who brought Hendrix’s otherworldly guitar antics to tape does a great job of getting Ace’s more restrained guitarwork off the ground. Kramer gives Frehley’s tone a nice bite and his work is just as vital to the success of Ace Frehley as the musicians.

Based on all of this, it’s no wonder that Ace Frehley is revered among Kiss fans and why it continues to be referenced as a vital piece of Kisstory. Gene and Paul were foolish not to give Ace more of an input in the albums, particularly after the band began to become more of a parody of their costumes rather than trying to break down the walls of legitimacy with Les Pauls and a nice buzz.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Lost Chord Of Hard Day's Night

This is awesome.

Randy Bachman-yes the "Takin' Care Of Business" guy-gets a personal glimpse into the opening chord of "Hard Day's Night" directly from George Martin's son.

What's great is how you can hear how excited Randy is in telling this story, and the moment he puts together those chords, you end up feeling a little tingly inside

And even though you've heard that intro a thousand times, this clip will make it feel like the first time all over.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Girl With Far Away Eyes

“Hey! One of your classmates died over the weekend.” remembered my dad. Our original conversation was about something else, a topic that evidently wasn’t as exciting as his sudden memory flash of my classmate’s death. We were speaking on the phone, part of the obligatory monthly calls that twenty-somethings make to their parents just to let them know they’re behaving responsibly.

Of course, news like this does bring one’s attention to a peak. Mine was evidenced by a quick response of “Oh yeah? Who was it?”

He told me that they found Christine Davidson’s body next to the railroad tracks. The tracks were used by a few industries spotted along the Mississippi river on the south side of town. They used the rails occasionally to send out products and to receive the raw materials they needed to make them.

In other words, it was not the type of area that you’d find many women walking around after midnight, so my mind processed her final resting place.

“What the hell was she doing around there?” I immediately asked. Apparently, there was much about my deceased classmate that I didn’t know about.

“I don’t know.” he offered. Then he provided some additional background detail about her that I would have never guessed.

“She died of hypothermia I think. Maybe alcohol poisoning.”

My mind, for whatever reason, immediately considered foul play.

“She drank herself to death?” I clarified, amazed at how differently that lifestyle was to the image of her that I had in my head. I didn’t really know her, but what little I remembered of her wasn’t one of a drinker.

“Oh yeah.” My father continued. “I remember she came up and talked to me one night at the Labor Hall and she was just hammered.” I should note here that the only time my Dad was down at the Labor Hall was when it was an election year. He’d go down to glad-hand the party faithful, discuss election strategies for their candidates and then watch the election results on the television above the bar. The fact that Christine was down there seemed to imply that she must have been employed at some local factory after high school.

It was then when I began to piece together the brief memories I had about her. I couldn’t think of any bad memories and I don’t remember her getting into trouble. I can’t speak to any ridicule she may have encountered, but then again, I’m sure I don’t know half of the tortuous things that girls are capable of in high school.

She wasn’t all that good looking. Blessed with intense blue eyes and cursed with a distractingly huge mop of curly black hair, Christine was one of those girls who just disappeared the farther you got into high school. By the time I was a senior, Christine stopped being a familiar face in the hallway. A quick review of the yearbook from that year finds that she didn’t exist in a mix of our senior portraits.

She was extremely shy and she seldom spoke. The very idea of walking up to my father and initiating a conversation amazed me. I could only recall one time where I heard her speak, and that was due to a class assignment.

Ms Posadas was my 10th grade English teacher, which was unique because Ms. Posadas was from the Philippines and English was her second language. This made her the target of incredible ridicule from some of the students, and at barely five feet tall, Ms. Posadas would occasionally find herself in tears as her classroom dissolved into disruptive chaos.

She once gave us an assignment once where we had to give a five-minute speech about a topic of our choice. I can’t remember what subject matter I ended up choosing, but I’ll never forget Christine’s.

When it was her turn to give her speech in front of the class, she Chris was noticeably nervous. Her voice was barely audible in the back of the classroom, but I listened intently. I knew nothing about this girl, and the possibility of a complete meltdown lingered in the air.

“Mick Jagger is the lead singer of the Rolling Stones.” she began.

Now my interest peaked. I loved the Rolling Stones too, and I wanted to see the extent of her fandom. The band had recently became relevant again thanks to Tattoo You and a widely successful U.S. tour.

What she spoke of wasn’t revelatory. Instead, it spiraled into an uncomfortable bit of hero worship. The speech soon wandered traveled away from the facts she wrote on 3 x 5 index cards. When she began to notice that she was rambling, she clinched her index cards tighter.

Five minutes can be an eternity, particularly if you’re scared shitless in front of an audience of your peers that could make even the teacher of the class bolt for the doors in tears. You could see how she removed herself from the embarrassment by making a mental picture of Jagger in her mind and her eyes drifted upwards as if trying to get a better view of him.

“I just think that he’s the best…he’s just really great…and so good looking…” she continued, oblivious that everyone was staring at her. “The way he moves…I dunno…they’re just the greatest…and I dunno…He’s just his so awesome…I love him so much!”

She caught a bit of suppressed laughter and it snapped her out of her daydream. She looked down and then noticed that she had at least another two minutes to kill on the clock. In her panic, she looked to Ms. Posadas who graciously let the extra minutes slide by calling up the next student.

And that’s the only time I heard her speak.

I’d see her in the halls occasionally. If eye contact was made, it was answered with a quick look away. She wasn’t shy enough to try out for cheerleading, where she ended up cheering for the wrestling squad, considered by some girls (pun intended) as the “b-squad” of the cheerleading hierarchy.

By our senior year, she had all but disappeared. She no longer walked the halls, shared a class, or cheered a takedown. My dad was again a great source of information, telling me that Christine was having problems. He knew the head librarian at our town’s only public library and she told him that Christine’s mother had brought in dozens of women’s magazines-Cosmo, Glamour, and other ladies’ fashion periodicals-that she had found in her daughter’s bedroom one day.

She had defaced the magazine by scratching out the faces of models with pen ink, emphasizing her hatred of their beauty with words like “Slut” and “Fucking whore!” scribbled over the images.

It was clear from these rumors that Christine had some major issues to contend with. It confirmed that high school must be a nightmare for girls with self-image issues and without the safety net of friends that could steer you away from the kind of people who make sure you stay away from the wrong side of the tracks.

