Friday, May 25, 2012

Tennis - Young & Old

Teaming up with the Black Keys’ Patrick Riley in a real Nashville studio, Tennis return with a sophomore release that retains Cape Dory’s time machine rust while opening up the fidelity a bit to give the band-now a three piece with the inclusion of drummer James Barone-more depth, warmth, and a better window on Alaina Moore’s impressive vocals.

But what’s even more impressive is how the band, in less than a year’s time, have managed to deliver another 10 track record of consistently good dream pop, hinting that the debut was far from a fluke.

Moore alternates from Northern Soul to good ol’ Brill Building charm in such an underhanded way that it’s easy to overlook how uniquely good her talents are. Producer Riley wisely un-clutters her performance by scaling back on the reverb while leaving plenty of old-school vocal distortion, harking back to a time when the power of the human voice could still manage to show the inadequacies of the engineering staff.

Anyone looking for revelation within Young & Old is missing the point. It presents itself as a pop record as learned through transistor radios, forgoing the nautical themes of Cape Dory for an unpretentious attempt at making a straight-forward gem built from our everyday surroundings.

That means lots of introspection from a husband and wife duo that are starting to notice that the honeymoon is over, and that romance has been replaced by a harsh reality that their combined efforts are now a career endeavor.

There are moments of confounding lyrics, but then again, what pop record isn’t littered with freshman poetry or, even worse, middle school texting. Personally, I find a lot more things relatable to this married couple and respond a lot quicker when their life is packaged in this spontaneous and charming dream pop bundle.

Young & Old is the perfect pop record for suburban adults who want to recall the days of their downtown lofts.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Ozarks - "Pyramids"

I thought the new video for a band called Ozarks was pretty cool. You can actually watch it quicker than reading the press release below, so I suppose if you like the two minute video, you'll invest the time in the huge amount of words they use for something that seems so...put together.

But what do I know about record biz press? All I can tell you is that the dude resembles Kip in Napoleon Dynamite and the visual effects are straight outta the low-wattage Christian television station.

"Ozarks is Robbie Augspurger's main musical project. Augspurger writes and records Ozarks songs with the help of his friend Eric Lee. In his words, it's really them making music they think is "cool to listen to, kind of in the vein of late 60s/early 70s baroque pop". Augsperger continues: "Eric has probably forgotten more about late 60s/early 70s French/Italian chanson/cinema-pop than I've ever known. An example: In the song "As I Lay Sleeping", we've got a subtle reference to Ennio Morricone at the 1:20 mark, with a harpsichord melody floating atop a repetitive chord progression with a descending bass part. Under that you have very Serge Gainsbourg rhythm section (a la "Jane B"), kind of light break beat with pick bass. Then we thought it would be cool to have a nod to Badfinger, with the guitar solo. And then the backing vocals were inspired from the 1970 Beach Boys song "All I Wanna Do", from the album Sunflower." Lots of intention, lots of amazing references, lots of mind-blowingness.

Augspurger has been been working on this record on and off for five years, and last year a small label (Wil-Ru Records) offered to press it on vinyl.


"Ozarks is the songs I write and record in my basement. It's me making the kind of music I think is cool to listen to— kind of in the vein of late 60s/early 70s baroque pop. A lot of my creative process is thinking of what I wished existed, and then trying to make it. Eric Adrian Lee helps me in this endeavor, and has been working with me on music projects for over 10 years. He started playing music with me during my early songwriting years in Horsemachine, which eventually morphed into our bizarre soundscapes with Wolf Choir. Around this time, we also formed our Lee Hazlewood cover band, The Cowboys From Sweden. In Ozarks, Eric helps me flesh out my musical ideas, and tells me what to turn up (or remove) from the mix.

With this album, we wanted to have subtle references to other artists, songs and musical moments that we love. There's a kind of 'wouldn't it be cool if...' thing happening throughout the record. When I write music, often I do it visually. For example, I’ll write something so that when played, it looks symmetrical on a piano or fret board. Lyrically, Ozarks ranges from very personal to not personal at all. Sometimes, my lyrics are a funny phrase I heard someone say, or are born out of a yearning to express something inside of me. I know there’s a disparity between the two, but my songs tend to come out sounding like me no matter what, so I think that’s okay (it’s all about careful track sequencing).

When we started recording what would become Ozarks, I never thought it would take me over five years to make. I’d have creative bursts and finish a recording in two days; I’d hit a dry spell and not write for 11 months. I’d come back and listen to what I had, not like any of it, and I’d re-record everything. This is how my recording process evolved from one-hour cassette deck sessions into meticulous productions that take weeks and months to get right. I’ve been obsessed with recording music since I was about 13 years old, when I read The Beatles Recording Sessions by Mark Lewisohn. I loved that book and must have read it over 20 times until finally, its binding disintegrated. The dream of my youth was to get a mixing console so I could de-construct the Beatles’ mixes, until I discovered I’d need the master tapes to do that. So instead, I analyzed their stereo mixes one channel at a time on my dad’s old quadraphonic hi-fi system, trying to pick out sounds I’d never heard before.

