Thursday, April 28, 2011

Let's Go To The Massacre!

Sometimes when I'm feeling nostalgic about my hometown, I bring up the following sports clip from a local sportscast that aired in the mid-90's.


The frightening thing is that this guy now works in a major market and is a highly paid broadcaster. Yes, Matt Lorch found national attention in Miami, Florida as one of the first reporters to cover the "hanging chad" controversy during the 2000 elections.

From there, it was on to Boston, where he now sits as the early evening announcer for the NBC affiliate.

To be fair, small market television is filled with newbies who move up to larger markets, using stations like this CBS affiliate as springboards to better paying gigs. They cut their teeth with skeleton crews, shitty equipment, and poor training. There's a lot of errors on that ladder up, and thank god someone had the mindset to record this one.

It wasn't just concentrated with the CBS affiliate either. I remember the NBC station around this same time decided they would provide 24 hours of live news breaks on the hour. After midnight, they had one intern set up his own news breaks and I had the chance to watch the first live break of his professional career.

No video exists (as far as I know of, anyway) and it only lasted less than a minute, but the young man appeared to have a panic attack while on camera. It was so intense that I puposely stayed awake for most of the night just to see if he would eventually pass away on live television.

By the end of the week, he just blurted out his 30 seconds of news in such a rushed delivery that it was obvious his main goal was to just get out of the local break as quickly as possible.

As bad as that seems, it was better than the sweating, heavy breathing, deer in the headlight look of that first newscast.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

KK Downing Quits Judas Priest

Well this is a shocker.

I admit I haven’t been following the news of Judas Priest for a while as I just assumed that everything was ok in their camp and the band would have a few records and tours left in their heads and hearts until it was time to retire.

Evidently, as early as Christmas last year, the band had some inner shake-ups, to the point where guitarist K.K. Downing approached Priest vocalist about retiring from the veteran heavy metal band.

A quick search of revealed a conflicting timeline of the events.

As early as November of last year, KK was announcing that Priest was gearing up for another world tour in 2011.

By December, it was announced further that the 2011 outing would be their final world tour, entitled “Epitaph.” This would have been around the time when Halford and Downing met to go over the details of the tour, the visuals, etc. Downing was also speaking about the anniversaries of Point Of Entry (30 years) and Painkiller (20 years). Why he decided to include Point Of Entry as a point of discussion is beyond me, since that album sucks balls.

On February of this year, Downing was still speaking about the final world tour, proclaiming that the band may continue to release new material after the tour was over

“As for the future,” he explained, “we probably need the help of Nostradamus!” Slyly referencing the shitty double album Nostradamus that Priest released a few years ago and have been hinting that the band would perform the album in its entirety at some point, to the 300 fans who actually believe the album is decent.

But on April 21, KK released a statement on his website stating, “There has been an ongoing breakdown in (sic) working relationship between myself, elements of the band, and the band’s relationship for some time.”

In other words, it’s a conflict over money.

The band went on to further state that would continue with the “Epitaph Farewell Tour” with a new guitarist while still suggesting that a new album is still in the works.

Sorry, but you don’t have Priest without Halford (which they did, if you remember Ripper Owens) and the same goes if you don’t have the twin guitar attack of Downing/Tipton) and you sure as shit don’t book a “Farewell Tour” and sell tickets to it when you’re in the middle of a dispute with one of the original members.

You pull the plug on those plans and address the issue.

And if the issue can’t be resolved, you end the band.

Drummer Scott Harris-ironically a member who replaced someone else-mentions in a quick interview that “the fans want us to continue.” But I can’t think of anyone who is looking forward to an older Priest (who haven’t released a decent album since Painkiller twenty years ago) going out on the road under the pretense of a “final” tour.

That’s not a “final” tour, that’s a “Contractual Obligation” tour or a “Last Dash For Money” tour. It’s certainly not one that enhances your legacy or leaves fans with a good feeling that Priest is nearing the end of their time together on a high note.

Who knows who's to blame here, and there's certainly no chance of finding the answer since it's pretty obvious that the band-including KK himself-have been entirely honest about this whole thing to begin with.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

R.E.M. Announces No Tour Because People Don't Buy Their Albums Anymore

Evidently, R.E.M. has a project in which different directors create short films that accompany each song from their latest album, Collapse Into Now. I haven't heard their latest album and, I'll confess, I really have no interest in hearing it either.

Part of the reason why can be explained in this very project. Is Michael Stipe that pretentious that he needs to refer to a collection of videos for his band's latest album as a "film project?"

Add to this is Peter Buck's comment that the band won't be touring to support Collapse Into Now, stating that touring doesn't help album sales and how "less and less people are buying albums."


Has Buck considered that less people are buying R.E.M. albums because they suck?

It almost seems like Buck is blaming us for their downfall, evidently oblivious that there was a time when you could play an R.E.M. from start to finish. He's lost on the notion that over a third of their tenure featured albums where you could pick the good material on one hand while using your other hand to cover your nose from the stink of their shitty filler.

Get back to making a decent record and maybe you'll see an uptick in interest.

And I'm betting that the reason the band isn't touring for this record is because they're afraid that many of the venues will feature a bunch of open seats.

Either that, or R.E.M. is getting lazy in their old age.

More and more, Bill Berry is looking like a fucking genius.

If rock and roll really means anything to this band at this point, they'd put a lid on their egos and get back to some smaller venues where they'd be forced to prove their mettle on stage again. Maybe they should devote an opening set of Murmur, Reckoning, or Life's Rich Pageant. Christ, I'd even settle for Monster at this point.

Evidently, hanging with James Franco is better than slumming it with a theatre crowd filled with the few loyal fans that are buying new product at the same levels as their first few albums.

Remember when 250,000 copies made for a comfortable existence?

Today it only makes Peter Buck bitch like an ungrateful prick.

And for you little people, the band is gracious enough to let you watch their little art project at no charge for twenty-four hours.

April 26, 2011 — Burbank, CA — Every Day Is Yours To Win, the latest film in R.E.M.’s Collapse Into Now Film Project, is currently streaming on YouTube’s homepage for 24 hours. The film features an introduction by Michael Stipe and co-director Jim McKay, who are the guest curators for the day. Stipe and McKay are also sharing some of their all-time favorite YouTube clips, also featured on the homepage of YouTube. Every Day Is Yours To Win was directed by McKay, Chris Moukarbel, and Valerie Veatch.