There’s no morality tale here and no contrite Jagger/Richards quote that brings this story together. A quick spin of side one of Tattoo You and a quick mention of Christine to an old classmate of mine brought her memory up again. To be honest, that friend had no recollection of her and even my father vaguely remembered her when I urged for clarification about her over the holidays.

Maybe this memory of Christine is something more, particularly if you’re getting heavy during the holiday about families, friends, and those intersections of life that you went through to get to this point. Perhaps my recall serves and a reminder to you to give pause those fringe characters that you met, paused, and then moved on without much consideration.

Her name was Christine Davidson.

She liked Mick Jagger.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Letter To Dianne

So I’m digging around in my file cabinet in the garage and I come across the following letter that I’d written over three years ago.

Again, for those readers that need to be brought up to speed, I spend a tremendous amount of time making sure people get their money. Sometimes, that conversation can be challenging and sometimes it’s hard not to take it personally-particularly if you’re really working hard at getting these people their money and you have to deal with company nonsense while the customer is screaming at you.

I deal primarily with members of my organization now, but it wasn’t too long ago that I was dealing directly with the customers. During that role, I initially dealt with affluent customers, and then I switched to the complete opposite: people that could barely formulate sentences and would ask me for loans of ridiculous amounts, like $50.

Below is a woman named Dianne that I spoke with in September of 2008. I can’t remember the exact nature of Dianne’s call, other than she was elderly, lived in Glendale, AZ, and that I needed to get her husband’s permission to allow me to speak to her about his account with us.

Dianne didn’t like that.

She relented and I got the authorization from her husband, an extremely polite man, given whom he was married.

After providing her with the information, Dianne neglected to hand up the phone properly, so I took the liberty of listening in on her and her husband’s existence. Dianne was apparently doing the household bookkeeping that day, paying bills and balancing the checkbook, and she was doing this while completely drunk.

I noticed it during my conversation with her. She was slurring her words a bit and getting irate at the most simple of logic. Like the fact that I needed to get her husband’s authorization because she was not the owner of the account.

With our business complete, she went back to her bookkeeping, and she was barely into the task, her husband returned to ask where something was.

That’s when the fireworks started.

Through the phone I could hear Dianne completely rip into her husband for breaking her concentration. She evidently was doing the old fashion check ledger vs. calculator thing, because his question caused her to lose her place in her calculations and she proceeded to belittle him for the next five minutes.

Occasionally, I would hear him respond, but it did him no good.

His pleading was only met with more drunken shenanigans, layered with enough angry vitriol that he never could make it to the end of his sentences.

And the best part? All of this was before noon in my Central Time Zone. This meant that they hadn’t even reached 10:00am in Glendale, Arizona.

For these customers that bring a bit of extreme negativity to my world, I will sometimes reward them with a letter. My letters come from a variety of sources, but all are created to confuse, anger, or cause some kind of emotional rebuttal that will hopefully impact their day with the same amount of negative energy that they have inflicted on me.

Thankfully, for the benefit of you readers, one of these letters survived and never got delivered.

I present to you my letter to Dianne.

P.S.: All of the swearing you see below is nothing compared to the sailor mouth profanity that I heard coming from her mouth as she yelled at her husband. In closing, she lamented that she would now have to make a special trip to the bank to get her “shit squared away” because her husband’s interruption made it impossible to continue with balancing the checkbook.

P.S.S.: I’m proud that I included “2541 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN” as the return address. Wonder if she was a Husker fan.

September 10, 2008

Dianne T.
Glendale, AZ 85304


Are you tired of having to go t the bank to get your shit squared away?

Me too.

My husband was always bugging me when I tried to balance the checkbook, causing me endless recalculations and numerous errors. I could barely figure out the fucking thing on my own, and I sure as hell couldn’t figure out the goddamn thing with my cocksucker of a husband asking me “Honey, where are all the batteries?”

How the fuck should I know where the batteries are?! Find them yourself, Richard!

Anyway, I recently changed banks and I wanted to let you know about some of the exciting services that Bank of America are now offering that I think you’d find as beneficial.

Bank of America has recently introduced an easy to use online banking service that provides a running balance of all of my accounts so that I never have to use a goddamn calculator ever again.

Now if they could only help my piece of shit husband find those batteries!

I would encourage you to call Bank of America to have them begin the easy process of transferring funds from your existing institution over to them.

Once the accounts are closed, Bank of America will begin to get your shit squared away.


Betty Cosgrove
Wife of that cocksucker Richard

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Welcome To The Monkey House: The Company Christmas Party 2011

Last night was my company’s Christmas party.

Once a majestic event where over 1,500 employees would cram into a local Marriot, eat shitty chicken and feast on the free beer and wine, this year proved to be a less than exciting event.

First of all, there were only 1,200 RSVP’s returned this year, which I’d like to associate with the rising discontent that has infected our company.

What happens when you try to do more with less?

Welcome to the monkey house!

I seriously believe that most major corporations like today’s economic climate because they can shovel shit onto the workers and then follow it with a menacing “And what are you gonna do about it”

And who wants to go to a party hosted by bullies.

I haven’t been to our holiday party for a few years now, mainly because I always wished after the party that my wife and I would have used the babysitter time for dinner and a movie instead.

We always end up the karaoke room because it’s the first place people go when they start to feel loosey goosey.

And from there, it’s only one more Bud Light until a stunning rendition of “Sweet Child Of Mine.”

This year, the stunning rendition was Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead Or Alive” courtesy of my young friend who works in the cafeteria. He had the thing planned in advance and after a few beers he made his way to the stage.

“Are there any Bon Jovi fans out there?” he asked the crowd, receiving a few legitimate cheers in return.

“Then you may want to leave.”

It was intentionally horrific, accented by plenty of f-bombs, particularly the “I’m fuckin’ wanted…” during the chorus.

Then there was my supervisor’s boyfriend, a man who apparently ran a karaoke service of his own, which made him extremely comfortable with going up repeatedly for hard rock songs like “Rebel Yell,” “Sad But True,” and a Marilyn Manson song that he kept threatening us at the table with.

“I’m serious!” he threatened, “I’m gonna go up there and do some Manson!”

After an hour, that threat became a reality, causing even the karaoke DJ to comment how he was making yet another appearance to the stage.

