Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The 2011 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Nominees

It’s an annual pastime-when the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees are announced and then we all bitch about them and whine how our favorites aren’t included.

When will people understand that the RARHOF is merely a short list popularity contest that’s narrowed down further by a handful of rich dudes who ultimately answer to one Jann Wenner.

But Jann can be and has been overruled. How can you explain the Dave Clark Five’s admission into the hall. So maybe the Kiss and Rush fans can take a look at DC5’s lobbying committee to find out a plan for their success.

Make it quick because I’m tired of hearing you guys whine.

And it’s not that I’m down with their admission.

They both deserve to be in the Hall of Fame for sure.

It’s just that as long as you understand that the RARHOF is not a democracy and is not based on either commercial or critical merit, you will be disappointed on a yearly basis that these chuckleheads are completely out of touch with reality or logic.

It’s merely a good old boys club in the truest sense of the word.

So I’m changing it to merely add an opinion to the nominations and hope that someday the RARHOF will get their head out of their ass.

Joan Jett
“Cherry Bomb” is the number one song on my playlist according to, but you won’t find me lobbying for them to be included instead of solo Joan Jett. They weren’t very good and “Cherry Bomb” finds itself as the most played song only because my daughter would request it incessantly. Joan’s album output is choppy, but you cannot comprehend how popular “I Love Rock & Roll” was unless you were there in the summer of 1980 hearing it played every hour on nearly every other radio station. It was a song so epic that Jett gets a pass on getting into the Hall on her first attempt.

Rufus with Chaka Khan
Here’s where the guidelines at the Hall need to be addressed. Do we allow other genres other than rock gain entrance or do we allow some artists that may have influenced rock instead of actually being a part of the genre itself. Think deeply, because that may mean that Prince or Sly Stone wouldn’t get inclusion even though there awesome. And so is Rufus with Chaka Khan, but are they rock?.

Laura Nyro
When you have supporters like David Geffen and Clive Davis, you’re a shoo-in to the RARHOF.

Donna Summer
Love Donna Summer, but she isn’t rock and roll-even if you’re trying to make the case with Bad Girls.

They deserve to be first year nominees, but probably won’t get in on their first try simply because Wenner and company viewed them as Zeppelin followers (which they were and were quite good at it) with a pair of ladies for marketing appeal. Whatever. Little Queen is a classic and even that first record is considered a classic by some. If you overlook the band’s lame MTV period, those first few albums should seal their entrance. In a perfect world, at least.

Guns ‘N Roses
Holy shit, are they up?! Man I feel old! Aside from it being way too early, GnR will get first nomination acceptance into the Hall on the sheer fact that Appetite is one of those albums that changed the landscape of music. By prolonging the inevitable, there might have been a better chance of the original line-up getting on stage again.

Red Hot Chili Peppers
I followed the Chili Peppers up until Blood Sugar Sex Magic. I couldn’t tell you if any of their other stuff afterwards is any good. Up to that album, the Chili Peppers were a pretty good band-Uplift Mofo Party Plan was the shit in college-but I wouldn’t go so far as to say they were a great band. That would have been Fishbone. Let’s put them in first before we start talking about RHCP.

The Cure
Got to be in. Do you know how important this band is to the legion of eyeliners? Plus their early shit and mid-to-late 80’s shit is awesome. Sure, in a perfect world it’d go Roxy Music, Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, then the Cure, but my generation will take any scraps that Jann Wenner throws to us.

Eric B. & RakimI
know nothing beyond Paid In Full. Does Rap music belong in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? For some reason, I have no problem with Run-DMC and Public Enemy being in there. De La Soul too.

Beastie Boys
Wow. Do the Beasties get a pass? Is it racist to think Beasties “Yes” and Eric B. & Rakim “No?” I’m inclined to say let them in based on the fact that a lot of rock ‘n roll knuckle draggers played Licensed To Ill out the wazoo. I hated them for that album. Then I fell in love with them for Paul’s Boutique. And Paul’s Boutique is so good that it almost makes the argument for automatic inclusion. True story: I got confirmed last week and in our little speeches in front of the Bishop, a lady about my age began her speech with “As the Three Wisemen…the Beastie Boys…once said” and then quoted a lyric from them. Kinda cool.

The Spinners
The Spinners were the first concert I ever went to. The brought out big rubber bands for “Rubberband Man” and had a huge Leslie rotating speaker that tripped out my 10-year-old mind. It was at Six Flags and I’m sure my parents used the event as a rest period. I would have preferred going on the Screamin’ Eagle again and I’m not sold that The Spinners belong in the RARHOF.

Small Faces/Faces
Sure. Might as well put Humble Pie up there too. Seriously.