The Collapse Into Now Film Project is a selection of films accompanying each song on R.E.M.’s current album Collapse Into Now and directed by notable artists and filmmakers and personally curated by singer Michael Stipe. The list of directors includes Oscar-nominated actor James Franco, filmmaker, photographer, and conceptual artist Sam Taylor-Wood, and Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles.

Several films have already premiered online with more to be unveiled for viewing at broadcast and web outlets over the next several weeks, so please stay tuned to R.E.M. HQ for schedule and details.

Faust - Something Dirty

With all of the turmoil this pioneering band has been through in their 30+-year history, and with such ridiculous song titles as “Tell The Bitch To Go Home,” it was so hard to get excited to review the new Faust album. I mean, clearly the band was just using what little notoriety they had left and it’s goddamn hard in today’s economy for left-leaning artists.

But art this is, and at the level where I’m upset with myself for tackling Something Dirty a bit earlier than I have. It is wonderful expression of abstract music that continues down a long line of challenging arrangements with more than a few hints of honest accessibility.

Blending with the Krautrock elements they fucking invented, Faust circa 2011 are mixes those primary elements with art-haus cool, psychedelia, noise, and straight-ahead Beefheart lifting. Add it together and you get Something Dirty, a record so out-of-place today that it actually sounds like the soundtrack 2011 deserves.

I’m sincere about the high praise here-I absolutely adore Something Dirty and have played it often-but I know that much of my regard is because it’s confounding, the same way I feel when I listen to Morning Edition and get overwhelmed by how the basic concept of “live and let live” seems to be impossible to understand.

It’s front heavy-meaning that the real gems are loaded in the front. From “Lost The Signal” onward, it’s a crapshoot of emotions, some of which are not so pleasant.

But in between some of the barks, shrieks, and squeaks from the chalkboard, are moments of clarity that demand the focus of your attention.

I just wish that someone had gotten a hold of mine a bit sooner.

Here's a free download of the track "Herbststimmung" courtesy of the nice folks at the band's label, Bureau B.

Don't say I never gave you anything.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Lonely Forest - Arrows

Picking up where they left off with their self-titled e.p., The Lonely Forest return with their full-length debut for Death Cab For Cutie’s Chris Walla’s boutique label for Atlantic, Arrows.

With most of the material from that aforementioned e.p. found here on the full-length, Arrows renders it redundant somewhat, while also managing to enlighten the promise it displayed in its brevity.

It’s easy to hear why Walla was drawn to the band and became an early supporter. They draw from the same emotive pool as DCFC, and Walla treats his younger bros to an impeccable production that’s angular and expansive.

He uses the “Company Calls” technique during Arrows’ most ornate song, “Tunnels.” Beginning with a bit of moody atmospheres, it transitions into a full gallop before tacking the track “Ramshackle House” (which had its own track listing for the e.p.) in the middle verse before returning to a rousing rock stomp at the end of the cut.

In short, Walla’s provided The Lonely Forest with a gripping backdrop for such a young band his affection for them is obvious. They return the favor with a passionate performance and a level of perfection that many bands with double the tenure would be envious of.

Of course, there has to be a bit of talent outside the control room to make the Lonely Forest’s attraction even possible, and frontman John Van Deusen certainly has a way of sweetening his mope and fey swells with a good goddamn amount of memorable pop.

Arrows shows The Lonely Forest in a manner that all the ladies arriving early for the Death Cab shows this summer will be pleased with the opening band, assuming that we’ll be seeing John and company taking advantage of the enviable slot.

“Now this melancholy boy is gonna shine!” Van Deusen declares on the title track, and Arrows confirms that he does exactly that.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Foo Fighters - Wasting Light

I’m going to be perfectly honest and tell you that-aside from the debut-I don’t own any Foo Fighters albums. And does that debut even count as a Foo Fighters record, since it’s essentially a Dave Grohl studio album to begin with?

Everything beyond Foo Fighters just sounds like every other band that was left in Nirvana’s wake, with the main difference being the lineage that Foo had with Seattle’s most famous trio.

Foo Fighters didn’t necessarily release bad albums after the debut; they just seemed to release the same albums over and over. In fact, I’ll be goddamned if Grohl hasn’t been doing the same album since Nevermind, with the difference now being he gets to play the part that Cobain always seemed to shy away from: the frontman.

Grohl’s a likeable guy, and he seems to like the attention of being the guy in the spotlight. That’s a 180 degree difference from Cobain of course, but then again, Grohl’s lyrics have never been on the same depressive level of Kurt’s either, which may be the reason why I didn’t take to the Foos that music.

When I want loud/soft dynamics, I want it to happen because the band is pissed off at the world (Nirvana) or just a bunch of weirdoes who view the bi-polar arrangements as artistic expression (Pixies).

Grohl likes the loud/soft touch because it sounds anthemic. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it gets a bit old after a while. This may be why I prefer Glen Campbell’s version of “Times Like These” more than the original Foo version.

In the recent documentary Back And Forth, Grohl seems intent on reminding himself of what he’s gone through to get to this point with his band, now in existence for a lifetime longer than his time behind the kit with Nirvana. You get the sense that he feels a little bummed about his success that he begins calling calling up former bandmates (Pat Smear and Krist Novelselic-who sounds so awesome that you'll know exactly when he begins playing) and heroes (Bob Mould) just to ground himself enough to ask them "Are you cool with me being a rock star?"

Believe me, I wanted to call bullshit on all of it, but when watching Back And Forth, I began to empathize, and with that I began to listen to what was being recorded. And what I heard was nothing new, it wasn’t as anonymous as everything in between now and that Foo Fighters debut.

To record the nostalgia trip, Grohl rang up none other than Butch Vig. And unlike Nevermind, Vig pushes all of the testosterone to the front of the mix, even the shit that’s blatantly intended for rock radio.

This isn’t to suggest that Foo Fighters have pulled an In Utero with their latest Wasting Light, but they’re certainly comfortable enough to not worry about things like radio friendly unit shifter. It’s not due to the phony angst and self-deprecation that’s going on throughout the eleven songs, it’s because they understand that there simply aren’t any modern-era arena rock bands around today that can compete with them.