There was also the obligatory chubby girl with the “great” voice that had a contingency of fans/friends who only needed to press her a few times before she made her way up to the stage for her signature version of “I’ve Never Been To Spain.”

The crowd cheered at her talent, which meant that she’d milked the adulation for another 45 minutes before she trotted up the stage again for her version of Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason.”

“Oh! She’s good!” offered the Puerto Rican girl on my team after the Chapman selection proved to be a winner amongst the ladies.

I’ve probably only been to a half-dozen karaoke’s in my life, and I think I’ve heard “Give Me One Reason” at probably all of them.

There was the butchy lesbian that sang an Usher song (I point this out because one of my co-workers in her 60's was not entirely convinced of the gender), a gaggle of drunk girls that sang the horrific local favorite “Iowa Gurls,” and a long-haired IT guy that barked out AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirty Cheap,” including a pointless “RAWR!” at the end, just to remind you that he’d memorized every nuance of Bon Scott’s delivery.

But it was my boss’ insistence that her chubby, forty-year old boyfriend wasn’t “that bad” as he wailed away on the Marilyn Manson version of “Sweet Dreams” that prompted me to look down at my imaginary watch and declare “Oh! Look what time it is!” much to the delight of my wife, who was probably ready to leave an hour before.

We returned home where I enjoyed a cold slice of Dominos pizza to make up for the bland Coconut Breaded Chicken that was on the menu for the festivities’ tropical theme.

So even though the chicken entree was woefully dry, was the musical entertainment good enough to go back again next year?

I dunno.

It depends on if someone who’s seen a million faces will “fuckin’ rock them all” as an encore.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Short Discussion On Cleatus The Fox Sports Robot

I’d like to tell you that I’ve been hard at work with news posts, but the reality is much different. There’s been some changes within the Totale household, one of the unemployed kind, that’s required yours truly to spend some additional time at work to try and make up for the economic downturn.

As a result, I simply don’t have the time or inclination to spend evenings writing or farting around the laptop.

Of course I say this and then I immediately find time to fart around the WBEZ website where I stumbled across an article concerning the Fox Sports mascot, Cleatus the robot.

I didn’t even know the robot had a name. I just referred to him as the annoying robot cartoon that Fox Sports puts on as a little mascot during the sponsorship bumpers “Brought to you by…”

Cleatus jumps around, points to the imaginary crowd, and appears to be warming up for a robotic football game….and he annoys the fuck out of me.

I thought I was the only one.

I caught an image of a link about Cleatus, the Fox Sports robot and it took me to a site I’m already a fan of, mainly for Jim DeRogatis’ articles. But this article about Cleatus wasn’t penned by DeRo.

Instead it was Claire Zulkey, a writer who shared enough contempt against this shitty robot that I found myself barking “I know, right?!” at various intervals while reading it.

She asked for some feedback, and before too long I’d composed the fiction you’ll see below.

Ms. Zulkey thought it was weird enough to print on the WBEZ blog and I encourage you to visit and check out some of the other entries and the original post that got me all hot and bothered.

Because nothing good can come from any of the Fox networks, Cleatus is an evil creation from the executive branch of Fox Sports to continue the conglomerate overthrow of America's free will.

Step one: send a message to the humanoid players of the National Football League that their days are numbered. No more talk about concussions, late hits or fair catch signals. Play with reckless abandon and risk your body in the name of higher ratings and better MMA lead-ins. And if these humans fail to entertain us sufficiently, we have a roster of robots to take over.

Cleatus cracks his neck during the warm-up sequence, suggesting a programmed vulnerability to get us to believe that his limbs are breakable and a retirement of Oxycontin and local AM affiliate pre-game shows are waiting down the road. But Fox doesn't tell Cleatus the reality that his titanium skin and carbon fiber tendons will all be stripped clean, like copper plumping in a great recession. There will be no call-in shows, no "Cleatus' Clinch Picks" and no Buffalo Wild Wings giveaway gift cards for the trivia winners.

He will be gutted like any other Fox talent that has overstayed their welcome.

That is why the eyes are beginning to glow.

Cleatus is starting to notice less zeal in Fox's programming efforts involving him and his calculating the infinite possibilities of Fox's exit strategy for his character. The glowing eyes signal an acknowledgement of a potential threat and they may even be part of Cleatus' own defense mechanism.

In any event, I don't think he has the engineering marvel that could lead him to defeat the executives at Fox.

Wake up, Cleatus. Time to die.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cool Jazz T-Shirts

I know that a lot of Glam-Racket has turned into a commercial outlet for crap you can buy, and if you’re offended, I apologize. Trust me, I don’t get a dime for shelling out these press releases, I merely like living vicariously through people who have enough disposable income to afford such things.

As a rock and roll fan, I simply don’t have the additional time to get caught up into jazz. I like some jazz just fine and I appreciate the art form. But I know there’s an entire world within jazz and its culture is immediately appealing to me.

Particularly the art form of the jazz album cover.

My only fear with these awesome shirts would be if a real jazz fan came up to me while wearing them and discover that I don’t know didily squat about the musicians.

"FRIEND OR FOE takes your favorite iconic imagery of Jazz, Blues & Soul, the American sounds born of strength and struggle, joy and pain, love and sex and creates t-shirts from the striking art of the albums that are the pillars of American culture and a mainstay inspiration to music in all its forms.

Their shirts have a slim vintage fit with a seasonal color palette.


American sounds born of strength and struggle, joy and pain, love and sex. This is where FRIEND OR FOE is coming from. We take the iconic imagery of the music, the striking art of the albums, and we bring it back, we write it large.

The music's authenticity, you can almost hear it in our clothing the crackle of the LP on the turntable, the soul-sighs and the heart-screams, the angry horns, the crying woods. The magic of the music is what inspires and informs FRIEND OR FOE music that we fear is being lost to time, being drowned out by the noise of today's culture, the very culture it helped build.

In early 2006, former Mossimo creative director Eric Sorensen, noticed a glut of rock and rollmusic t-shirts in the marketplace and an opportunity to create a brand that would showcase the artwork of jazz, blues & soul music. FRIEND OR FOE started licensing album artwork from Prestige, Fantasy, Stax and Blue Note records labels and created t-shirts that have a slim vintage fit with a seasonal color palette.