I don’t know what to say about War. Why Can’t We Be Friends is a perfectly fine album and I have no complaints about their work with Eric Burdon. I would be happier with The Animals’ inclusion instead of War. Just sayin’…

I’m not good at this one thanks to a strong dislike of Donovan. Recommend some records to examine if you think I’m missing the boat. Otherwise, I’ll continue to view Donovan as a Dylan wanna-be who grew into a more psychedelic artist, responsible for the atrocious “Atlantis.” To be fair, I do enjoy a few songs, but I wouldn’t consider them HOF material.

Freddy King
Again, no issue with Freddy King-but I wish they had specific criteria that explains how roots stars are eligible. Even then, you have to ask “Is Freddy King on the same level of Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, etc-those blues acts that were automatically included based on their role in the development of the rock genre. I don’t think Freddy-or any of the “Three Kings” qualifies for this, even though they may have been influential to some rock artists.

Wilco - The Whole Love

I was so impressed with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot that I bought my Dad a copy for Christmas that year.

He asked me “So what’s good that’s new music?” which is a question he asks regularly, to the point where I offer up something that I absolutely know he’ll like.

It wasn’t that way with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

I wasn’t entirely sure that he would like it.

And that’s what made the record so good: there were enough weird moments, off-putting sounds, and challenging topics to make the album something you needed to spend time with.

And time is a very precious commodity with my Dad.

I never heard a word about what he thought about the album, which means that it was probably too timid to devote any time with it.

Virtually every album since then would probably be more to his liking, while each one of those very same albums would become increasingly more pedestrian in my ears.

The Whole Love shows Wilco fans that a post-Bennett masterpiece is possible and goddamn if Tweety and company don’t get as close to a ball-hair to gain that very distinction.

And part of it is that The Whole Love sounds like a record that either compliments Tweety’s dominance or pressured for more of a partnership with him. The band sounds relaxed, playful and complimentary. Guitar interplay starts from nowhere, the rhythm section sounds more assured, and Tweety himself is in top form lyrically with phrases that shock, humor, and impress.

The difference between Y.H.F. and The Whole Love is how much the new album incorporates everything for the past decade proudly on its sleeve. It also doesn’t make a big deal of its weirdness. It’s learned to use the sounds and scratches more subtley.

The results are great. It’s an album you can settle into for years to come and one that puts Wilco back on track with an album that you’ll want to keep from your own father, choosing instead to hand it down to a son or daughter.

Monday, September 26, 2011

3 Guitar Heroes Postpone Tour

As soon as this tour was announced, I was excited about it.

For real, if I were to lay down my Baker's Dozen favorite guitar players, two of them would be former members of the Scorpions: Uli Jon Roth and Michael Schenker.

And Leslie West? Well, I did Mountain enough and I absolutely adore West, Bruce and Laing's Whatever Turns You On.

So the notion that these three legendary guitarists were touring together was something I was genuinely looking forward to, particularly when an Iowa date was announced on a Friday evening.

Just as I was getting excited, I got this announcement:

Michael Schenker, a true purveyor first-class hard guitar rock, is set to release the aptly titled Temple of Rock on October 11 on CD, digital formats, and vinyl. Unfortunately, his US visit with Uli Jon Roth and Leslie West on the 3 Guitar Heroes tour has been postponed until early 2012 due to Leslie West's leg amputation. More info will be made available at a later date.

Holy shit! The dude had his leg removed!

I thought surely a story like this would get more traction, but it obviously flew completely underneath my radar.

Evidently, it was an emergency amputation that occurred last June when his leg began to swell. They rushed Leslie to the hospital and, while there, he was advised that the procedure was needed to save his life.

Total bummer.

At first, I was convinced that Michael Schenker had done something silly.

On a press released concerning Schenker's upcoming record Temple of Rock, Schenker said:

"The Temple of Rock is within me where I create since I was introduced to the amazing invention of the distorted Guitar which is for me the most enjoyable and the best possible way to express myself. The Rock Guitar Sound that I fell in love with, mostly expressed as Lead break, is what I have nurtured and treasured all of my life. Combined with the infinite spring from within and the amazing musicians around me I keep expressing an ongoing development of my Art(Being). With Temple of Rock I am entering a new stage of my life, a new level of existence enjoying life more than ever, reaping the joy of all sorts of developments from the past.

Also, it seems to me that collectively, with true expressive makers of Rock Music, we have been building the external Temple Of Rock for many years and have now come to the point of putting on the roofing and celebrating the almost completion of the Temple. All generations of this period are meeting all over the world on one stage it seems celebrating an Era of 'Hand Made Rock' which will never be the same again due to invention of new technology but of course New Temples and New Wonders will arise to enjoy expressions in new ways."

What the fuck?

So you can see why I thought the postponed tour had something to do with Michael's deep fried synapse.

Here's for a speedy recovery.

To be able to see Uli and Michael playing together would be awesome.

Friday, September 23, 2011

House Of Lords Release New Album Today

Evidently, the band House of Lords is still together and, evidently, they are releasing a new album today.