And with the competition jockeying for position on the second stage, the band has finally found the freedom to get beyond Grohl’s insecurities and just balls out rock for a change with all of the clich├ęs and mid-life crisis phrasing in plain view.

Wasting Light will be the album that fans point to as a highpoint in ten years when the band begins their annual summer tour of sheds and stadiums-it’ll be the record performed in its entirety, the one where the obligatory biography spends a few extra moments on.

It most certainly won’t change the world and it certainly won’t cause the haters to change their opinion of Foo Fighters. What Wasting Light may due is prove to be the first record from a member of the original grunge movement to acknowledge a commercial desire ahead of hero worship and the folly of underground dogma.

We all knew that Nirvana, Soundgarden, etc. had a stash of the same classic records that everyone else in America was listening to sitting right next to their obscure titles that they name checked in interviews and t-shirts.

With Wasting Light sounds like Grohl’s actually trying to create one of those classic records for his own catalog, free from the shackles of worrying about his underground lineage.

Shearwater Signs To Sub Pop

This just came in my inbox a few days ago: Shearwater have moved from Matador to Sub Pop. The good news is that their future material will get the benefit of the decent distribution-as they did when they jumped from Misra to Matador-which is awesome because Shearwater are definately a band worth seeking out.

From the press release:

"One of the most original and acclaimed bands of recent years, Shearwater, have recently entered into a recording agreement with Sub Pop Records of Seattle, WA.

This is news worth sharing.

While they're not saying much about the record yet, singer Jonathan Meiburg suggests that it's going to be quite different from the band's past releases. "We're having trouble taming this one," he says, “but luckily, we don't really want to." Expect a new album from the band in early 2012.

The band signaled a change in direction from their most recent releases, the trilogy of mysterious, thematically-linked albums they're now calling The Island Arc (The Golden Archipelago from 2010, the 2008 release Rook, and 2006's Palo Santo) with a final, sold-out, three-hour epic performance in their hometown of Austin earlier this year. A set of recordings from that show are now available on the Shearwater bandcamp page.

Drummer Thor Harris, in the meantime, has been busy smashing tubular bells with hammers in Michael Gira's reformed Swans, and is set to release a new instrumental album and book of drawings, A Post-Apocalyptic Tale of Friendship, through Austin's Monofonus Press. And bassist Kimberly Burke's new play, "Miss Tibet," will have a reading at Playwrights Foundation in San Francisco on May 16 & 17.

Meiburg's been active, too--besides the loved/loathed Blue Water White Death collaboration with Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart late last year, he played keyboards on Bill Callahan's new Apocalypse, added guest vocals to Okkervil River's upcoming I Am Very Far, and performed two new, long, iridescent songs, "Hymn to the Valences" and "The Moth and the Milky Way" at the Whitney Museum of American Art with Andy Stack of Wye Oak. Studio recordings of these songs, inspired by the psychedelic natural scenes of painter Charles Burchfield, are available on Shearwater's bandcamp this week (and, next year, on vinyl as part of Graveface Records' subscription-only singles collection)."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Paul Westerberg Shops At Payless

Has no one caught this yet?

Paul Westerberg authorized Payless Shoes to use one of his songs to provide the soundtrack to their Spring campaign.

What a fucking sell-out!

But seriously: Good for him!

If anyone deserves to be sorely lacking in the financial department for their contributions to rock and roll music, it's Paul.

Throw Bob Mould and Grant Hart in there too.

I was surprised with the choice of songs-not due to the topic (which is perfect) but because it's from one of his most notably rougher albums. And while it's not as rough as Mono, Stereo wasn't exactly tracked at Abby Road, if you know what I mean.

I stopped in my tracks when I heard the guitar lick.

"Holy shit! That's Paul Westerberg!" I blurted out in the kitchen, overhearing the television that was on in our living room.

Nobody batted an eye because they don't care about such things. After all, Westerberg is only one of the ten best songwriters to come out of the 80's, so what's the big deal about his songs playing underneath an ad for a shoe store chain.

Poor Paul. Can't find success with some of the most moving records to come from the Twin Cities and can't find a gig with a cooler store to sell his music too.

At least he's getting paid, and putting a smile to my face when I normally wouldn't give two shits about shoes.

I got my new pair of Vans a few weeks ago, so I'm good for the summer.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Ugly American Version Of Iowa

For fucks sake, don't these people know that their attempt at "music" and "hometown pride" are having an adverse effect on how others perceive our state?

I don't expect people to make pilgramages to Iowa or to make our state ahead of, say, the Grand Canyon or Niagra Falls, but does our State Tourism board really need these videos to make their job tougher?

Jack Kerouac wrote in On The Road that "the prettiest girls in the world live in Des Moines." And then, last year some dipshit from a local radio station makes a video that is in complete contradiction to that.

It's like the person "producing" the song was on some kind of AutoTune Crack to the point where you begin to think that the perception that we don't have accents here in the state is wrong.

The world now thinks that our accents make us sound like robots.

They also think that our girls should put down the beer for a while and get on the Special K diet instead.

Fast forward to Iowa on the crest of spring. And as the sun warms up our state, we begin to plan for summer.

Lake Okoboji is one of the best places in the state you can be during the summer. But after this next video, you'll never want to visit the secret that is one of the few blue water lakes in the world.

Thanks to that piece of wonderful videography, all of the dudes in Iowa have jobs putting up drywall and obsess about the trampy ex-girlfriend that broke up with them.

While these videos may have done irrevocable damage to my state's image, I can personally attest to the fact that they in no way represent the true make up of our residents.

No sir, most of Iowa inhabitants are elderly white folks from Sweden or Norway who drive their white Buick Le Sabres on our extensive network of two-lane highways at the breakneck speed of 51 mph.

Stop by some time, if you think you can hang.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Alice Cooper - Flush The Fashion

Some of us will never forgive Alice Cooper for disbanding the Alice Cooper Band after releasing an impressive catalog of material that required no revamping whatsoever.

Once departed/terminated, Alice promptly released one embarrassment after another, all of which followed similar formulas that usually featured one ballad that snuck Alice’s name in the top 40, a weird blend of schmaltz and desperation. In short order, Vincent Furnier dismantled the good name of a great band while caring more for his notoriety instead of quality music.