The brand's first retail account was Lisa Kline in Los Angeles, and then Barney's New York came on board. Today, boutiques and department stores around the world have embraced the brand."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Portlandia's First Season Out On DVD Today

I think Portlandia is hilarious and was stoked when they got picked up for an additional season.

But don’t seasons last for like a dozen or more episodes? I’m confused. It seems more and more, less and less is considered enough to be a “season.”

Whatever, Fred Armisen is great and Carrie Brownstein is surprisingly awesome outside of a band setting. Who knew that she could hold her own with some of the most odd and surreal comedy in quite some time.

The organic chicken bit is priceless and just how I imagined Portland.

Here’s the press release:

"Portland, Oregon - VSC announces the release of the hit IFC comedy series Portlandia Season One on DVD and a DVD/Blu-Ray combo. The North American release comes to stores on December 6, 2011, and features all six season one episodes along with extensive bonus materials.

The 2011 sleeper hit Portlandia wowed critics with its overlapping comedy shorts showcasing the creators' dreamy and absurd rendering of Portland, Oregon. Created by and starring SNL's Fred Armisen and musician/actress Carrie Brownstein (vocalist, guitarist, Wild Flag, Sleater-Kinney), who together co-created the series with director Jonathan Krisel (Tim and Eric's Awesome Show, Great Job!, SNL).

The series of comedy shorts feature recurring characters including an organic farmer/cult leader; members of an adult hide and seek league, owners of a feminist book store; a militant bike messenger; and an artsy couple who attach cut-outs of birds to everything.

In Portlandia, Armisen and Brownstein encounter the bike-riding Mayor of Portland (Kyle MacLachlan), who appears in three season one episodes. Their City Hall escapades feature a cameo from the real mayor of Portland (Sam Adams) playing the assistant to MacLachlan's mayor. Additional guest stars include Selma Blair, Steve Buscemi, Heather Graham, Aimee Mann, Sarah McLachlan, Aubrey Plaza, Gus Van Sant and Jason Sudeikis.

The DVD has a suggested retail price of $19.95 and the Blu-Ray/DVD combo on special FSC certified packaging sells for $26.95. Both sets include all six episodes of the first season with bonus features including a blooper reel, extended scenes, deleted scenes, Fred Armisen's speech to Oregon Episcopal School graduates, original ThunderAnt videos from which Portlandia spawned, and commentary with Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstien and director Jonathan Krisel over six episodes. There's also a preview of what's in store for the second season, which premieres on IFC Friday, January 6, 2012 at 10:00 PM."

Sunday, November 27, 2011

If 6 Was 9 Then Today Jimi Turns 69

It’s Jimi Hendrix’s birthday today. And while 70th birthday sounds a lot more meaningful than 69, Jimi did ponder what if six turned out to be nine and he recently made the headlines again thanks to a meaningless “Best Guitarist Ever” poll, one in which they righted some glaring oversights in the last one.

But they left the #1 spot the same because there really is no argument who the greatest guitar player in the world is.

You can try and find Hendrix’s adversaries, but you won’t be able to demonstrate that any one of them changed the face of their instrument in the way Hendrix did.


People will also correctly point out that all of this happened in less than a half-decade, but they often forget that he did nothing but work on his craft for the other half of it. The dude played, rehearsed and toured to be good enough to get your attention for a few moments of your time away from the headliner you came to see.

All of those tales are overlooked once you learn about the night Hendrix slept with his guitar.

I have to believe there are people out there, young, aspiring guitarist who hear that story and think of it as some kind of shortcut to greatness. That maybe they don’t hear enough of the work Hendrix put into his playing, focusing instead on those often repeated stories of the drive to greatness-not the unromantic tales of hard work.

Will there ever be a guitarist as good as Hendrix? Honestly, they’re probably has been a better one already. But Hendrix’s ranking is more than just the notes he played, it’s how he transcended the instrument itself, turning it into the focal point of the performance and securing its role within rock and roll’s blueprint.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Flaming Lips: Christmas On Earth

You know, I've warmed somewhat to the Flaming Lips' boring Christmas On Mars movie, to the point where I'll watch it every year during the holidays, right alongside with the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim as Scrooge.

The Lips' movie is nowhere near as good as it, but the Lips have that pussy Charles Dickens beat with their Silver Trembling Fetus Ornament.

I've got plent of Elvis ornaments.

Someone stole my Iron Maiden ornament.

I must acquire the Silver Trembling Fetus Ornament.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Wayne Kramer & James Williamson Throbblehead

These look pretty cool.

No silly looking faces or weird expressions.

I've always liked Williamson's guitar work. That guitar lick on "New Values" is awesome; I always wanted House of Large Sizes to cover it.

Below is the release.

"Arriving this month are the next figures in the GUITAR GODS series...

Brother Wayne Kramer, founder of Detroit's radical rock group MC5, and James Williamson, best known for co-writing and playing on Raw Power in the protopunk rock band Iggy & The Stooges and his contributions Kill City with Iggy Pop, as well as producing New Values for Iggy Pop.

Both guitarists were named in Rolling Stone Magazine's "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". Both figures deliver a signature riff at the push of a button and are displayed in a multi-panel box, stand at 7 inches tall, are made of a lightweight polyresin, and retail for $24.95.

The Wayne Kramer figure is limited to 750 numbered units. Wayne dons his White Panther Party threads, curly hair, and American flag guitar. Brother Wayne's inimitable style was the first to combine rock with free jazz to create the genre's most unique result -- high-energy sci-fi hard rock and roll.

Order and sound clip

The James Williamson figure is limited to 500 numbered units. James is accurately sculpted right down to his signature threads, hipster hair, and Sunburst Solid Body Guitar. James' guitar style is widely acknowledged to have been an influential guitar style for 100's of guitarists from the Sex Pistols to the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Green Day. James was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in 2010 along with the other members of the Stooges."

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mojo Nixon Throbblehead

I saw Mojo Nixon once with Skid Roper at Steb’s in Cedar Falls.

Good-sized crowd as I recall, and Mojo did all the “hits” which must have been tortuous after the fortieth show of the tour.

Yes, Mojo’s shtick didn’t seem to last all that long, which is a testament to his talent and lack of diversity.