The press release:

Frontiers Records is pleased to announce the release of the brand new HOUSE OF LORDS studio album Big Money on September 23rd in Europe and September 27th in North America.

Following on the heels of the successful release of Cartesian Dreams House of Lords are coming back with another amazingly strong release which presents again all the trademark elements of their Melodic Hard Rock sound. "I am very proud to have done four HOL CD's with the same line-up" says singer James Christian, "I enjoy working with every one of them and plan to do many more records in the future. Mark Baker has now been on board as a co-writer for the last two CD's I love working with him. We are totally on the same page when writing new music."

And indeed, the new album, is truly newest addition to an already stellar catalogue of songs. Big Money, is well, 'BIG'. The album starts with the trademark vocals of James Christian and crashes into a Power Rock Classic that you will not forget after the first listen, followed by in a song that Christian describes "as the band's best work to date": "One Man Down". Each song has its own distinct quality as you would expect from The Lords and once again the album is full of soaring choruses, awesome guitar work and songs that grab you from the first listen and don't let go.

"The elements we use on Big Money are always the same for us and that is to write and record the best songs that we can" explains Christian. "We always write enough songs for more than one CD and then we pick the best songs to make up the new record. We will always be a Melodic Rock Group. It is the music that made us want to be musicians in the first place. So we will always stay true to that art!". James teamed up again on the songwriting with long-time friend and partner Mark Baker along with the other band members Jimi Bell and BJ Zampa and Swedish producer/guitarist Tommy Denander.

House of Lords debuted in 1989 with the release of the self-titled album, a record which is still regarded as one of the best Arena Rock releases of the 80's. The colossal sound, the soaring vocals of James Christian and instrumental capabilities of the band (which featured ex Angel and Giuffria Gregg Giuffria, along with such luminaries as Lanny Cordola, Chuck Wright and Ken Mary), reminiscent of such frontrunners as Whitesnake, Deep Purple and Van Halen, immediately brought the band to the attention of the media and fans.

With their sophomore release entitled Sahara, House of Lords gained considerable chart success with their cover version of Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home". After a tour with Nelson in 1991, the group disbanded, eventually coming back with a new lineup (only featuring original members Giuffria and Christian) in 1992 with Demon's Down. With the change of the musical climate, House of Lords went into hibernation, until the original lineup came back together in 2000, releasing of the controversial Power and the Myth an album which featured a sound leaning more towards Progressive Hard Rock with 70's rock influences.

After a short European tour, singer James Christian decided to go back to the trademark Arena Rock sound of House Of Lords, putting together a new line-up with the blessing of founding member Gregg Giuffria, who opted out right before the release of Power and the Myth. New members Jimi Bell on guitars, B.J. Zampa on drums and Chris McCarvill on bass supplied a true powerhouse sound to the fifth studio album World Upside Down, a record which caused a real stir in the Hard Rock and Melodic Rock scene and was followed up by the equally impressive Come to My Kingdom and Cartesian Dreams.

The new album Big Money includes the following tracks: Big Money, One Man Down, First To Cry, Searchin', Someday When, Livin' In A Dream World, The Next Time I Hold You, Run For Your Life, Hologram, Seven, Once Twice, Blood. Also included: multimedia bonus videoclip "Someday When".

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Brite Futures "Too Young To Kill"

Before I start laying down the public relations script, let me just say I had a minute and a half to kill, so I pressed the arrow button on Brite Futures' video of "Too Young To Kill."

Sure, it's a bit Milky Way but everyone looks so adoreable and the music is so nicely early 80's, like if Chilliwack had a chick in the band.

True story: I just typed "chink," giggled when I noticed the error and then erased the offensive remark.

I rather liked the video and encourage everyone to go out and buy a case of whippets and do them while you watch the video.

Once I went bowling while doing nitrous oxide the entire game.

I scored a 43.

Here's what people who were forced to like the video said about it:

BRITE FUTURES is: David Price (keyboard, guitar, vocals) / Luke Smith (guitar, vocals) / Shaun Libman (vocals) / Conor Sisk (drums) / Claire England (bass, vocals, keyboard)

Dark Past is the new album from Seattle's fun-loving quintet Brite Futures. It is a youthful, swaggering mix of synth-happy pop, rock, funk, disco, and New Wave that has been described as "punk rock Abba disco Osmonds with chainsaws." It challenges the notion that irresistible pop can only be peddled by solo artists propped up by big-name songwriters and major labels. It's game on in Fall 2011 for these pop, indie-minded twenty-somethings when the band releases their new album on November 1st mixed by Eliot James (Two Door Cinema Club, Kaiser Chiefs) and produced by the band's guitarist and vocalist Luke Smith

On first listen to Brite Futures' fiercely catchy new album, Dark Past, it might seem like quite the misnomer. The album's synth-happy mix of New Wave, rock, funk, and dance music packs all the boundless pep of a hyperactive kindergartener on a never-ending sugar high. But tune in closer to these ten tracks and you'll soon hear the pain behind the pop.