Strangely, Cooper opted for another image transfusion when a new decade arrived-a new wave freak that began looking more like a retirement-age Betty Davis undergoing cancer treatments-and with it came a new direction in sound.

The sound, in case you’re wondering, was a blatant attempt at sounding modern. To help, Alice enlisted the help of Roy Thomas Baker-the “in” producer for late 70’s new wave garb and the dude responsible for splicing all of that tape for Queen’s over-the-top vocal treatments.

There’s none of those treatments on Flush The Fashion, but you can hear a bunch of the same synth tones found on The Cars’ Panorama and a weird similarity to Iggy Pop’s output around this same period.

Alice hails from the same town as Ig, so maybe the sound is intentional. Regardless of the source or inspiration, Cooper delivers an oddly compelling record that seems to suggest that his heart was actually in it for a moment.

That’s more than you can say for the follow up releases to Flush The Fashion where Alice admits that he doesn’t even remember recording.

I’m willing to bet that he remembers these R.T.B. sessions, and I’m also willing to bet that he tried hard at this career re-invention at both the creative and image level.

The first single “Clones (We’re All)” is a fine example of this. Cooper recites some Orwellian imagery and phonetically places like a robot over some Greg Hawkes keystrokes. It works and it sounds like a lost new wave classic today.

The same is true for “Pain,” where Alice goes into a tried-and-true definition lyric formula (“I’m the holes in your arms when you’re feeling the shakes/And I’m the lump on your head when you step on the rake”) and comes out somewhat victorious.

Most of the rest album, unfortunately, doesn’t. Those instances of real inspiration are sagged by a plethora of other songs that sound like they’ve stopped at the arrangement portion of the creative process. Too often, Alice uses a singsong technique and just rattles off words that he thinks sounds menacing.

That means you get songs about “Aspirin Damage” and nuclear meltdowns (complete with The China Syndrome nods!), all delivered in a range-less tone because Alice can’t seem to find the same kind of inspiration as he did on the more realized material.

Add it up and Flush The Fashion might indeed be the best album since his days as the frontman for the Alice Cooper Band. Unfortunately, it’s almost as lazy as some of those same offerings, proving that maybe he should have focused more on reinventing his deteriorating lifestyle than his overhauling his image.

Because a sober ear could have easily heard that Alice was pointed in the right direction during some moments of Flush The Fashion, but for the rest of the record, he clearly was too inebriated to steer.

I Would Do Anything For A Paycheck (But I Won't Do That)

“It’s 8:00 O’clock.” My wife informed me one Sunday evening. “Don’t you want to watch your show?”

I looked up from my Blackberry and went over the Sunday night television schedule in my head, trying to remember what shows were on HBO.

After all, everyone knows that Sunday night is HBO’s night for original programming, and since Game of Thrones was still a few Sundays away and Big Love’s final season already wrapped up (No spoiler alerts! I still haven’t seen the last episode!), I struggled to think of what show she was speaking to.

“What show?” I finally asked.

Celebrity Apprentice!” She reminded me, thinking that my previous enthusiasm translated into loyal viewership.

It is true that a few weeks back, I was flipping through the channels on a Sunday evening, and I landed on the final moments of the show. This was around the time when Donald Trump began his inexcusable journey down Birther Road and-yes-I wanted to be briefly reminded of why this turd is treated with any modicum of respect. I fail to see why America would lend any credence to an ego-inflated buffoon who has failed in nearly every endeavor, lies just as comfortably as he does when telling the truth, and who views those around him with the contempt of someone who’s never earned anything through traditional, American ideals.

But that’s just me.

What really got me keyed in was the teaser that they aired promoting next week’s show. In the clip, cast member Meatloaf unloads on Gary Busey, for reasons that could only be explained through actually watching the episode on the following week.

I made a mental note to tune in.

While the clip didn’t suggest what prompted the outburst by Meatloaf, one could logically assume that it was Busey’s fault because Gary Busey is not operating with a full deck regardless of what brief moments of clarity he still has.

The problem with Gary Busey is that those moments of lucidness trick the people around him into believing that he was many of his capacities still in tact, and since that is the “truth,” any event involving Gary rubbing his Celebrity teammates the wrong way could easily be seen as sabotage or intentionally mean-spiritedness.

The thing is, when Gary Busey split his head open on that infamous motorcycle accident from a few decades ago-the injury resulted in enough head trauma that Gary has lost the ability to feel empathy. As a result, he says shit and does stuff with total disregard for others that it’s misconstrued as him just being an insensitive asshole.

And he must have certainly been a royal asshole to get Meatloaf worked up as much as he did during that next episode.

Yes, I remembered enough to tune in to the Celebrity Apprentice episode featuring Gary against Meat.

Don’t get me wrong, I known that Meatloaf is not the most stable person ether. After all, you don’t follow up a widely successful debut with years of silence and without a single note of music.

I didn’t realize that all of those years of nothing merely amounted to Meat having a nervous breakdown of such epic proportions that his swagger, confidence, and god-given talent all took a back seat to anger issues, anxiety, and self-doubt.

But it did, and it was in full display again during a disagreement over painting supplies.

Meatloaf purchased his art supplies for a piece of art he was doing for an auction, and evidently, tensions between him and Busey were fragile at best, with Meat giving plenty of distance between him and Gary.

Smart move, but so is checking the bag for your purchases thoroughly. While Meatloaf through such a conniption over not being able to find his supplies, you could easily feel that he was just one blood vessel burst short of having a complete stroke or heart attack.

He gets in Busey’s face, to the point where the dude from Sugar Ray is holding him back, caressing his mind with soft spoken bro mantras of teamwork an half-assed hippie ideals of how it’s all “for the charity.” It doesn’t work as Meat continues to throw of fit before somebody locates his shirt paints and brushes, painting him as a dunce while Busey looks innocent.

But to suggest that Busey was able to juice up a sabotage of that kind of detail is absurd. Busey can barely take his attention off of pairing the first letter of names and words with some kind of meaningful phrase.

Meatloaf made the fatal mistake of assuming that Gary Busey intentionally took Meatloaf stuffs because, well, I guess because Busey acted like kind of an asshole. To Meatloaf’s credit, instead of getting defensive, Busey could have reminded him not to assume that he stole anything, Because “assume” means you could have the potential of making an “ass’ out of “u” and “me.”