That’s another thing we wanted to try with this record—have people pick out the references we make in the music. We thought it would be a funny thing to do."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Sex Pistols Further The Swindle With Pop! Rock Dolls

Sure, what the hell.

The same folks that brought you those cute little Ramones dolls turn their pop culture cuteness across the pond to bring you Sex Pistols Pop! Rocks Vinyl Figures. You can have your choice between good old Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious, or that loveable meathead Steve Jones. Sorry, Paul Cook and Glenn Matlock did not make the mold, as it were.

The details:

An unlimited supply! Here's some more shit you can buy!

Sex Pistols were responsible for initiating the punk movement in the United Kingdom and inspiring many later punk and alternative rock musicians. 

Although their initial career lasted just two-and-a-half years and produced only 4 singles and 1 studio album they are regarded as one of the most influential acts in the history of popular music.

For the first time ever in their history, The Sex Pistols have been rendered as vinyl figures.

All of these stylized 3.75-inch tall vinyl figures come decked in the trend-setting Sex Pistols attire we've come to know and love. They're detailed right down to Sid's pad lock chain, Johnny's enigmatic glare, and Steve's leather jacket.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

John Lee Hooker DVD Cook With The Hook: Live 1974 Slated For Release

One of the Iron Chef's of the blues.

A rare performance from blues great John Lee Hooker is set to be released on DVD next month, under the title Cook With The Hook: Live 1974. The running time is a mere 45 minutes and the setlist is as follows:

It Serves You Right to Suffer
Sweet Sweet Thing
Boom Boom
Whiskey & Women

There does not appear to be any evidence of George Thorogood anywhere on this concert, which makes it a bargain.

You can pre-order the son-of-a-bitch right here.

The spiel:

"On Saturday, July 6, 1974, Mississippi-Delta bluesman John Lee Hooker was one of the star attractions at an all-day festival attended by 6,000 people. The event in the town of Gardner Massachusetts was called "Down in the Dumps" perhaps the first in what was proposed as a series of musical events to be held in the city landfill area. Luckily, very luckily, Hooker's performance was captured on a three camera shoot and broadcast on cable television in local cities and towns.

Hooker's style has always been unique, even among other performers of the real deep blues, few of whom remain with us today. While retaining that foundation he has simultaneously broken new ground musically and commercially.

He first recorded in 1948. "Boogie Chillen" became a number one jukebox hit and his first million seller. This was soon followed by an even bigger hit with "I'm In The Mood" and other classic recordings including "Crawling Kingsnake" and "Hobo Blues." Another surge in his career took place with the release of more than 100 songs on Vee Jay Records during the 1950's and 1960's.

During the late 1970's and much of the 1980's, Hooker toured the U.S. and Europe steadily. In 1989, The Healer was released to critical acclaim and sales in excess of a million copies. Since then, he continued recording his own albums (Mr. Lucky, Boom Boom, Chill Out, and Don't Look Back for Pointblank / Virgin) and contributed to recordings by B.B. King, Branford Marsalis, Van Morrison, and Big Head Todd and the Monsters and portrayed the title role in Pete Townshend's 1989 epic, The Iron Man.

His influence on younger generations has been documented on television with features on Showtime and a special edition of the BBC's 'Late Show' as well as appearances on "The Tonight Show" and "Late Night With David Letterman" among many others. John Lee was invited to perform with The Rolling Stones and guest Eric Clapton for their national television broadcast during The Stones' 1989 Steel Wheels tour.

Hooker's 1991 induction into the Rock n' Roll Hall Of Fame was fitting for the man who has influenced countless fans and musicians who have in turn influenced many more. Then, at the age of 80, John Lee Hooker received his third and fourth Grammy Awards, for Best Traditional Blues Recording (Don't Look Back) and for Best Pop Collaboration for the song "Don't Look Back" which Hooker recorded with his long time friend Van Morrison." 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Iggy Pop - The Idiot

If you’re planning on taking your own life tonight, may I suggest Iggy Pop’s The Idiot.

Too soon?

Yes, it was thirty-two years ago tonight where Ian sat down to a viewing of Werner Herzog’s Stroszek and a spin of Iggy Pop’s The Idiot.

Then he went to the kitchen to grab a bite to eat.

His wife found him the next morning, and I assumed put all of this together. It seems plausible. And The Idiot is a really good album.

It time to think so; can you remember the first time you heard it? If you haven’t yet, remember it, write it down. I’m curious to hear what Iggy novices think about it or, like me, familiar with his repertoire to the point where you can compare it to Idiot.

Truth is, I hated it. The Idiot was so unlike anything else in Pop’s catalog, never mind that it sounded like Iggy was just as loaded as he was during Kill City, it was just that he had Bowie funding the dope for him.

It’s confirmed with the fact that Bowie made RCA hold on to The Idiot for just a little while longer so that Dave could be the first to market with a Berlin trilogy, making it seem that he was the one who taught dum dum Jim Osterberg everything.

Actually, The Idiot is the record that truly confirmed Pop was a certified genius, briefly breaking away from that dumb Michigan shtick just long enough to see that, even if he’s not fully in charge of his capacities or the control board, Iggy Pop is capable of delivering a left-field hit of epic proportions.