"The title Dark Past is a half-serious reflection of the tough times we went through over the past few years," says guitarist Luke Smith, referring to the band's split with Warner Bros. Records during the days when they were known as Natalie Portman's Shaved Head (NPSH).

The band and Warner Bros. Records had different ideas about NPSH's artistic direction and the two parties mutually agreed to end the relationship. The band's dance with the majors left them conflicted - a difficult time that serves as a potent reminder about the importance of creative freedom and what it means to be truly independent. After that experience, Luke, Shaun, Claire, and David decided it was time for a new band name. "For as much attention as being called Natalie Portman's Shaved Head got us, it was also holding us back," Luke says. "It was nice to shed that name and be our own thing for the first time." (Brite Futures address the issue in the final episode of their hilarious "Conversation with Natalie" trilogy on their YouTube channel.)

Now signed to the indie label Turnout, Brite Futures have emerged stronger and excitedly in control of their artistic endeavors, which also include their clever videos and visually inspired merch. "It's like we're a whole new band that got to start all over again," Claire says.

Dark Past is brimming with brilliant moments ....a lovingly stolen Beatles melody on "Too Young To Kill," lyrics that reference The Kinks and Gossip Girl in the same breath, the occasional face-melting guitar solo and the epic and rousing "Black Wedding," which addresses the aftermath of extricating themselves from their contract with WB and reveling in the freedom to make the kind of music they wanted again.

"We want to prove that we can compete with the big guys. You don't see many bands doing this on their own," adds Luke. Noting his pride at Brite Futures' "underdog status," he says he's now happy to have weathered the bad breaks that inspired Dark Past. "We came out the other side with a new sense of confidence, and it's amazing to have this album to be an account of that."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

It's The End Of R.E.M. As We Know It...And I Feel Fine

R.E.M. announced that they were breaking up today.

I’m one of those that things the end couldn’t come soon enough.

I’m hesitant to be too harsh on the band, because they made up such a huge chunk of my life, particularly during the 80’s.

Let me give you an example, ironically coming over the weekend when I did a little meaningless trivia concerning the band over the week, just for the sake of showing off.

Whether or not he was impressed by my display of geekdom is another matter entirely.

The topic of our discussion began with music of the 80’s.

Suddenly, a song came from his phone.

“Who sings this song?” he asked.

“R.E.M.” I replied after a verse.

“What’s the name of it?” he continued.

“Orange Crush” I recalled. I thought it was a weird song to begin with and one that I hadn’t heard in some time.

He went on.

“What album is it from?”

I answered correctly.

“What album number is Green?”

Before I answered, I asked for clarification.

“Is that studio album only or studio albums and compilations?”

Finally, I brought out the big guns.

“I’ll bet you fifty bucks that I can tell you the year, month, and day that Green was released.”

He didn’t take the bet.

I’m bragging a bit, so let me explain how I even know this: I worked as a program director for my college student run radio station. We received an advanced copy of “Orange Crush” before Green was released and with the advance copy single came a postcard. On it said the following: “Things to do on November 7th: Vote and buy R.E.M.’s Green.”

If you would have made me answer that same question about any other R.E.M. album other than Green, and I would have owed you $50.

I collected R.E.M. records including singles, limited edition releases and pointless imports. I figured their rate of return would be great as the band was destined to continue to rise, but by the time drummer Bill Berry left the band, my interest had waned.

It didn’t seem right without a permanent drummer.

And the recorded results affirmed that.

Sure, a few of the records stirred up to pleasant memories of old, but it seemed more like pandering than newfound inspiration. Plus, they were a different band, twenty years removed from Stipe’s mumbling exploits and Peter Buck’s Rickenbacker jangle.

They were a band of mystery during those early records, and it was during that aforementioned record Green in which he fell into his role as lead singer. And the moment in which he began to approach that role with complete confidence was the moment all mystery was left.

Because of that, I’m not very sad at the moment that one of my favorite bands of all time has ended their tenure.

For me, the end came long before.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Countdown To The New Mastodon Album

I don't know how long the "audio visualization" of the new Mastodon album, The Hunter, will stay on-but I suggest that you play it immediately.

It's the entire album.

The visuals get tired after a while-it's more of the same backdrop they use during their live sets-but like every Mastodon album, the music gets better over time.

A review is in the works, but initial signs point to another friggin' winner to these road dogs.

September 20, 2011

The Hunter by the mighty MASTODON will be released September 27th.

With that in mind, the band would like to share their full album online premiere with THE HUNTER VISUALIZER, which will go LIVE today September 20th. Click here now to get a sensual whiff of what's in store for you before street date.

Also, will premiere the official "Curl Of The Burl" video this Thursday, September 22nd. Brace yourself.

More to be revealed shortly. Stay close to for details.