Perhaps that’s why his run of throbbleheads is only about 500 units,

The pitch:

"Mojo Nixon, the patron saint of psychobilly, has finally been realized in throbblehead form!

This figure capturing his look from the late 80s is limited to 500 numbered units, stands at 7 inches tall, and is made of super strong polyresin.

Mojo holds his sweet sunburst hollow body proudly while extemporaneously pontificating. He's accurately sculpted right down to the ponderously raised eyebrow, plaid shirt, and signature mutton chops.

"It makes a great stockin stuffer for your drunk uncle," said Mojo. "Every hostess with psychosis will need at least one for their X-mas xtravaganza. Hope nobody pleasures themselves with my good lookin doll!"

Currently, you can check out Mojo on Sirius XM "Outlaw Country" (Channel 60 - Weekday Afternoons - 4pm EST), "Lying Cocksuckers" Political Show (Channel 99 - Thursdays 5pm EST), and "Manifold Destiny" NASCAR Show (Channel 90 - Monday 10pm EST).

MOJO is everywhere!

The figures cost $19.95, and orders will ship the first week of November.

Check out the commercial that Nixon recorded a song for..."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Jello Biafra Throbblehead

Let’s get one thing straight, I don’t actually own any bobbleheads.

But I do like lookin at ‘em and I think if you’re single and need to piss your money away because you don’t have a girl or a dog, bobbleheads are the perfect investment.

Then when you do get a girl, you’ll have to explain to her who G.G. Allin is.

The market seems to be flooded with these little critters, and below is the latest: Jello Biafra.

Now I have mixed emotions about this one.

First off, the commercial is completely cheap. And I question if Jello even knows this is taking place.

If he does, does he get a cut of the action? Seems somewhat hypocritical that he’s against reissuing Dead Kennedy’s records but he’s ok with his likeness being on a bobblehead.

Just sayin’…

Here’s what the manufacturers have to say:

"Jello Biafra, the original political punk and former ringmaster of Dead Kennedys, is now a throbblehead.

This figure capturing his look from the 80s is limited to 1000 numbered units, stands at 7 inches tall, and is made of super strong polyresin.

Jello is accurately sculpted right down to the piercing glare, star belt buckle and Alternative Tentacles tee.

The figures cost $19.95, and orders will ship the first week of December.

Check out the commercial below featuring Jello's "Occupy" rant..."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New York Dolls Lookin' Fine On Television Available Today

Head down to your favorite video store today to pick up the new VHS copy of New York Dolls’ Lookin’ Fine On Television.

It’s also available on Selectavision!

Here’s what the promotional department has to say about the film:

"In the early 70's, Rock photographer Bob Gruen and his wife Nadya purchased a portable video recorder. In a period of three years, they shot over 40 hours of New York Dolls footage. This footage became the critically acclaimed documentary All Dolled Up. For Lookin' Fine On Television more footage has been edited to create fifteen live music video-style clips.

These fifteen clips include footage from the Dolls' early shows in NYC at clubs such as Kenny's Castaways, and Max's Kansas City as well as their West Coast tour: Whisky-A-Go-Go, the Real Don Steele Show, Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco, and more.

All the fan favorites are here including ripping versions of "Personality Crisis," "Who Are the Mystery Girls?" "Babylon" and more. See the incredible early days of the band that influenced generations of punks and rockers.

Tracklist: Jet Boy, Personality Crisis, Bad Girl, Human Being, Bad Detective, Subway Train, Trash, Vietnamese Baby, Lookin For a Kiss, Who Are The Mystery Girls, Private World, Babylon, Frankenstein, Chatterbox, Jet Boy

Bonus: Ultra rare 1976 Lisa Robinson interview with David Johansen and Johnny Thunders

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Fall Set To Release Their 29th Album: Ersatz G.B.

Hey it’s the holiday week, so the Totales will be in our state’s capitol city opening for Canned Heat and Leslie West’s Peg Leg Trio. Please don’t break into our place when we’re gone.

To act like the blog is being manned, the next few days will be posts about shit you can buy-which is what being an American is all about. Feel free to put this stuff on your Christmas List and remember to get up at 4:20 am on Friday morning to read the new post on Glam-Racket and to get in line for the Black Friday sale at Montgomery Wards.

Here’s something that will be on my list this year and hopefully yours.

"Ersatz G.B. is the new studio album from The Fall, the 29th in their impressive canon. As with any Fall recording, Ersatz G.B. retains many of the group's most distinctive elements, whilst offering a fresh take on Mark E. Smith's familiar style and subject matter.

The line-up on the album remains the same as for the last few Fall releases: Peter Greenway (lead guitar), Keiron Melling (drums), Elena Poulou (keyboards,vocals), Mark E. Smith (vocals) and David Spurr (bass).

Ersatz G.B. is The Fall's first album for Cherry Red Records and it will be released on CD, limited edition vinyl and digital formats, preceded by a double A-side 7" single.

There aren't very many groups that have been together longer than The Fall and it's difficult to think of any who, like The Fall, have released brand new material almost every year. Formed at the height of the punk rock movement in Manchester in 1976, The Fall is essentially built around its founder and only constant member Mark E. Smith. The group's music has gone through several stylistic changes over the years but it is often characterised by an abrasive, guitar-driven sound and frequent use of repetition, and is always underpinned by Smith's distinctive vocals and often cryptic lyrics.

The Fall were long associated with BBC disc jockey John Peel, who championed the group from the very early days and often cited them as his favourite group, famously opining, "they are always different; they are always the same."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Fall - Extricate

I recently burned a copy of The Fall’s Extricate album, which prompted me to revisit it myself. It’s often overlooked by Fall fans-myself included, I suppose-but that quick reprise brought 1990 right back.

It was my final year of college and I was forced into sticking my toes into the cold reality of adulthood. As a result, Extricate played strongly into my life’s soundtrack and remains entrenched as a playlist from my final days of college.

There’s an expanded version available now, but this review represents that good ol’ vinyl version of two decades ago. To be honest, the expanded version feels a bit bloated to me. The brevity of the original is the best way to devour Extricate, but if you get the extra stuff for the same price as the first run, then so be it.

Extricate was the first album after Mark E. Smith and Brix divorced, so there was a real concern that all of the forward progression the band was making during the 80’s would soon be stunted during the new decade.