The sound is as unexpected today as it must of have sounded back then, the claustrophobia is menacing and there’s a general unease throughout it. This is the part of the review where I tell you that I really like the record now, but I think it’s important to explain how this weird-sounding thing planted a fucking seed in my head telling me to keep coming back to it.

The Idiot is the equivalent of sharing an 8-ball of cocaine with your friend and you decide to start recording the room at 4:00 in the morning. It’s that time when your forehead feels tingly and the coke becomes more of a need than anything else.

Oh wait, someone left this rhythm machine behind…

The irony is that the most “normal” song on the record is the one that begins by naming off all the friends who have o.d.’d or died. “Dum Dum Boys” produces a sensible song structure and good rock groove, but then Iggy appears like he’s had a bottle of wine or three, singin’ “Dah Dah Dah Dah Dum Dum Day.”

Because there are times after work, driving home just trying to shake of the fact that you’re no longer at work, when I feel like singing through the marbles of “All aboard for fun times,” just dreaming for a chance to stay up late in a coke-fueled panic.

By “Tiny Girls,” the dawn is starting to creep through the curtains when suddenly Iggy brings in a smooth sax. It takes the edge off, particularly when Bowie fucks around with the echo.

“Mass Production” is probably the best song Neu! Ever wrote, mainly because Iggy Pop sings it. It’s the record’s forgotten treasure, a big-rock ending to an anti-rock concept album with Iggy politely mentioning, “By the way, I’m going for cigarettes” after David stops fucking around with a synthesizer.

By my count, I’d say it took at least a dozen spins for me to get comfortable with The Idiot’s art-damaged interior, to find the pleasure in its icy restraints and outta mind adventurism.

But once there, I was hooked

Get me a pack of Marlboro’s, Jim.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Donna Summer - Endless Summer

My Mom was mad at my Dad.

This would have been 1977 or ’78; a time when fashion was questionable and disco was the preferred music on the weekends, particularly at the many clubs around the Midwest that suddenly began to install lighted dance floors in their poolrooms just to take advantage of all the boogie oogie oogien that was going down.

My father was known to dance on occasion and my mom liked to cut a rug every now and then. The trouble was, my Dad was never at home much, and when he was, he was somewhere else. This would have been the around the time when he was working for the teacher’s union on top of his teaching duties. We’d have a lot of weird teachers come over unannounced and they’d go on the porch, drink beer, and discuss all the bullshit they thought the administration was doing to them.

This was back when people gave a shit about making sure everyone got a fair shake. The kind of thing that people today are too busy with themselves to fight for, and if they do they run the risk of being perceived as some lazy union fuck. Behind all the harsh words and perceptions is some 24-year-old girl at her first teaching gig just trying to make enough to pay rent, her student loans, and to have a $50 left over to go have a drink with her girlfriends a couple times a month.

With Dad’s union demands, he was away from home a lot After a while, my Mom starts to get pissed because Dad’s really wrapped up in himself, is spending no time with us, and is clearly not providing not enough attention to her.

The solution to all of this was to have my Mom sign her and Dad up for disco dance lessons.

Within days, an influx of disco records began cropping up around the house: Chic, A Taste of Honey, and Donna Summer.

I thought it was cool that the record, the aforementioned Live and More, featured three sides of live music and a fourth side called the “MacAuthur Park Suite,” essentially a seventeen-minute long version of the song with “Heaven Knows” thrown in the middle for no apparent reason.

But in good faith, I cannot recommend any full-length Donna Summer record-Bad Girls would be the exception, I guess-because most of them were just vehicles for her endless supplies of new hit singles wrapped around in extended filler whose purpose was to only make sure the total track time hovered around 16 minutes per side.

There is probably no other Donna Summer record you need other than Endless Summer. I’m sure by now there’s probably a dozen greatest hits compilations you can choose from, but let’s begin with the first, most comprehensive greatest hits collection that really needs no additional repackaging, Endless Summer.

Somehow-and perhaps this is a testament to her voice, a beautiful mezzo-soprano-she transcended her original label as the “Disco Queen” and even found herself on the nominating ballot for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a few years ago.

I don’t think she belongs there, but that doesn’t diminish her overall body of work and importance in late twentieth century pop music. You simply could not get away from Donna Summer if you were anywhere near a radio between 1975 and 1980.

I found this out immediately upon the first listen of Endless Summer, 18 tracks of her best know songs, set chronological so you can hear the progression in her music throughout the years, a critical feature in making sure each year attempted to exceed the last..

Each song held some kind of brief memory from the 70’s: from the elaborate packaging of Live and More, to Summer awkwardly acting her way through Thank God It’s Friday to my Mom dragging my father on to the living room floor to work out a bit of dance fever to keep it fresh between practices.

Endless Summer bypasses all of the extended versions, club mixes, and other disco novelties by offering only the versions that we heard over the airwaves. The “hit it and quit it” approach makes the songs fly by, and suddenly you’ll find yourself into Donna’s Geffen years where the hits rather dried up. Then, “She Works Hard For The Money” shows up and you’re back on the cavalcade of hits once again.