Nowhere in my wildest dream did I imagine that Meatloaf was just as batshit crazy as Gary Busey with the only difference being Meat’s ability to hit his wackiness just a little bit better.

So after seeing that episode, I watched the following one too, where Busey gets that crazy half-Manson/half water vapor look in his eyes while the Sugar Ray dude tries to throw him under the bus after realizing that Busey’s shenanigans are ultimately going to get him kicked off the show.

I could see where it was going: Trump knew that Gary Busey was ratings gold and made a very Trump-like decision of dumping the Sugar Ray dude while hanging on the Busey for another week of Celebrity Apprentice.

It’s almost sad in a way, as was the way that Meatloaf failed to recognize that the puppet master’s strings are easily visible for us observant viewers. And that little display of having no control whatsoever has permanently tarnished what little respect that I had for Meatloaf up until that point.

But whatever. Game of Thrones is on the air finally, and my brief liaison with Celebrity Apprentice has ended, leaving me more certain of Gary Busey’s ignored condition and of Meatloaf previously unnoticed anger issues.

With “reality” this dismal, is it any wonder why I now enjoy the solitude of Thrones’ fantasy world?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mastodon - Live At The Aragon

If Mastodon isn’t the best live American band in existence today, they are certainly within the top five. All of that praise is based on the stunning command they display in a live setting. Their exact precision is a sight to behold, with the key word being “sight” as the band has not released a live record until now.

Live At The Aragon is the band’s first official release, recorded in the same city that I saw them in (different time and venue, though) after they kicked off the tour supporting Crack The Skye by playing the record in its entirety.

The performance I witnessed was in the smaller Metro venue from the first trek of the tour. By the time they returned to Chicago, the band was well worn from the rigors of the road, while still dizzyingly tight and stoically professional.

To document this, the band set up shop in the Aragon ballroom, a rustic room with a penchant for a few shoves and maybe a fist or two-but the band is too quick and well-winded to let any mouthbreather suck the air out of their nitrogen-rich environment.

I have no idea what that even means, but I can tell you that Mastodon has the ability in a live setting to wear a man down, particularly if they don’t pace themselves early on to take advantage of the bands two-hour long set of full-throttle heavy metal.

Because Live At The Aragon documents the Crack The Skye tour, you get another performance of the album and a handful of other tracks at the end of the performance. This date includes a wonderful version of The Melvins’ “The Bit,” while being woefully short on other favorites, some of which prevent the album from being both a “must have” and “vital document.”

It is a good one, nonetheless, with added points for the dvd of the performance. This is really where you should start with as it provides visual proof of how these guys not only created the sonic wonderment that is Crack The Skye, but they were able to recreate it without tricks or slight of hand.

The dvd also contains the visuals that played behind the band during the Crack The Skye set which, as those who attended the shows, is really not much of a draw here.

With that being said, the dvd is the draw here, for without it, Live At The Aragon’s mirrors the original studio release so much that it would be irrelevant.

Still, if anyone needed evidence of the band’s live prowess or would like an audio witness to how good this band is at this moment, Live At The Aragon is a nice bit of recorded evidence.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Record Store Day 2011: Survivor's Guilt and Colored Vinyl

It was snowing on Record Store Day this year, the annual event that was created to celebrate what is now a dying breed, but what once was an establishment in nearly every town with a population of any decent size.

My town of Cedar Rapids is the second largest city in the state of Iowa, and with a population of over 125,000 people, it’s not enough to support one record store. The last one closed a few years ago, if I recall, and I remember making a special trip to city for one of the first record store closing of any significance-Rock ‘N Bach Records-when it shuttered, more than a decade ago. I drove up for the store-closing sale, snagging a rare Julian Cope picture disc for a song, and thinking, “I wish I’d known about this place sooner.”

It felt like a morgue in there. The store seemed depressingly dark, with windows blocked by faded promotional posters. We were late to the pickings-bins were missing entire sections from previous shoppers who’d gotten the more popular stuff. What remained were the obscure and undesirable. For ever oddball Julian Cope 12”, there were six copies of some EMF record.

There were more stores that closed before I moved up here, and several others that ended while I was here. So for Record Store Day 2011, the closest place I could solicit my support was to drive the forty-five minute commute to Iowa City, the same collegiate town where my love of independent record stores grew exponentially.

I’ve spoken before of this town and their selections, but like every other town that’s had a retailer devoted to the purchase of recorded music; Iowa City has seen a quiet dismantling of record stores. When I began coming to that town in search for eclectic selections and knowledgeable clerks, you could easily find a store on nearly every corner of its downtown district.

The Record Collector-which ended up becoming my favorite store out of the bunch-is the last one standing. I made the declaration that we would be traveling down to Iowa City to “celebrate” record store day, which is code for “If you let me putz around the record store for 15 minutes, I’ll take you kids to the shitty children’s museum, which is right across from the ice-rink inside the massive shopping mall next to I-80.

Immediately, I noticed the familiar face of the owner of the Record Collector-Kirk Walther-hurriedly assisting customers around the smaller square-footage of his latest location. By my count, this location at 116 South Linn Street is his third, and by my guess, the square footage is in between his original location and the one he eventually moved into when his business expanded.

It’d been years since I’d seen him, so a reintroduction was in order. At one point in time, I’d make the trip to his store about once a month-and that was when I lived over an hour away. Now that I’m closer, the drive was nothing like it was, but like everybody else, my purchasing habits have changed, as has the preferred format.

The drive down to Iowa City is indicative of this, where I loaded Prince’s “Sometimes It Snows In April” onto my IPod before loading the kids in the van, a song that fit the abrupt climate change that found my lawn covered in snow before we ventured out.

I could have easily just brought Parade with us and started the journey, but as it is with the convenience that the mp3 format brings us, why not just add one more file to the larger catalog that comes with me for any journey that will be longer than 10 minutes in length.

Like most Big Ten college towns, parking is a valuable commodity. They’ve planted strategic parking buildings around the downtown area, of course, and if we were planning a lengthy stay in the district, this may have been the ideal spot. But we were entertaining my whim, and I needed a spot close to the Record Collector in order to make a quick exit. I knew the event would be lost on the children, and the appreciation of traveling back in time to when visits to the record store were part of the routine.

I asked Kirk how things were going with the store and then immediately regretted it. I’m sure he gets asks this question, and probably even more direct ones like “Are you guys going out of business soon?”