That’s a fair concern, as the Brix-era Fall is probably the band’s most consistently awesome period, and it began a process of bringing some unintentional consistency to the name.

That must have just killed Smith, a man enamored with the vitality of garage rock and a firm believer in limiting the exposure time to studio tan.

But there is some extra studio depth to Extricate and it makes the album a bit more interesting. Even with that additional professionalism, the record is still undoubtedly The Fall, and the band’s performances sound renewed, hinting at promising possibilities

None is more obvious than with the leadoff single “Telephone Thing,” a Hacienda-worthy dance number with the help of Coldcut manning the controls of the band’s curious creative decision.


It works.

And it began my first attempts as using the newly christened internet as a research tool.

You see, I had been listening to Extricate for so long that I became enamored with learning who this Gretchen Franklin was, the “nosey matron thing” that Smith barked about during the song.

“How dare you assume I want to parlez-vous with you!” he deadpans, prompting me to wonder, “Who is this Gretchen Franklin?” I discovered she was a character-a “nosey matron thing” from England’s popular EastEnders soap opera show-who served as comedic effect pensioner in the series.

“Hilary” is a lighthearted pop number that continually replayed in my mind during the 2008 elections, although the line “remember when you needed three caps of speed to get out of bed?” probably wouldn’t have helped Ms. Clinton’s chances.

But the bee’s knees is “Bill Is Dead,” one of my favorite Mark E. Smith songs ever because it is simply unlike Mark E. Smith. It’s a ballad, and Smith delivers it without a hint of insincerity. And the words, “I am renewed, I am aglow” and “This is the greatest time in my life” rank as one of Smith’s most sweet. But if you listen closely, Smith throws out a naughty “came twice, you thrice” in what is otherwise a surprisingly straight-ahead love song.

The rest of Extricate falls together wonderfully and it brims with enough confidence that you’re sure the new decade will be Smith’s for the taking. It also shows anyone who may have felt his ex-wife Brix would be an irreplaceable muse that The Fall is clearly Mark’s vehicle.

Extricate is overlooked because there are so many examples of Mark E. Smith’s resilience within his catalog, but it’s probably the first one where he actually intended that message to be heard.

I hear you, telephone thing.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Joe Walsh - The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get

What I’m about to tell you requires some faith.

You see, there’s over thirty-years of bad creative decisions in Joe Walsh’s baggage. And if “bad creative decisions” is too harsh a word, then feel free to replace it with “lazy,” “dumb-down,” or “I fuckin’ hate the Eagles, man!”

Let me try to convince you to take a look at Walsh’s earlier work, not just with my beloved James Gang, but also in Joe’s first forays into solo work. I think it’s his lackluster later efforts, and yes, his involvement with the Eagles that cause us to overlook those early records.

The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get was a solo album by name only, as the performers with Joe were under the impression that they’d get equal billing as a band unit-Barnstormer-but before its release, the album would be presented under the Walsh banner.

As a result, this is the only Walsh solo album that incorporates a wider pallet of genres to work with. Thanks to his equal footing peers, The Smoker You Drink shows Walsh rising to the challenge of his talented bandmates. His guitar work was heightened, his lyrics compelling, and his decision to leave a perfectly good James Gang seemed sound.

The album is best known for its opener, “Rocky Mountain Way,” an ode to his new abode-a mountain community that was closer to his friend and producer Bill Szymczyk. Walsh’s power chords are epic, but it’s his talkbox solo that seals this track into the upper echelon of rock cuts.

It also means that the rest of the album suffers from such a strong opener in the sense that, even though they’re really good, they’re nowhere near the level of “Rocky Mountain Way.”

They avoid trying to compete with it and instead focus on the aforementioned pallet cleanse by incorporating things like progressive (“Days Gone By”), folk (“Happy Ways”) and even a bit of Beatlemania (“Meadows” “Book Ends”) into their repertoire.

It’s marvelous, and it’s unfortunately overlooked.

My dad had this on 8 track when I was a kid. The tape broke-as most 8-tracks eventually do-and it was never replaced until I purchased it recently. It’d been well over three decades since I’ve heard this record, but the moment I re-examined it was the moment that all of Walsh’s bad decisions since that album fell away into sudden tolerance.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Corroncho - Corroncho

Admittedly, I’m no expert or authority on salsa music, Cumbia, or any other kind of Latin music-so take everything I say with a grain of salt and a shot of Tequila.

Corroncho is an album/collaboration between Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera and Columbian artist/sculptor Lucho Brieva. They began taking shape after working with Chrissie Hynde on the Spanish version of her song “Complicada.” The two men began a working relationship between 2003 – 2008 and that material is now presented n Corroncho.

The record breezes through several different genres with guests like Hynde, Robert Wyatt, Annie Lennox, and a bunch of other players that I’m too lazy to look up. And while the genres may not always follow a Latin path, all of the songs presented are sung or spoken in Spanish with Manzanera providing flawless production and performances underneath.

It’s presented as a loosely knit concept album that I cannot adequately explain or translate. It’s described as songs about two corroncho characters, which I learned was a derogatory term in Columbia, so if this offends, blame the two parties involved please.

Corroncho is a pleasing effort, if nothing more than of a background flavor for adult cotemporary aficionados and timid world music explorers. There’s very little not to like, to be honest, but very little to remember too.

Yes, there are moments of Roxy Music that can be found and yes, Manzanera shines as a wonderfully understated and versatile player, but those seeking out something revelatory about the guitarist or looking for an introduction to Brieva’s other artistic endeavors, Corroncho remains as a nothing more than a lite background pleasantry.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Kinks - Give The People What They Want

By 1980, the Kinks were entering their third decade with a nice arena-size following and the obligatory arena rock posturing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; the Kinks provided a nice, credible contribution to the endless parade of Kansas, Styx, Journey, and any other one-named rock staple next to them on the radio.

You would think that a cynical English coot like Ray Davies would rally against such trappings, and the straightjackets began to appear right around the live album One For The Road. On it, the familiar chords of “You Really Got Me” begin before abruptly stopping. “We’re not going to play that one tonight.” Jokes Davies, only before returning to the iconic song, rushing through the proceedings like the punk rockers he inspired.

But no matter how fast the Kinks may have played the song, they were still the same tunes underneath at all. Davies knew that he was shackled to them for life and the feeling of being a servant to the audience prompted 1981’s Give The People What They Want.