The radio mix does put a damper on the awesome “I Feel Love,” probably the first Krautrock song in history to make the top 5 of the Billboard charts. You need to hear the trance-like state that tune can put you in with the right conditions, but it ain’t gonna happen at a radio-friendly 3:30.

I found it interesting that during these last years were spent quietly in the Florida Keys, painting and making occasional appearances. It was ironic to me that her location choice was relatively close to Miami, a city known to promote it’s love of dancing, a town that most certainly would recognize her as the Disco Queen.

Her reign was not just restricted to South Beach. Endless Summer provides the evidence that Ms.Summer’s reach was felt all the way into the land-locked states like Iowa, where her music was the catalyst of makeshift marriage counseling and the lighted floor industry.

It’s truly sad that she had to let go, but Endless Summer makes everything feel like sunny and in the mid 70’s once again.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Michelle Shocked Live At The CSPS Hall

Michelle Shocked
Live at the CSPS Hall, Cedar Rapids, IA
Monday, May 14, 2012

It has been nearly a quarter-century since Michelle Shocked has been on my radar, and I imagine for many fans, fair-weather though we may be, Short Sharp Shocked remains as their first and only foray into her body of work.

But Ms. Shocked’s sophomore record is such a significant release that even after 25 years, I am still interested on where her troubadour Converse All-Stars has taken her. So when Michelle stopped by my community on Monday night, I determined that “Anchorage” was a brilliant left-field smash that required me to attend.
Dressed in those black high tops, Michelle shows some of the age of the years in her face, but her body bounds around like the youthful version. And the fight is still there: white t-shirt, tight black jeans, an old Bob Dylan conductor hat, and a red bandana around her neck with the word “Occupied” prominently printed across the front. She came prepared to talk some dialogue about the 99% movement-a cause, which got her, arrested during a protest in Los Angeles last November (she told the pigs her name was Michelle 99)-but thankfully she brought an acoustic guitar on Monday night and someone left behind a nice piano for her to play around with, making the evening more than just a political event.

On that second effort, Michelle is seen being choked by someone ironically hired to serve and protect on the cover of Short Sharp Shocked. He did neither in Michelle’s case, but the startling image makes it one of the most powerful covers in the past quarter-century, and her East Texas ease belies a strong woman who can back up her convictions with potent words and intimidating vocal range.

The performance took place in the CSPS Hall, a century old structure next to an old firehouse, both of which took on extensive damage from the 2008 flood. Finally, some life is coming to the downtown area in between pockets of unrecovered devastation and an obvious appearance that something indeed ran clean over the landscape.

This was my first visit to the restored center, which features a nice stage in an auditorium upstairs, perfect for artists who may not be familiar that there is a market for this out in the heartland.

For Shocked, she nearly filled the area, but the layout was very informal and Michelle used a platform in front of the stage for her acoustic set, bringing her even closer to the audience. I got there late, and as I was being hushed over to a seat, I noticed that she had captured about a half-dozen patrons from the audience and was wrapping up an impromptu version of “This Land Is Your Land.”

I wasn’t prepared for an evening of Woody or audience participation (more on that later), but being blessed with perfect timing, she set on to a set of obligatory favorites, most of which came from Short Sharp Shocked.

Shocked provided an update to “Leroy” and his wife from “Anchorage,” with the narrator now a grandmother and Leroy’s job bringing them down to Montana. Shocked mentioned that she drove from their place in Billings to then drive to Omaha and then  to Cedar Rapids, treating the couple as if they were long-lost friends of us in the audience, which they were in a way. “I look like an old housewife,” admitted Shocked during the song’s sudden self-realization.

I couldn’t help but thinking that, for all of her talk of turning 50 and growing old, Michelle Shocked is still doing things her way and does not seem one to bow to authoritative demands. That’s probably farther from the truth for most people who age, some who even must be taking steps of complacency as they approach what’s left of their retirement.

There were some moments of nostalgia, thinking back on the guy who stood her up at senior prom and adding a few licks towards the backwoods culture she calls her leveling point. But there was no condescending tone and she seemed to bend over backwards for us to sing along, and to engage when the discussion turned to foreclosure or what the occupy moment stood for.

Just when you felt that you had your fill of progressive dogma, Shocked announced that she’d be back to lead a brief forum on the topic, after she called her boyfriend on the phone and played three new songs before the intermission.

No joke. Shocked grabbed her phone and called her boyfriend David Willardson just as she sat down to the piano where she began explaining the large portraits behind her. Each one began as a painting by David, followed by an incredible muse they created over Michelle, which in turn created the song. At first, the entire “hold the phone up to the microphone” bit got somewhat uncomfortable. After a while, Willardson on the other end just became another character in the community, offering a few insights to the painting while Shocked gave her musical rendition. She had high praise for Mr. Willardson, even suggesting (with him still on the phone) that she was expecting to be married by the end of the year, a decision she made while hearing the refrain of a sermon in her head, encouraging her to do the right thing with her relationship.

With the intermission ending, Shocked continued talking to David on the phone before ending the call and leading the now reduced crowd on a discussion of the Occupy movement. For those that were left, if I may use profiling tactics, none of them looked like the housing crisis took much out of them, and indeed, which Shocked pressed the crowd for personal accounts, no one raised their hand to testify.