“Yeah, I get sick of it…but I understand why it gets asked” he acknowledged, right before he asked me directly “Are you still buyin’?”

It’s a tough question to answer, because on every account it suggests that I’m not doing much to support an industry that has provided me so much. And by “industry,” I’m speaking directly to the independent record stores and not to the labels that directly contributed to the downfall of brick and mortar stores that now view Record Store Day as their version of Black Friday.

There I was, admitting to the convenience of ITunes for those late night impulse purchases, the bargain pricing of Amazon on the rare occasion that I actually order physical copy, and vaguely referencing the promotional downloads that I’ll get for free for review consideration.

He seemed to notice how uncomfortable my answers were, and he quickly tried to display an understanding as to why I wasn’t a guest of his store as much as I used to be. And his responses were right on: with not living in Iowa City and with wife and kids into the mix, I’m not the single guy in his late-twenties/early thirties that can find the time to invest money into a passion that no longer has the drive to make me choose sides over my personal life. My personal life has become my family life, and music has become the mistress that I visit when the kids are in bed and the wife preoccupied.

It still provides the soundtrack to my life and its there to document changes in my world, but the keys to obtaining the score have changed a lot since I use to walk into Kirk’s store with one purchase in mind and leave with several titles in hand.

He smiled at this fact, because it was those kinds of encounters with others and myself that enabled him to grow and prosper before realizing that the livelihood he had chosen was based on an unsteady foundation, one where Kirk would have to work twice as hard just to get to half of the intended results.

I’m sorry for this, but it’s ultimately beyond my control. Sure, I could travel down and spend twenty minutes circling the block looking for parking, to which all of this would ultimately accomplish a reality where I’m spending less on a passion that requires me to dig deeper. Instead of four albums, I would only be able to afford one. So when opportunities allow me to obtain those four at a lower cost, I’m taking the cheaper route.

Kirk tells me that the most lucrative time was in 1991-when “college rock” suddenly became “mainstream rock.” When people would sell their cds just to get other cds, which provide stores like the Record Collector with the enviable position that they could obtain a nice catalog of titles just by buying direct instead of through rigid distributors.

I was one of those people, and Kirk was there to encourage my quest for knowledge. You’d give him a band that you were playing a lot, and he’d bring out a half-dozen titles of similar artists knowing that one would surely stick.

Surprisingly, he sounded upbeat and positive, despite my initial questions to him, which were anything but. It’s the vinyl that’s been helping his rebound, which seemed to be the format that Record Store Day focuses on.

Regardless of my embarrassment, it wasn’t guilt that drew me to Kirk store on this blustery Saturday-it was the rare shit. The day had been good to him: most of the limited edition stuff he received for the festivities were gone. I began to rattle off my own list of items that I’d circled and Kirk took me to the area that housed the Record Store Day new releases.

The Beach Boys 10” sold out early, but my other two hopefuls-a Deerhunter single and the vinyl version of Mastodon’s new live album-were still in stock. As Meatloaf said, two out of three ain’t bad.

The kids were thoroughly unimpressed with the record store and they spent most of their time scarfing down the chips and pretzels that the store had laid out to ensure a long visit. Ironically, the kids were the reason why the trip was cut short as the snacks led way to “I’m Hungry!” which meant that their whining would ultimately become a business liability for Kirk if I didn’t get them some grub.

But not before snagging an original, mint copy of Marty Robbins’ Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs and a dirt-cheap copy of Phish’s Hampton Comes Alive.

“Mastodon and Phish in the same purchase! I love it!” exclaimed Kirk as his collegiate co-worker rang me out.

“There’s a Marty Robbins record in there too,” I added proudly, “There’s nothin’ wrong with tryin’ different things!”

And part of that diversity is because of the world that people like Kirk opened for me.

For that, I should be able to find at least one day a year to say “Thank you.”

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Cars - Candy O

The logical explanation for why The Cars debut album is so good falls under the “A band has their whole life to make their debut album” claim, with the understanding that it takes some talent, of course, for said debut to be worth anything.

With Ric Ocasek handling a big portion of that talent quotient, and the fact that The Cars only featured 9 tracks to begin with, there would have been enormous expectations for their sophomore album. I mean, if it took the band’s entire existence to come up with those nine songs, you’d have to believe that they left a few behind for future releases that were just as good.

Candy O proved that Ocasek and company indeed had plenty of material in the can and in the works that rivals the high benchmark of their debut.

The only disappointing thing about it is the fact that it’s oftentimes overlooked by the AOR saturation of the first album which has-at least at the time of this writing-continued to overlook the treasures found in Candy O.

It’s a different album, for sure, but one where the difference is in song structure rather than quality. Candy O is a decidedly more pop affair, a direction that keeps the material tight and infectious. The songs are quirky at times, and producer Roy Thomas Baker doesn’t layer the selections with saccharine. In other words, there is plenty of tracks here that could have found a home on rock radio right next to “Good Times Roll” or “Just What I Needed.”

It begins with the obvious single “Let’s Go,” a weekend jump-start praising the attitude of what seems to be a young woman who’s not interested in one night stands (“When I asked her before/She says she’s holding out”), but merely to enjoy the freedom of the nightlife, baby.

This killer piece of radio friendly gold kicks of a stunning first side which runs the gambit of more pop gems (“It’s All I Can Do,” possibly my favorite Cars song sung by Benjamin Orr), a brief foray into Ocasek art rock/electronic pose (“Shoo Be Do”) and a mysterious bit of hyperactive rock for the closing title track.

That same rock, nicely decorated with Elliot Easton’s succinct guitar work, opens up side two with “Night Spots,” a more aggressive alter-ego to side one’s other ode to nightclubbing. It’s a less jovial too, as Ocasek’s lady seems to have more of a death wish, offering how she “keep(s) it cool when its t-t-tight/Eyes wide open when you start to fall.”

Ocasek saves his best for last in “Dangerous Type” a bit of T-Rex staggered guitar over Ric’s flair of cryptic back and forth (“How can I touch you/When you’re out of touch”). It’s a perfect way to end a nearly perfect album.

By my count, only one track, “Lust For Kicks,” is the weak link in the chain, but not by much. Even by the standards imposed by The Cars’ debut, Candy O sounds like a nice move forward without sacrificing quality control to the point where this sophomore effort shouldn’t be in every rock fan’s collection right beside their first record.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Cars - Blue Tip

It started with a tease, I think.