Monday, September 19, 2011

By Hatchet, Axe and Saw

I stayed up too late the other night to watch the Rush documentary Beyond The Lighted Stage again. I think I mentioned the awesomeness of this film before, but in case you haven’t seen it, check VH1 Classic’s schedule every now and then as it’s on constant rotation there.

For as many times as I’ve seen it, I should probably go out and get an actual copy for myself. But like cd’s, I’ve slowed down my physical purchases with dvds, mainly because it doesn’t make much sense to overload our suburban abode with a bunch of physical media that will all one day be available digitally and then store in some other digital cloud that never needs dusting.

There’s one moment in the movie where Billy Corgan speaks to the band’s importance to him while growing up. At one point, Corgan describes asking his mother to come into his room so that he can play a Rush song to her.

The song-which I’ve forgotten now and am too lazy to look up at the moment-resonates within him, and he finds the theme to the song so important that he wants her to hear it.
I’m sure how she interpreted it was different than his intention. I know this because I’ve lost count at trying to turn on my parents to some personal song only to see them fail to understand the significance to what the song means to me.

And I’m certain that my own kids will try to do the same and I’m sure that I too will fail to find the significance in how they relate to it.

But I won’t stop in trying, and I will never begin to simply discount what kind of impact a song may have on them. I’m interested in the emotional connection that songs have in people and that’s the reason why today I continue to obsess over such things.
There are songs in which we like because they sound good and there are songs that we like because they complete an emotional synapse, keeping it fresh for as long as we are able to retrieve that memory.

At one point, when I began to notice my parent’s immediate reaction towards a piece of music that they didn’t appreciate, I simply stopped trying to get them to identify with a band or a song.

For my mom, it was during my Doors phase. I was playing Waiting For The Sun and she told me to “turn off this crap” when “My Wild Love” was playing.
My dad actually stood up for me on that one.

But he had difficulties too, and that became all too apparent when he and I along with my girlfriend at the time went out of town shopping. On the way home, I played Raising Hell but Run-DMC after purchasing the cassette. I thought that maybe the Run-DMC/Aerosmith collaboration of “Walk This Way” would get him to better appreciate rap as an art form.

It didn’t work.

My father had also purchased a cassette that day, John Fogerty’s Centerfield.
Guess which tape my girlfriend and I had to endure the rest of the way home?

To this day, I can’t stand that album-mainly for that piece of shit song “I Saw It On TV,” the one where Forgerty goes through a completely nostalgic list of Baby Boomer events- ala “We Didn’t Start The Fire”- to which my father would give bits of commentary over the historical imagery.

There was one time when I was either in middle school or just starting my freshman year of high school that my father knocked on my bedroom door and wanted to ask me a music related question.

Let me just say now that at this moment, I felt on top of the world. My father was coming to me for a musical question, thereby acknowledging that I was somewhat of an “expert” on the subject.

I was more than happy to oblige.

“Do you listen to the band Rush?” he asked.


What music-loving 8th grade boy didn’t listen to Rush!

“What’s the name of the song that they do that is about racism?”

Of course, the song he was referring to was “The Trees” and I immediately went to my copy of Exit…Stage Left to give him a sample.

He went on to explain that the subject of racism was being discussed in his American history class and that a couple of students had brought up the song.

“Can you make me a copy of it?” he asked.

I probably had the thing done in a few hours-including a bunch of other Rush tracks in case dad became enchanted with the Canadian power trio.

After all, he was a big fan of Cream.

A week later, I couldn’t resist.

“What did you think of that Rush song I taped for you?” I asked him.
“I haven’t listened to it yet.” He admitted after a quick pause to reflect on the question. “I think it’s still in my briefcase somewhere.”

It became clear that there was no real intention of him actually listening to it and that it probably wouldn’t enter his curriculum either.

He’d become too attached to the familiar, resistant to anything new-particularly to anything discovered by a teenager.

My commitment today is to at least listen to what my kids present to me. It’s a microscope to what they may be feeling inside, and as we should already know-teenagers aren’t the most open of specimens when it comes to matters of the heart.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Carissa's Wierd Release New Single

Carissa's Weird, a band frequently overlooked during ganders on the Pacific Northwest, is releasing their first new music in over seven years over at Hardly Art. The friendly label sends us with an official stream of the b-side of their new single.

They provide us with the following:

The seminal northwest group [Carissa's Wierd] - whose members went on to form Band of Horses and Grand Archives, and spawned the solo projects of Jenn Ghetto (S) and Sera Cahoone - has recorded two new tracks, which will be released on a 7" and digitally on September 13.

It is fitting that these tracks are presented as odes, both of which pack a wistful wallop that has come to be expected from the group. The first, to "Tucson," the birthplace of Carissa's Wierd, with the violin lines of Sarah Standard beaming through the adage "you can never go home again" before things get a bit metal. The second, to "Meredith & Iris," a dramatic waltz number delivered with an intensity that implies it has been marinating for the past decade. Both tracks feature Mat Brooke (Grand Archives, Band of Horses) and Jenn Ghetto (S) on vocals, and both songs are exclusive to this 7". Stream the b-side, "Meredith & Iris," here.