Shocked quickly got the sense that it may be our polite Midwestern demeanor, but I think that none of those in attendance had anything to add to the discussion, even when most seemed to be in perfect harmony with her progressive ideals.

You could tell that the momentum she was trying to muster up was merely glossing over the fans that stayed to hear just a few more songs and a few more tales of East Texas.

For me, the moment came during “Graffiti Limbo,” another Short Sharp Shocked tracks, this time extended and with bonus footage. “You wanna hear the long version or the edit?” she asked, leading the audience to naturally respond for the former. What we learned was that the evidence the corner lost in this 1988 account of the death of graffiti artist Michael Stewart, was in fact Michael’s eyes.

The original song only suggested something was lost, but the retelling plays up the ”justice is blind” irony of this case that never did find the accuser.

“To serve and protect.”

It was a pretty poetic moment, if you let the words sink in a bit. You may have even found a correlation between the content and what happened in our town just a few days prior, when a man was placed in the back of a Cedar Rapids squad car and was unresponsive when he arrived at the jail.

His family just made the decision to take him off life support.

This kind of thing makes me grateful that Shocked is still out their raising a stink. It’s reassuring to know as well that her stink still sounds pretty good. The new songs found an emotional depth and a sense of challenging herself by adhering to a new idea of combining song-cycles with her boyfriend’s work, even adding more musicians to the process for an entire piece.

But even armed with just an acoustic guitar and that underrated voice, Shocked can hold her own quite well and would be the first to admit that all of this is “Just one woman’s opinion.”

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Dr. John - Locked Down

At 71 years of age, the good doctor would seem better suited for retirement than some late-career appreciation effort coordinated by a member of The Black Keys. But here he is, complete with Gris-Gris font and a hint of windowpane acid; Locked Down is a comeback album for a legend who really doesn’t need one.

I think Dr. John gets this, but Locked Down sounds like a sly wink to us under the idea that Dan Auerbach somehow conjured this awesome session from him. Here is a musician operating on such a level that this is music that he could make in his sleep. It was just Auerback’s balls in approaching him with the album’s vintage tint sound.

God bless him for it, because Locked Down’s look back is the stuff that people will be enjoying for years to come, potentially being the first exposure to Dr. John in the process and sending them on their merry way down the annals of his catalog.

Mac Rebennack’s confidence exudes throughout the album, in both vocal phrasing and his own performance. He adds on and lies off as needed, giving the rhythm section center-stage in some moments.

Those rhythms save him at times, like “Ice Age,” a cut with such rhythmic possibilities that Doc’s off-the-cuff societal observations sound like bits of brief genius. It all ends the moment you check the lyric sheet, but who has time to read when your ass is shakin’?

And when the worst song on the album prompts that kind of forgiveness, then you’re really holding a damn fine effort. Locked Down is a powerful reminder to people a half-century his junior of how the possibility of perfection can come at any moment.

The idea is to be ready for it and to be the open to the idea that it can happen. It has happened here, Auerback’s decision to put the rhythms out in front give Doc a chance to be a little ornery with his own place in the mix.

Locked Down would be a masterpiece on its own merits, but the fact that it comes so late in Dr. John’s career is what makes it extra noteworthy. He delivers it so effortlessly that it prompts listeners to get excited about examining of his past work, while shedding an incredible light on future possibilities. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Singles, 45's and Under: Chuck Dukowski Sextet-"My War:

How many teeth has this headstock seen?
For every year the Rolling Stones exist and by definition begin dismantling their legacy, there is another example of an artist-let’s call them of an “older” age-that’s still able to maintain credibility and relevance even when the hairs go grey or start to come out entirely.

That was one sentence, by the way.

I don’t know what the fuck Chuck Dukowski was doing since he was in the band SWA. And SWA was such a shitty band that I really didn’t mind not knowing what Chuck Dukowski was doing musically.

Years past. These characters get brought up again when you’re reading some old remembrance by a former SST Records associate and you think: “Chuck Dukowski! What the fuck!”

And that’s when you seek out a split single of two former SST alumni, one of which is covering a great Black Flag tune.

Dukowski slaps a fancy word for six on his name and takes up bass duties again, while his wife, Lora Norton, steps in to become the lead mouth of the Chuck Dukowski Sextet.

To say her gender had me concerned when tackling such a brutal song wasn’t the case at all. In fact, it made me put this on my top “mustfind” list during Record Store Day.

Recorded in one take with no overdubs, the Chuck Dukowski Sextet transforms “My War” into their own, while doing the impossible by taking an iconic hardcore anthem and turning it into a brilliant revision.

The age drops off everything; there’s no hint of Dukowski’s d.o.b. And Norton gruffs up enough anger, with her frequent shouts of “Oh, Mother Fucker!!!!”, that she could easily pacify a buffy Hank Rollins in a fair fight.

The song takes on a new resonance, particularly considering such notable cases of violence or bullying that have made our news recently. “You’re one of them! You say that you’re my friend! But you’re one of them!”

It’s awesome.

Worth every dime.

But wait! There’s more!