If I recall, some random photo popped on the intertubes, an older set of Cars in close proximity of each other. Some hint of a reunion, people claimed.

But all I could think about was Ben.

Can you really have a Cars reunion without Ben?

I supposed it’s better than The New Cars, or any of the member’s solo albums.

Hell, even The Lace blew-just to show you that I’m not all nostalgic for Benjamin Orzechowski tunes ‘n shit. Before he died, he toured the fairs with “Orr,” a ridiculous outfit named from his Anglicized surname-like he was some kind of Van Halen, Bon Jovi, or Giuffria.

I’m kidding. I’m only trying to say that Benjamin Orr’s voice was a critical component to The Cars sound, and I’d venture to say that most of my favorite Cars songs were the ones sung by him.

I get that Ocasek is the frontman, in nearly every sense of the word-but he sure as hell didn’t have Orr’s golden throat.

So strike one and two against the new album the remaining Cars members are getting ready to unleash a new record-their first in over two decades-but don’t think that I’m about to suggest that a new record without Benjamin Orr will tarnish their legacy.

Because their legacy is already tarnished a bit. If it weren’t, then this type of announcement would have been delivered with the fanfare of, say, Motley Crue appearing on Larry Fucking King to promote the fact that the original band had gotten back together.

And even that announcement was actually their second reunion announcement within 5 years of the first one!

The Cars is a classic, and I’m working on a review that suggests Candy O didn’t fall to off-course from the first record. Panorama is where things got conflicted, but I sure as shit enjoyed the results. I’d call Shake It Up or Door To Door their worst, with Heartbeat City getting a pass because 1.) It was huge and 2.) It contains possibly the only supporting argument in their quest for commercial appeal, the lovely “Drive.”

It may be the weepy nostalgia talking here, but “Blue Tip” is sounding better than anything off of Shake It Up or Door To Door-which isn’t that hard to do since both of those albums blew, clouding up the clear understanding that these chowderheads knocked out a pair of masterpieces right out of the gate.

You know why you can’t actually see them in the video? Because The Cars are now so hideously old that by showing them in the flesh would ruin their credibility as music video icons.

Of course, Ocasek has always been a weird looking fellow anyway, as was Greg Hawkes. And that sure as shit looks like a lefty playing guitar, so save up your nickels this time, Elliot.

And be still my beating heart, could that really be David Robinson on drums? From what I heard, David was the toughest one to convince to come back. Let me just say that this tune would have been TONS more compelling if they just rigged up his old kid and yelled at him to “Play like a robot!” because that snare/hi-hat beat that Robinson is known for is one of the primary reasons why those first three records of The Cars outrank anything else they provided.

The Cars - Blue Tip - Official Video 2011 from Roberto Serrini on Vimeo.

New Low Video Features Mike Love Apologist

I made a note to remind you wonderful music freaks that the awesome Low are back with a new album, and for some strange reason, they invited John Stamos to the party. That's right, the Full House dude who may be the only person who can claim Mike Love as his Broseph, has found his way into fairly relevant video for us slowcore fans who actually lived down the road from the City of Joeseph.

The record label spiel begins now:

C'mon, the shortest title of any Low album to date is officially available on CD/LP and digitally, as of yesterday April 12th.

Comprised of new material written on and off the road, this ten-song set was recorded in a former Catholic church, aka Sacred Heart Studio (where the band previously crafted 2002's Trust) and co-produced and mixed by Matt Beckley.

Yesterday, ET premiered the video for Low's ”Try to Sleep” which features actor, John Stamos.

Low - Try to Sleep (OFFICIAL VIDEO) from Sub Pop Records on Vimeo.

This is what Stamos had to say about how he came to be a part of the video:

"I'm actually good friends with their producer Matt Beckley, and he had played me some of the record while they we're making it, which I loved. Ironically it turns out I was a big fan of one of their older songs "Cue the Strings"... I'm a sucker for a well written song with great harmonies, and when it came time for them to cast the video, they asked if I'd like to be involved, I liked the concept I was happy to be a part of it. The new record is on all the time at my place. One of my favorite indie bands."

Low will begin a tour tomorrow, Thursday, April 14, in their hometown of Duluth, MN, with a very special in store on Saturday April 16 at Electric Fetus in Minneapolis, 4:00 pm, in honor of Record Store Day 2011.

Those of you on the left coast, fear not, the band have just announced a slew of West Coast dates in early September, playing shows in such cities as Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

See below for a full list of tour dates.

For more information on Low, please visit Sub Pop's artist page.

Try To Sleep MP3

Especially Me MP3

Low's Website

Tour Dates:

04/14/2011 Harbor City International School, Duluth
04/16/2011 Electric Fetus In Store for Record Store Day @ 4:00 pm
04/16/2011 First Avenue, Minneapolis
04/20/2011 Majestic Theatre, Madison
04/21/2011 Lincoln Hall, Chicago
04/22/2011 Headliners Music Hall, Louisville
04/23/2011 Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh
04/25/2011 First Unitarian Church, Philadelphia
04/26/2011 Black Cat, Washington
04/27/2011 Bowery Ballroom, New York
04/29/2011 Paramount Center, Boston
04/30/2011 Daniel Street, Milford
05/02/2011 The Mod Club, Toronto
05/03/2011 The Blind Pig, Ann Arbor
09/10/2011 The Aquarium (Dempsey's Upstairs), Fargo
09/15/2011 The Rio Theatre, Vancouver
09/16/2011 Neumos, Seattle
09/17/2011 Aladdin Theater, Portland
09/19/2011 Great American Music Hall, San Francisco
09/20/2011 El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles
09/23/2011 Velour Live Music Gallery, Provo
09/24/2011 Bluebird Theater, Denver

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Peter Frampton - Frampton Comes Alive!

There’s a scene in the movie Wayne’s World where Wayne is with the character played by Tia Carrerra and they’re playing around in her bedroom/loft. He finds a stray copy of Frampton Comes Alive! and makes note of it.

I’ll paraphrase the scene: If you lived in the suburbs, you were automatically issued a copy of Frampton Comes Alive!

I love that line because it’s true.