Carissa's Wierd will play a show at Neumos in Seattle on September 24 in support of the 7", with plans to book a future show in New York. It is too soon to say whether or not Carissa's Wierd is "back," but for the time being, we can certainly say that they are here.

About the band:

For a band that played so softly, Carissa’s Wierd generated a hell of a buzz. “We never intended to be as quiet as we were,” says co-founder Jenn Ghetto. The hushed volumes that became a stylistic trademark were one of the earliest outcomes of that attitude. As teenagers in Tucson, AZ, Ghetto and Mat Brooke met at a Goth club. Soon they were writing songs together on twenty dollar guitars, plugged into cereal box-sized amplifiers—definitely not the kind that go to 11.

They worked around their limitations. “All the early recording we ever did was in her moms’ closet on a cheap four track,” remembers Brooke. “We’d have to be quiet, because her Grandma was sleeping.”

The adolescent friends couldn’t afford a practice space to rock out in either. So when it came time to translate their homespun compositions and lo-fi recordings to a live setting, the intimacy remained—only now they were sharing bills with local hardcore bands. Carissa’s Wierd may not have played as loud, hard and fast as their Tucson contemporaries, but they radiated intensity nevertheless...

Carissa's Wierd - Meredith & Iris by hardlyartrecords

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Kiss Plushes On Sale Today So That You Can Help With Gene Simmons' Retirement

After the Kiss Kasket and Kiss skins for Mini Cooper automobiles, nothing surprises me any more. Here's the press release from the Funko company.

The folks at FUNKO have come up with yet another way to reinvent one of the most influential rock and roll bands of all-time of all time... KISS! On September 7th, they will release their new line of KISS Plushies to the masses. (Click on the images to the right for hi res photos)

The line consists of four dolls: Gene Simmons 'The Demon', Paul Stanley 'The Starchild', Ace Frehley 'The Spaceman', and Peter Criss 'The Catman'.

Each doll is 7" tall and is available for pre-order at They will start shipping to customers on September 11, at which time they will be available at local FYE stores. Each doll will retail in the 10.99-12.99 price range.

KISS holds honors as one of America's top gold record champions, recording 36 albums over 32 years selling over 85 million albums worldwide. The band formed in New York City in December 1972 and was easily identified by each member's trademark face paint and stage outfits. They rose to prominence in the mid and late-1970s on the basis of their elaborate live performances, which featured fire breathing, blood spitting, smoking guitars, and pyrotechnics. KISS has been awarded 24 gold albums to date.The band has sold over 85 million albums to date.

The original lineup of Paul Stanley (vocals and rhythm guitar), Gene Simmons (vocals and bass guitar), Ace Frehley (lead guitar and vocals), and Peter Criss (drums, percussion and vocals) is the most successful and identifiable. With their makeup and costumes,

they took on the personae of comic book-style characters: The Demon (Simmons), Starchild (Stanley), Spaceman (Frehley), and Catman (Criss). The band explains that the fans were the ones who ultimately chose their makeup designs.

The "Demon" makeup reflected Gene's cynicism and dark elements, as well as his love for comic books. Paul Stanley became the "Starchild" due to his tendency to be referred to as the "starry-eyed lover" and "hopeless romantic." Ace Frehley's "Spaceman" makeup was a reflection of him wanting to go for a ride in a space ship and supposedly being from another planet. Peter Criss' "Catman" makeup was in accordance with the belief that Peter had nine lives due to his rough childhood in Brooklyn.

"Over thirty years of record-breaking tours around the globe include high-profile appearances at Super Bowl XXXIII, the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and most recently, the 2005 Rockin' The Corps concert dedicated to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The KISS legacy continues to grow, generation after generation, transcending age, race and creed.

The unparalleled devotion and loyalty of the KISS Army to the "Hottest Band in the World" is a striking testament to the band's unbreakable bond with its fans.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Soundtrack To A Break Up

I sold my wedding ring from my first marriage over the weekend.

I had totally forgotten about it, until I noticed the price of gold was so high that I made a concerted effort to find it.

It was in an old Egyptian tin that I had, shaped in the form of a case that they’d house mummies in. I bought that in the 80’s and I used it to store my earrings and those hippie friendship bracelets in.

I sincerely miss those.

The wedding band was next to an old faded friendship bracelet and a Fishbone earring.

Both of those things had a deeper connection than the wedding band. They meant more to me now, but the economic climate proved the ring to be of a bigger monetary value.

And today’s economic climate meant that I would use the money I received from selling it to the pawnshop would go to help pay a credit card payment.

At first, I looked around the store just to make sure there wasn’t something that I could trade for. It seemed logical to replace it with something that might provide me with happier memories in the future.