Ol’ beardo Mike Watt brings together the Missingmen moniker and picks his old favorite Roky Erickson for another cover, “Sweet Honey Pie,”

It sounds like a soundboard recording, which could be my way of saying the recording is charmingly rough. And Watt’s such of softie and he’s picked such a charming Roky song that you’ll play it a few times and delegate it to side B.

Not that this is a bad thing, it’s just that the CD6 flip is so much more awesomer that you’ll find yourself burning up the grooves.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Fun In The Cubicle: Don't Rock The Jukebox

There’s a guy at work-a totally sweet and jovial dude about my age-who fronts a country cover band on the weekends. They’ve been at it in one way or another for a good twenty years or so and they’ve progressed from their humble beginnings as a reliable, small town bar band into a much older, reliable, small town bar band.

They’re terrible.

And I mean that in the kindest way possible, but it’s also hard to understand why after so many years you don’t happen to notice that your band is incredibly awful.

They’re wonderfully goofy looking, the kind of image that could be used as one of those “Worst Album Covers Of All Time” web sites, under the “Embarrassing Promotional Band Photos” tab.

To top it off, my co-worker talks about his band constantly. To whoever walks by his desk. So at the end of the day I positively loathe his band, even when I’ve never actually seen them play live.

You may ask “Then where do you get off talking shit about his band if you’ve never seen them play?”

To which I will correct you by saying “I never told you I’d never ‘seen them,’ but I did say I’d never seen them play live!”

The truth is: there’s You Tube footage of them.

Out of respect for a guy that has his heart in the right place and is someone I spend an inordinate amount of time with on any given weekday, I will not be posting information about his band or links to that previously hinted footage.

I will only say that anyone who gets on stage and plays in front of a crowd with just a little bit of heart, has my utmost respect.

And having said that, it gives me every right in the world to still formulate an opinion of them and slightly ridicule them if the moment is so deserving.

A local radio station recently gave area country bands a chance to do an American Idol contest, one in which the winner would get to open up for country star Alan Jackson when he makes a local stop in my city this summer. I think it’s for our annual 4th of July celebrations, the same ones that were pretty decimated by floods back in 2008.

The festival is limping back to light, and Alan Jackson is just about the same mid-level name recognition that they had in years past. I think the dude from Styx and the dude from Chicago made a stop here once.

Anyway, my co-worker sent in an audition tape and his band got chosen. Like I said, he talked incessantly about this, and how he was nervous, and how this could be his band’s big break, and how he needed to save his voice to better prepare for the show.

I shit you not: this is a guy that normally sings two thirty song sets for any normal country joint performance who’s now concerned about his throat for a three-song performance in a new country bar downtown, judged by a trio of minor celebrities, like the mid-day radio dj at the country station.

Or maybe it was the morning-drive guy.

This “save my voice” bullshit is the kind of nonsense that I get to hear. Everyday. Nonstop.

“Good luck!” I say on the day of the show, half genuinely and half with a desire to have him report back on Monday that he and his bandmates were forced to dodge a barrage of AA batteries from the crowd.

Like I said, he’s likeable enough for me not to make that a “D” battery image.

They got through the first round, but I’m sad to report that they lost in the semi-annual round, which means that those minor celebrity judges was playing fair.

One judge wrote that their drummer messed up during “Sweet Home Alabama,” a charge my co-worker disputes.

That’s the story, and it has nothing to do with the photo attached to this post.

Yes, our going away present was a sixer of Fat Tire...and tuneage.
No, what you see there is a picture of my co-worker singing to the manager of my department who recently resigned because we all work in a fairly shitty company.

As you can tell, he’s really getting into the performance, a trait that he exudes even when singing to some of the more tenured ladies in our area.

My former business manager is trying her best to look excited when all she really wanted to do was to get the fuck out of there. She’s slyly snagged his cowboy hat and provides a little clapping rhythm while he gets on his knees, the brief performance in the corner of the cafeteria.

When my co-worker was lobbying other co-workers to come down to watch his band during their inaugural performance of the “Get A Half-Hour Opening Slot Before The Opening Band Of Alan Jackson” contest, I would have put my odds at 25% of me attending. The show was free, but my time is valuable, so to rustle enough energy for me to drive from the ‘burbs to the downtown (now with double the violence!) to work my way in a country bar was very implausible.

So I made some posters for my co-worker instead.

I found the snapshot of the going away party performance from the week prior and crudely wrote “Tuneage” on it. I then began to put them up on the cubicle walls in our area, some empty and some occupied by other co-workers. I picked the ones that I knew wouldn’t seem to mind lending a spare wall and those that also my find humor in it.

My musician neighbor did not seem to understand why, but I assured him that it was all in good fun and that it was promoting his performance that evening. He seemed to tolerate that explanation even though-as you can see in the picture-it doesn’t list a damn thing about his event.

It just declares “Tuneage.”

I’m proud to note that some co-workers have even made requests for duplicates of this “flier” and that a copy for you can be secured for the unbelievable price of $9.95 plus $9.95 shipping and handling. It comes on office-worthy 8 X 11 copy paper and printed in stunning black and white.