Frampton Comes Alive! is one of those records that’s synonymous with everything that’s good and bad about the music of the seventies. Its presence was so widespread that it does seem like every home in the suburbs came equipped with one copy along with the Joe Namath Butter Up Popcorn Maker, a Merlin, and a Fonz “Sit on it!” t-shirt.

It’s the album that turned me into a Peter Frampton fan overnight, along with the rest of the United States. Most of us had never even heard of Peter Frampton before that record, even though he was member of Humble Pie-a fairly popular touring outfit of heavy blooze rock and too tight denim.

Frampton left the Pie and sought out fortune on his own. With several solo albums under his belt, Pete sold his wares on the road, building a small following but essentially was still a minor act in the scheme of things.

A lot of those early solo records had some decent material, but sounded stiff and watered down in the studio. Some genius-and I say that in all seriousness without a hint of irony or even knowing who the person might be-thought it would be a good idea to capture a Pete Frampton show and collect all of those decent songs from those albums that he’d released up to that point.

Whatever the reason for this decision-a final contract obligation to fulfill with the label or the realization that Peter’s material just seemed to sound better in a live setting-more people related to that double live record than anything else he’d released.

It was a double album with a gatefold sleeve, the kind that people joked about how they would use the open cover to roll joints on. I was too young to use it for something that elicit, so instead I would put on the record and intently study the cover. Fold it out, and you’d see Frampton bent at the knees, mouth open, as he appeared to be in mid-guitar solo. Inside, shots of the other musicians in action, giving the record a larger than life feel.

I probably should gleam to bright about my fan-boy devotion of Frampton, because while I was collecting bits of his older material (Frampton and Frampton’s Camel) he was recording the God-awful follow-up I’m In You and completely defacing The Beatles with the movie (and soundtrack) Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

All of this came in the wake of Frampton Comes Alive! though. It’s doesn’t reflect anything negative about that album and upon a recent re-examination of this live recording, I found it to hold up surprisingly well and to be a great document of Frampton’s work and the notion of a live album itself.

Sure, there were live albums before it (including his old band Humble Pie’s first hit Rockin’ The Fillmore) but the out of control sales of Frampton’s record made a double live record an obligatory part in every major band’s career.

You could even make the argument that it initiated the entire arena rock genre, the influx of one-named bands like Journey, Styx, Kansas who’d release a ten-song lp and hit the ice arenas in markets across the country like a longhaired circus.

You could also say that Frampton’s entire career is based upon that weird sounding device called the Talk Box, a nifty device that he used for not one, but two of his most popular songs on that record.

In the end, neither one of these speed bumps of uncouthness can negate the fact that Frampton Comes Alive! is a splendid document. The musicians are tight, the set list nicely tempoed, and even the audience seems wonderfully inebriated. One of the moments on the album that always intrigued me was when someone sets off a firecracker during one of Frampton’s acoustic songs. For a kid not yet in puberty, it made the whole notion of a rock and roll concert downright dangerous.

Looking at it now, Frampton Comes Alive! seems innocent enough. It also seems like a record that couldn’t be made today-not to suggest that it’s sonically tied to a particular era. It isn’t; all of the instrumentation is clear and intricate. But in this day of hyper-compressed signals and tin-eared delivery methods, Frampton Comes Alive! possesses such a natural authenticity that it sounds positively novel.

The brilliance is in how subtle Frampton and the band transition between singer-songwriter folk to melodic pop rock to hard rock anthems. It all sounds legit, and it sounds like they’re all having a ball too.

No wonder the kids used the gatefold cover for other purposes besides reading the liner notes.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ke$ha - "Tik Tok"

Thanks to some stupid kid movie, my kids have now begun to continually singing a shitty Ke$ha song.

And yes, we've been asked "What's a bottle of Jack?"

Monday, April 4, 2011

Iggy & The Stooges - Raw Power: Live In The Hands Of The Fans

After soiling the Stooges name with The Weirdness, Iggy brings James Williamson out of musical retirement for a final injection into Ig’s 401K plan before heading to Florida full time.

And to be honest, I’m so ready for him to retire that it’s scary.

I’m finally at a point where so much shit has clouded his career that I’m having a tough time justifying sticking with him this long. I hold similar resentment with Lou Reed, but Iggy still had the ability to deliver a strong punch live.

I was intrigued by the notion of a Williamson/Pop reunion with an obligatory run through of Raw Power and, by default, the promise of a live recording of that album by these much older comrades.

To call the results less than worthy because of the band’s collective age is not fair: Mike Watt still plays like a kid in the candy store and James Williamson sounds like he’s having a blast. The moment you hear him in the opening track-slightly off thanks to a revamped track listing-you’ll hear how seems to be making up for a quarter-century of silence with a punishing tone.

The problem here-as it was with The Weirdness-is Iggy, and yes, you can attribute it to age. As fuck-it-all frightening as he sounded on the original, he sounds winded here, hoarse from the years and content with letting the bite of his delivery be reduced to a bark.

On “Shake Appeal,” he’s completely drained, spewing out syllables that barely manage to stay in time. Actually, that’s better than Rock Action’s plodding timekeeping on “I Need Somebody” which slows Ig to a point where he sounds more like On Golden Pond era Katherine Hepburn than the Grandfather of punk.

At the end of “Death Trip,” Iggy yells “That was fuckin’ Raw Power....Turn on the lights and gimmie some fuckin’ air!” It’s almost sacrilegious how-after this album was originally released-Iggy famously invited the audience to throw shit at him before bragging at how much money he was making for the gig. Compared that to now, where Iggy’s asking for fucking oxygen while keeping mum on what’s obviously a bunch more than the 10K figure he was tossing around on Metallic K.O.
Admittedly, I’m getting way too worked up on what is merely a limited-edition ploy at getting record buyers excited for Record Store day. And when you consider the amount of endless garbage that has turned Raw Power outtakes into a cottage industry, I shouldn’t put Raw Power: Live In The Hands Of The Fans on too high of a pedestal.

I only do because the original Raw Power is still a critically important album for me personally. Even the rawer-Raw Power mix is a bit weird to me. So if you’re making a claim at over recreating only the most decadent glam-rock album ever made, then you shouldn’t subject even a limited run document with such bullshit like fade outs after every tune, sub-par performances, and an aged frontman who’s no longer able to will his body to sound younger than it really is.