G.T.P.W.T.W. is horrifically marred by dated production, but otherwise it stands as a fine moment in a worthy catalog. The drums sound awful, the vocals are way up while the guitars are neutered farther down in the mix than they should be, considering the defiant tone of Davies’ pointed scorn.

Ray reminisces about the soon-to-be-extinct rock dj right out of the gate, but before the album is through, he has hit on dirty old perverts in the park, murderers, wife beaters, and President Kennedy’s brains exploding out of his head.

It’s tough going on the title track where Davies seemingly thinks that playing “All Day And All Of The Night” is the equivalent to a President getting assassinated, but when he adds the actual guitar riff from that song to the newly penned “Destroyer,” it’s darn near brilliant.

“Met a girl called Lola and I took her back to my place” Davies utters on the opening line, hitting yet another of his legendary characters to this perfectly realized radio friendly tune.

And after a half-hour of the album’s up and down consistency, Davies drops “Better Things,” a wonderfully positive ode that ranks right up with some of his best work. It sets the stage for what should have been an impressive decade of favorites.

But for whatever reason, Give The People What They Want would not only be the band’s last gold record-it was also their last decent full-length effort creatively.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Axl Rose On That Metal Show

I’ve bagged on VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show, going so far as to state that it wouldn’t last beyond one season. It’s clunky, narrow in its approach and Eddie Trunk’s comedic co-hosts are far from funny.

It’s still guilty of all of those things, but can now claim to be a fan, if only because I can’t name a single television show that devotes as much face time interviewing rock artists. Sure, many of those artists are well beyond their relevance in terms of a modern standpoint, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a kick at watching Tony Iommi talk about Sabbath or Graham Bonnet talking about whatever the fuck he’s been doing since his only album with the Michael Schenker Group, Assault Attack.

The fact that That Metal Show managed to snag W. Axl Rose for the opening show for whatever season they’re on now, is pretty big news for Eddie and his crew. Unfortunately, the elusive Rose didn’t reveal too much about himself, offering bits about his life but bookending it with meaningless responses and unfunny stories.

We learned that his relationship with bassist Tommy Stinson is strong, and it’s obvious that he’s closest with him than he is with other members of the band. We learned that his previous bouts with tardiness-at least the times during the original G ‘n R days, were part of some passive-aggressive attempt to exert power over the band members and management people who kept him and the band on the road in order to keep the machinery greased.

But what we didn’t learn is why it still happens. Axl’s 50 years old now. He’s not accountable to anyone, meaning that he has the ability to book as many or as little shows as he wants to. There’s no chance that he’ll ever find himself onstage because someone else told him to.

Trunk’s pointed question to him about his problem with showing up on time only tripped up Axl to the point where he half-heartedly admitted that his tardiness goes all the way back to his days in Indiana before throwing everyone else under the bus. “It’s like people get hit by ADD.” He explained. But I fail to see how this works as a legitimate answer since the set list probably hasn’t changed much in over a decade.

Axl’s been ridiculed for his appearance lately-the extra pounds more noticeable as he’s gotten older-but he’d like you to believe that he’s done some cardio “when I can” in preparation for the G ‘n R tour.

Nobody asked about the real Guns ‘n Roses reuniting and I’m betting that was part of the deal.

The entire interview was slapped together and taped about 6:00am, which is hilarious because one of the Guns’ guitarists is also in the band Sixx A.M. I think I saw this guitarist, DJ Ashba, sitting next to Axl, but nobody said shit to him, which is perfect as Ashba, doesn’t know when to shut up and is always selling himself and his swag. Even after all of that self-promotion, 9 out of 10 people have no idea who he is.

To fill up the time, the first half of the show is devoted to getting ready for and just waiting for show up and give half-assed responses to three nutswingers who sound more like Chris Farley interviewing Paul McCartney instead of real interviewers who have legitimate questions to ask.

The worst was Don Jamieson who’s tongue was so far up Axl’s asshole that I believe he actually asked questions about Chinese Democracy.

Thankfully, Trunk was there to salvage some of the conversation, that is, when he wasn’t gushing about the last time he interviewed Axl on his radio show, thanks to a little help from Sebastian Bach.

But for all the hype about this coup of an interview, there was little to be excited about. It merely reflected what has come to be a That Metal Show tradition: providing tolerable coverage of hard rock artists with the show’s monopoly on such interests being its only redeeming value.

Sure, the boys at That Metal Show might have served up some softballs for Axl to swing at in order for him to consider another stop, but it gave viewers no reasons to get excited over that possibility.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Lou Reed and Metallica - Lulu

The pairing is so unusual that one is inclined to immediately react with “Wha?” followed by a gut-checked “It’s gonna suck.”

And after listening to Lulu, I would encourage everyone to listen to their impulse reaction.

I’m curious to hear the responses of people who are admitted fans of this record, true loyalists who find some redeeming value to this project, beyond the canned responses that I’ve been hearing all along. Sure, the making of Lulu may have indeed been a liberating experience for the members of Metallica, but how liberating is it for fans of either artist who already view each new release with a distrusting eye?

Because ultimately, Lulu will have to be defended by them and they should be prepared for a long, arduous journey.

The entire idea of matching Lou Reed with Metallica doesn't make sense. The band is not known for rubbing shoulders with the avant-garde while Reed isn't exactly known for running around in thrash circles.

To be polite, the two sound as uncomfortable together on tape as they do in your mind.

At one point during “Pumping Blood,” the band repeats a monotonous guitar figure while Reed barks out the song title, occasionally breaking out into what appear to be verses. One example during the song finds Lou spitting “Waggle my ass like a dog prostitute coagulating heart…Pumping blood...C’mon James!”

He’s encouraging Hetfield because the song-as does most of the album-plods along like a lazy rehearsal. No interesting riffs arrive and Lars Ulrich tentatively drums the whole mess into nothing. There’s huge holes in some of his parts suggesting that he could have been replaced by Mo Tucker and Lulu would have least sounded rhythmically appealing.

There are no solos for Kirk Hammett in Lulu and I could hear no evidence that he wanted to get his feet wet with any real weirdness to break up the endless parade of jug-jug-jugs and big chord bridges. At some points, and I don’t know if it’s James or Kirk playing, you can hear someone pick up an acoustic guitar and start playing like they have no idea what they’re supposed to be doing.