Supplies are limited, so act now.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Welcome To The Bunghole: The 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

You only needed to see the first two dozen rows in front of the stage of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Awards Show to figure out what’s wrong with the organization. Nodding in unison during the Faces set, you witnessed the entire out of touch spectacle of white men in their fifties and sixties, glad-handing each other like they were responsible for something great.

There’s nothing revelatory about the 2012 nominees; you could have ignored each one of this year’s contenders and replaced them with a more deserving or more influential artist. With no disrespect to the artists that were honored, there were dozens more still left behind and genres that continue to go overlooked.

A lot of that sniveling with shine as I run down the broadcast of the event with a total disregard for the truth and with a cynical view of what all this means.

Yes, the event of MCA passing makes it hard to find anything but praise for the Beastie Boys and their first year entrance into the hall. Even if you were to bring up the annual “rap vs. rock” argument, it’s hard to not see how the Beastie Boys belong in the rock hall just as much as they will in the rap hall of fame. Ad Rock and Mike D did a great job of holding their shit together and for acknowledging a few bands that probably belong in the hall ahead of them.

How great would it be to see Bad Brains nominated?

Freddy King’s induction sounded almost like the same after-thought that was his nomination. The entire celebration could have been a huge orgy of Texas performers who hold Freddy just a little bit closer than the rest of us, but it wasn’t. A Texas superstar jam would have got people talking, more importantly, it would have gotten people ready to discover who this Freddie King cat was. Instead, it was a performance more to the tune of “Who Is This Guy?” and “Why Should I Care?”

Laura Nyro? I still have questions about this one. And no matter how much Bette Midler loves her, it doesn’t ease my concern even when there’s no a dry eye in the house. Heck, Bette Midler didn’t need to be anywhere near Cleveland that night. One thing that was cool is having Nyro’s son on stage for his mother even when the Hall previously tried to have him out of the picture on the pretense of some family dispute that Jann Wenner or Tom Hanks should feel the need to manage.

Donovan came on, read a hippie dippie poem, and reminded everyone why this Dylan-wanna be shouldn’t gain entrance.

Who's the dude on the left? Adler's pants rule!
The million dollar question was “Will he or won’t he?” which is stupid if one only glances at Axl Rose’s track record over the last dozen years. Of course he’s not going to show! Of course he’s going to release a half-logical letter that tries to paint him as “the normal one” throughout all this. But then you see that train-wreck of a drummer Steven Adler, sporting a few promotional That Metal Show t-shirt as his wardrobe, presumably because they’re the only show/network that would let Adler on without Dr. Drew being in the same room.

The look of joy on this man’s face was priceless, and then it was promptly ruined by the face of Matt Sorum who managed to get in because no one had the good sense to admit it was Appetite that gets them to Cleveland, and nothing else.

Where the fuck was Izzy was the big question. Without a direct link to Indiana present, the rest of the guys looked out of place. The performance with some karaoke dude taking Axl’s spot, sounded just as safe as if they were G’n’ R impersonators, Mr. Brownstone.

And how did Green Day get the nod as presenters? I really disliked Billy Joe Armstrong’s smug delivery and, was it just me, or did he just out Axl as crazy? Was that a little fuck you to the frontman? Is he aligning himself with the Hall movers and shakers? The whole thing didn’t seem very punk to me, and was about half as ballsy as Armstrong seemed to think.

Which brings us to who I guess was considered the “headliners” in this year’s class: the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

I used to like these guys but I jumped ship when BloodSugarSexMagic got played to piss and I wasn’t much into One Hot Minute. Now, I just find them to be mildly annoying radio fodder that may have peaked over a decade ago. I say this like I know what I’m talking about, but who knows, if someone played me their material since that shit with Dave Navarro, I just may like it in the right setting.

The stage used to be the right setting for the Chili Peppers, but I couldn’t get how strange Anthony Keidis looks now in that haircut and mustache. And it looks like he positively hated singing “Give It Away” for the thousandth time. So yeah, I’m kinda thinkin’ that leaving them in the mid-90’s was a good thing.

I suppose you could make the argument that the reason why the performance(s) were nearly on the same, lame award show level as everything else was because the money shot-Axl Rose on stage with the original G ‘n R members-was a no go.

Or you could say that maybe Billy Joe was wrong when he called Axl crazy, maybe W.A.R. had it right all along when he said fuck-all to the entire notion of a rock and roll hall of fame. Of course we all know his excuse was bullshit-the dude is certifiable when faced with the reality of how his entire career will be defined by one album-but a big “Amen, brother!” to him for throwing out some legitimate questions as to what the fuck this Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is really all about.

The only time a real G ‘n R reunion will ever come about is when Axl is faced with a foreclosure of his lifestyle. And when people continue to pay $75 bucks a pop to see “Guns ‘N Roses” when the facsimile should only be able to make State Fair gigs, we can rule out any possibility of a true G ‘n R reunion.
At this point, that’s about as likely as the Rock Hall committee actually sitting down to take a hard look to see if their actions are actually contributing to the genre’s legacy or working against it.