An Epiphone copy of McCartney’s Hoffner bass guitar caught my eye, but then I’d have to buy a bass amp with it.

That would have left me in the hole.

I remembered how my ex-wife got to keep a bitchin’ Danelectro Longhorn bass and an awesome SWR combo amp with it. I’m sure it’s collecting dust now, a relic taken out of spite instead of passion for music.

She also got the piano, the scratches on the hardwood floor from when she moved out another sign of contempt. If she truly loved that blonde wooded behemoth, she certainly would have played it more and taken better care of it when moving it from our home.

Divorce is not an easy thing. Nobody warns you of the sick feeling you get when you are forced to admit that you’ve failed at marriage. You get wrapped up in the incidentals> It’s almost like your mind is forcing your brain to focus on trivial bullshit.

For me, it was ridiculous things. Like when she tried to suggest that the copy of Spacemen 3’s Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To was hers.

Just because you went to a couple of Spiritualized shows with me doesn’t mean the import copy of an old Spacemen 3 record is yours.

It's mine, put it back.

There were also other things. Like when she told the guy who delivered our mail to our home that I had moved out because I “turned gay.” He went and told another guy in the neighborhood about it, not knowing that the guy was my divorce lawyer.

She tried to take some of my music from me, and to this day, she was quite successful at it.

I don’t mean physically taking it, like the Spacemen 3 record (which I successfully got back, btw), I mean “taking” it in the sense that I’ll never be able to listen to some songs again because they’re permanently associated with the period of our divorce.

I remember once driving with my family and finding an old mix cd that wasn’t labeled well. Almost immediately, I could tell that it was made during the time my marriage was crumbling.

Each song in that mix cd brought me deeper into that period. By the time Eels’ “Numbered Days” came on, I was on the verge of tears.

I quickly ejected the disc.

I’m sure nobody knew what was going on in my head at the time, and I’m sure I wasn’t part of any conversation that was taking place between my wife and the children.

I checked out temporarily. At that moment, I was back to the point where my marriage was collapsing-just like the same moment I was in while making that compilation.

Everybody likes to talk about how music can provide the soundtrack to your life, but nobody seems to admit that it also provides the soundtrack to the shitty parts too.

Here it is. The song that perfectly mirrors the break up of my first marriage that it frightens me. How many times have you come across a song that fits your moment so well that you’re sure the author of it had some kind of authorized access to your life, mind, and feelings?

I don’t remember what possessed me to buy Shootenanny, the album “Numbered Days” is found on. If I recall, the local FYE store in the mall at the time was closing, and I went through a few of their closeout selections and snagged a couple of items for the cheap.

I came across what was then the new Eels album, thought “Hey, I think I liked these guys once” and plucked down a few bucks for it.

I didn’t think too much after first listening to it, but I fell in love with this song a short time later when the relationship between my wife and I began to go south.

In retrospect, it was over quickly. I asked for all music related items (acquiescing the bass stuff), the bedroom set given to me when my grandmother passed away, and a Honda Accord with over a quarter of a million miles on it.

She got everything else.

Because of the cooperative nature of dividing the assets, things were over quickly and we agreed upon a speedy resolution.

At the time, it seemed to last forever.

The song tells the story of it.

I hope you will never hear it in the same way that I hear it.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Eric Clapton - Another Ticket

Welcome to the Eric Clapton record that began over a decade of avoidance to the legendary guitarist.

Another Ticket marked Clapton’s first attempt at pulling the proverbial wool over his fan’s eyes by delivering an album of such notable mediocrity that it’s hard to fathom how it could get any worse.

Remarkably, as tepid as Another Ticket is, it still doesn’t represent how bad Clapton got. It’s notable for the fact that this is the record where he began to not give a shit. There is little within it that can be thought of as memorable, which is ironically the reason why I dug it out and listened to it again.

Aside from the album’s only hit, “I Can’t Stand It,” I could remember little about Another Ticket’s other selections. And after my visit, I can assure you that it may be another few decades before I listen to this album again.

It begins with “Somethin’ Special,” a plodding piece that puts Clapton 20 years past his age at the time of this recording. There’s little emotion within it, just a tired patch of music that he farted out for no other reason than it was one step towards contract obligation.

There’s plenty more of this ilk throughout the record.

The title track is even worse with its whining narrative of an aging star finding his life is merely a treadmill of circular obligations.

Even on a raucous cover of “Blow Wind Blow” finds Clapton mustering up a half-ass growl with shelling out guitar licks that he could accomplish in his sleep.

Only “I Can’t Stand It” breaks out of the slow/mid-tempo mode with any conviction. No wonder it proved to be the record’s only hit single.