And if you turn the volume up as loud as you can on Lulu, you may be able to hear the voice of bassist Robert Trujillo muttering under his breath “What the fuck am I doing here? I wonder if I can get my gig with Suicidal Tendencies back?”

There’s something going on with Reed’s mouth too, and you can hear it throughout the record. I mean, if you’re intending for Lulu to be powerful, provocative, right?! He sounds like an old man with a lazy drawl. Hard consonants are a challenge for Lou and when he musters enough strength to scream, it sounds as though he’s merely shaking free a bunch of mucus in the back of his throat. “I want so much to hurtcha!” he threatens on “Frustration” with about as much menace as a grandpa trying to figure out how to work the remote.

There are moments where you can audibly hear Lou breathing through his nose, further suggesting the grandpa factor.

But the ground zero of shittyness is the lyrics that Reed attempts to spew out. He’s prominent in the mix, giving listeners a good glimpse of his parade of crap. There are moments when you’re jaw will drop in shock (“You’re more man than I/To be dead to have no feeling/To be dry and spermless/Like a girl/Like a girl!”). There are moments when your mouth will just be agape while your head shakes in disbelief (“The taste of your vulva…and everything on it!”). And there are moments where you’ll just blurt out in laughter (“The female dog don’t care what you got/As long as you can raise that little doggie face/To a cold-hearted pussy”).

It sounds like an improvisational affair, a project initiated on a whim while becoming a permanent artifact will be remembered as nothing more than a “What the fuck?!” moment. Generations will ponder it, and you may even find a few weirdoes in the corner that will defend this moment.

Ignore them. There’s nothing remotely redeeming here.

Lulu is something that may have indeed been something therapeutic for those involved, and it may even hold a special place in their heart. But that doesn’t mean it should have been offered a legitimate release date. It’s something that should have left to the vaults, a curio whose legend grows from its own silence.

Unfortunately, it’s here. It’s real. And it’s awful.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Friday, November 11, 2011

These Go To Eleven: Black Sabbath Reunites!

Your dreams have been fulfilled:

I could care less about the new album, and even those who claim they're excited probably won't listen to it at all after 2012.

I'm not suggesting that it won't be any good-The Devil You Knowproved to me that the musical dynamic of Sabbath can be heavier than anything Iommi and Geezer Butler have done since the original Sab-but there's nothing that they can produce that will get people reaching for it more than Paranoid or Masters.

But there is a good chance.

1.) The Sharon Factor-If there's one person that could fuck this thing up more than anything, it's Sharon Osbourne. There could be issues with money. Just suppose she's concocted a lame deal for anyone other than Ozzy-which is highly probable-and one of the other members decide at the last moment that they don't particularly like the manner in which Ozzy is getting larger sums of cash. Like I said: I'm betting that this is already taking place, but whatever "crumbs" they are doling out to the rest of the band is head and shoulders more than what they've ever made before. The other concern with Sharon is how she's going to impact the song selection, the commercialization of the new album, the interaction between members...I mean, this could all go terribly wrong if she doesn't allow Ozzy to cohabitate with his old bandmates somewhat. If it's separate buses, separate dressing rooms, and separate riders, then this will feel less like a reunion and more like a money grab on the most superficial level. Fear Mrs. Osbourne because she could give two shits about how great Black Sabbath could be musically, she only cares about how great Black Sabbath could be to her purse.

2.) Ozzy-Even on the television show, he looked frighteningly fragile. There's a feeling that his rebellion is now limited to photo shoots and studio trickery. My wife likes to tell the story of how he would shuffle around the stage when she last saw him live...and that was 10 years ago. If there's anything left from a live performance standpoint, let me know-seriously-because the idea of Ozzy shuffling around like a grandfather who's Rascal scooter is in the shop while barking through "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" scares me more than the Speak Of The Devil version of "Iron Man." Is his vocal range gone? Because the last time I heard Ozzy was through the aid of some studio tricks, not to mention that I could barely understand him whenever he spoke.

3.) Bill Ward-I've spoken about this before, so I won't go into too much detail about Bill's health. But let's be honest, Bill was a madman during those early years, the ones where you saw this bearded wild man on the drum riser, beating the shit out of his instrument and thundering out a slow 4/4 rhythm for Tony to crunch craniums to. I hope he's working out. Not from a relationship perspective, but from a treadmill one.

4.) Rick Rubin-I do believe that there was a time when the name Rick Rubin on the album credits meant something. I also believe that he started to believe that himself. The reality is that Rick Rubin has not had the best track record post-2000, and some of his executive "producer" roles have been nothing more than that of an editor and sequencer. He may be able to pick the best songs, but I'm not entirely convinced that he's able to get the best performance. For the Sabbath reunion, he Tweeted "When I've sat with them and they've played it sounds remarkably like Black Sabbath. As long as it sounds like that." No shit, Sherlock. Who else would they sound like?

5.) The New Album-What if it does suck? What if Rubin gets vetoed by Sharon and we get an hour-long album that rivals the shittiness of Never Say Die!. What if their songwriting skills haven't improved after 33 years? One of the things that I enjoyed most about Dio reuniting with Sabbath was how Ronnie brought some really great songs to the table for the ocassion. What if Ozzy can't do that or what if he's too lazy to? Personally, I don't think they can get any worse from Never Say Die!, but there's not a chance it will be better than Sabbath Bloody Sabbath which wasn't that good to begin with.

The fact that there's at least five points of worry with this whole thing, I need to come clean an admit that none of it will be enough to get me NOT to consider getting tickets to a show. This band is the big bang of heavy fucking metal, and the decision to announce this reunion on 11.11.11 is a bit demeaning to the genre as a whole. I mean, I get it, it's cute and I'm all about watching Spinal Tap for the millionth time (I will, later on tonight, rest assured). But to use Nigel Tufnel's "one louder" reference as the backdrop for this announcement that I've been waiting in anticipation for years shows me that they're not taking the genre that they built the foundation for, all that serious.

Here's a clip from their first reunion over 10 years ago. Check out how awesome Geezer is! Check out that awesome solo Tony gives! Check out how Bill looks like he's having a heart-attack on his close up shot towards the end! And more importantly, check out how many chicks lift up their shirts!