Because there was nothing reminiscent of what I perceive rock and roll to be from what I saw during 2012’s ceremonies. It’s almost disappointing to watch some of my generation’s most notable artists succumb to something that contains none of the rock and roll spirit the Hall portends to exude. It has become as lifeless as the exhibits on display in Cleveland and it is destroying any reason for a younger generation to even want to gander at rock’s illustrious history.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Workin' For MCA: Adam Yauch R.I.P.

It was not until HBO ran the telecast of the 2012 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Awards Show that it hit me.

Adam Yauch was dead.

You always knew something was up because the base camp seemed mum on the deal. Then came the aforementioned telecast where only two of the Beasties showed up.

There is no way Adam would have missed that. You knew he was in bad shape. And that sucks because he is my age, you know?  We're supposed to be turning into Republicans now, not watching our musical peers die! From what I know about him-I do not think it was the work of a good press manager-Adam Yauch seemed like the kind of guy continually striving towards spiritual perfection. Here was a dude that walked a misogynist line at first, but then got a chance to see a completely new worldview with his fame.

And it sucked, even when his wallet was full.

He saw the way things were while traveling the globe. He endured the Cretins at nearly every stop, the ones who viewed that to fight for their right to party meant to be prone to violence, to disrespecting women, to ignoring those who suffer more in favor of his own superficial needs. So he transformed himself into a Buddhist spiritually, and his music became more from the heart as well.

At first it appeared that he was gonna to outmaneuver the Treacherous Three with equal shares of basic passion and novelty. But when he began to put more of his spirit into a new spat of songs, the Beastie Boys suddenly because more than another white boy novelty.

You can probably guess that I hated Licensed To Ill. As I loaded in my shit into Rider Hall, a dormitory on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa, the sounds of Licensed To Ill blared out of nearly every window. It was a precursor to what was to come next: binge drinking followed by a continual formation of 4 to 6 troops as they made their way to a collection of bars within walking distance from the campus in a spot referred to as “The Hill.”

In the morning, you’d find sleepy and embarrassed girls quietly pushing their way out of stranger’s dorm rooms, disgusting remnants of vomit in the communal showers, and then the entire thing begins again with another bit of Bloody Marys over “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn.”

Fuck the Beastie Boys!

They sounded like they were part of the problem and I wanted nothing to do with them. I was working as the Program Director for the campus radio station the next time I came across the Beasties. How ironic that they were there towards the beginning of my college career and here they were trying to paint a soundtrack for my exit. I was having nothing of it.

A new record came into the station, Paul’s Boutique, and I immediately placed into the bin for the Rap show that we aired every Saturday night before the metal show. I was sure that the show’s host would find a good audience for this new Beasties record, because I most certainly wasn’t part of that audience.

By this time, I was fully enthralled with Public Enemy and a new band called De La Soul and guessed that the Beasties were following their moronic id on to a new record label because they didn’t get what they wanted with Def Jam.

Then a friend called me.

“Have you heard the new Beastie Boys record? He asked.

“No, and I have no intention of listening to it either!” I responded like a no-it-all.

“Dude, you need to hear it. It’s nothing like the first one.” He encouraged.

It took more that one phone call before I made a return visit to the rap radio show’s record bin and pulled Paul’s Boutique from the crate. “Is this as good as I’ve heard people say it is? I asked the white rap show host whose last name was easily misread as “Bologna.” “

Yeah, it’s a really good record.” He replied, surprised that I would even give a shit. As far as he knew, the only record I every borrowed to make a copy of from his pile was Schooly D’s Am I Black Enough For You.

 I put Paul’s Boutique on the Technics turntable in the back production room, admiring its selfless artwork that barely identified the artist and title. I also got a kick at how the band used the old Capitol rainbow spiral label for the vinyl version. What I really loved was how the Beasties spent the three or so years in between records and completely reinvented themselves in a way that nobody could anticipate. How did three schmucks from Brooklyn get their heads out of their ass in such short order that their sophomore release ended up being an absolute classic?

I was sold.

And the Beastie Boys became our generation’s hipster MCs, splicing in the collective memory of our pop culture before anyone else into some of the best lines ever put to pen and over a collage of beats and loops that had everyone playing “Guess The Sample.”

While the Beasties may not have got better after Paul’s Boutique, they certainly became more beloved. I’d say they were worthy enough to gain access to the Rock Hall, but I would have rather seen a few more releases instead of having their entrance speech seem more like a eulogy instead of an induction.

What a shame. Adam Yauch was one of those rare artists continually evolving, and if not in music, then in life itself. I hope that his faith prepared the transition into the next realm with all the beauty he deserved. His greatest lessons may indeed be the ones not found within music, but what an awesome residual effect they are for the rest of us.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Deep Thoughts With Scott "Wino" Weinrich

It's my anniversary today, and any idea of being able to celebrate it with her alone was thrown at the window when I signed up the boy for soccer and flag football at the same time. And while spending this day alone with my wife is ideal, the reality is much different with children. It's a life-affirming thing, and we have a full year to celebrate our fifth anniversary anyway. When do you reach that moment of changing priorities? For Saint Vitus' Scott "Wino" Weinrich, that moment comes after getting into a drunken fight at a party in Maryland. I wasn't prepared for what comes next.