Another Ticket finds Eric shuffling through middle age with no hint of guitar prowess or even a desire to be recognized as a superstar within rock’s elite. He either thought that he could retain that status by phoning it in or, true to the album title, has just discovered that that even a rock and roll lifestyle is just as mundane as the regular Joe's still buying his mope.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

We Remember Gregory Isaacs

The reggae world lost a legend when Gregory Isaacs past away last year. Isaacs, a the man who placed his golden voice upon such reggae classics like “Night Nurse” and “Mr. Brown,” has a wonderful legacy and numerous records in print, just rip for discovery.

Producer Dean Fraser began looking for ways to bring Isaacs back into the spotlight but very little money to do so. But after laying down some musical tracks from Isaac’s repertoire, Fraser put the word out to some of reggae music’s best-known purveyors of today’s sound and found the response overwhelming.

The result is We Remember Gregory Isaacs, a 16-track compilation that is surprisingly good and a heartfelt tribute to this remarkable vocalist.

The entrants do a good job of following Isaacs’ smooth delivery while managing to retain a bit of their own style in their song selection.

Tarrus Riley does a splendid job of introducing the set with “Front Door” and Chevaughn gets the nod for best contribution on “Red Rose For Gregory.”

But it is not the contributor’s vocals that’s is the issue: it’s the music. Fraser claims to have most of the tracks completed in one day, and from the sound of it, I believe him.

There’s very little organic sound on any of the tracks, making the instrumentation sound cheesy and fey. After a while, things get to be a bit same-y underneath those impressive covers, and the second-disc of instruments is completely pointless.

As modern reggae offerings is considered, We Remember Gregory Isaacs isn’t a bad sampling of reggae’s current tastemakers, but as is true with any tribute album, it’s never quite as good as the real thing.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Marty Robbins - Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs

Marty Robbins’ Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs was one of my purchases during 2011’s Record Store Day. I was concerned that this 50 year old piece of vinyl would surely show signs of wear and tear, but the thing looked like it did right out of the plastic wrap and, for ten measly bucks I couldn’t pass up this landmark country release. I could see the smile on my face in the grooves of the record as I was mesmerized by the old-school Columbia Records red label that listed the song titles.

Gunfighter Ballads is one of those records that transcended its genre when first released. Not only did it reach the upper eschelon of the country charts when it was released, it reached the top 10 pop charts, largely due to the success of its single, “El Paso.”

That cut, if you’re keeping score hit number 1 in both the country and pop charts.
They don’t make ‘em like that anymore, and the music found within Gunfighter Ballads is no exception either. The story goes that Robbins was residing in Nashville and became homesick for his Arizona roots. Recalling the old west and campfire songs of his youth, Marty began composing a series of ballads which later became the bulk of this album.

The album was recording in its entirety one afternoon and became the full length that he is probably best known for.

And for good reason, both the originals and the covers seem to be coming from the depth of the man’s soul. The sparce arrangement of Mr. Robbins’ trio is perfect for the material presented. It is a concept album before there was even a name for “concept album,” and the entire package has the uncanny ability to take you to a place you’ve only seen in western movies.

For me, I can close my eyes with Gunfighter Ballads playing an immediately become transported to an old west campfire, where hard-riding cowboys reach the end of the day with a bit of lonesome reflection on the trails that led them there.
Robbins’ voice is perfect, disregarding the vocal techniques of typical country singers and replacing it with a sensitive baritone that’s irreplaceable. Each song paints a story, but it’s Robbins’ immaculate voice that makes them come to life.

Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs is a vital piece of America’s music during the last century and deserves a place in every music lover’s collection. Even if you’ve never been west of the Mississippi or been a fan of old west memorabilia, the album is so genuine that it will take you directly to the feeling that Robbins perfectly creates within its grooves.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Chet Atkins and Les Paul - Chester & Lester

My dad got me this album a few years ago on a whim, an original vinyl edition purchased on ebay in great shape.

He told me that he stumbled across the record himself, bought it, and then purchased another copy for me as he was impressed with the results.

Chester and Lester is a lighthearted recording of two guitar kings Chet Atkins and Les Paul. Perhaps you’ve heard of one of them, or perhaps you play one of their guitars.

The two gentlemen joke around, show off, and show genuine appreciation for one another in what can best be described as a fly-on-the-wall recording where nobody really takes themselves too seriously, but the guitar riffs are as serious as a heart attack.

Nothing sounds like it’s too difficult for these masters, but in the ears of a novice like me, there are several moments where I was shaking my head in disbelief as Chet (in his 50’s at the time) and Les (in his 60’s) completely master the frets.

Chester and Lester was recorded in two days with no overdubs and no shortage of joy within the grooves of my copy. Without question, if you don’t get a kick out of the honery shenanigans that these two legends dish out in such short order, then music may not be the answer to soothe your ills.

Because even a barely-capable player like yours truly finds Chester and Lester to be both an inspiration and validation of the power of music and its ability to build a bridge to a better life.

Thank goodness someone had the good sense to get these two together for an impromptu meeting that can provide a lifetime of joy with each subsequent listen.