Saturday, June 29, 2013

Kendrick Lamar - Good Kid, m.A.A.d City

I stumbled across Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City by accident. It would come up every now and then when purchasing music from some online retailer. It was the result of one of those tepid “Others who bought this product also bought…” suggestions that come when the algorithms start working their magic.

All of this is stranger, considering the incredibly small amount of rap music that I purchased, which I swear, seems like it would have been Whodini’s Escape.

In any case, the album looked intriguing from a cover art perspective and I looked into the record a bit further. Let me cut to the chase and tell you that I acquired Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City shortly afterwards and it is a beast of a listen and one in which you should discover right now. Details on this follow, but there is an admission that I am by far the authority on what constitutes a good rap record these days, because I am so far removed from that genre, having abandoned it after the genre became such a chore to navigate.

Like rock and roll, there became an entire sub-culture universe that existed. It was a reality that I could no longer devote the energy to keep up with it. And since my passion lay with rock music, it was best that I break off from any pretense of knowledge or understanding of current rap music.

This is not to say that I don’t like the genre or enjoy a new rap record. I do, but I won’t work hard to discover it.

And let me tell you, life is pretty good when you allow others to tell you what is decent in rap releases. It enables you to cherry pick from those that closely resemble your primary likes and preferences. For me, that preference would consist of the location of where rap music began: this middle-age cracker from Iowa likes his rap music East Coast style.

Which is odd because Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City is proudly West Coast, specifically Compton, and surprisingly narcotic. It is unique, infectious, and at times disturbing. It brings about a level of empathy, alternating between championing Lamar and chastising him for making some tragic decisions.

It blurs the line between fact and fiction well, incorporating his violent surroundings with well paced moments of bravado, dreams and outright lies. Trying to pinpoint Lamar to just one of Good Kid’s many personalities is a bit tricky, and ultimately the record’s most frustrating characteristic.

Too many times he peppers songs with ill-advised diversions, like the inner-voice portion of “Swimming Pools” where the entire codeine vibe is killed on what is likely the first drank anthem ever put to a hard drive.

In the end, you cannot deny that Lamar has put together an impressive array of narratives and the arrangements in which he and his studio visitors (read: big names) have weaved together one of the most unique and challenging records in any genre.

It all came together for me in a moment of impulse purchase intrigue, a result of some devious program designed to get me to dig a bit deeper into my wallet. And while I’m naturally suspicious of such tactics, it doesn’t mean that I’ve turned myself off to the suggestion.

And that’s all I’m trying to do with this review, because even with a cursory bit of investigation you’ll hear that there’s a good deal of comfort in Lamar’s van-tour of his dangerous and infectious streets.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Metz Release A New Video Because You Still Don't Have Their Debut Album Yet

And that should change immediately.

Haven't I professed my love for this record?

If not, let me do it again.

This thing rocks so much balls that I'm right back in '92, creaming on new Jesus Lizard and Barkmarket discs once again. It reminds me that I need to update last year's Baker's Dozen list, because this fucker is right up in there.

The new video is directed by Chad VanGaalen, whose Diaper Island was also a winner not too long ago.

And more tour dates below. These guys are going to kill themselves with exhaustion. Seriously, they have been on the road nonstop since last Fall, and the shit they do requires some conditioning.

Especially that drummer. Dude's a beast.

Anyho, the release:

Since the Oct. 2102 release of their critically acclaimed debut album, the Toronto-based trio METZ have been touring very nearly non-stop, playing shows across North America and Europe. METZ, have announced that they will return to Europe in the fall for a headline tour starting in Luxembourg on November 1st and ending in Manchester, UK on Nov 22. See below for a full list of confirmed shows, including performances at Sub Pop’s Silver Jubilee on July 13th in Seattle’s Georgetown Neighborhood (click here for a full lineup) as well as Festival performances at Sled Island (Calgary), Pitchfork (Chicago), Roskilde Festival (Denmark), OFF festival (Poland), Iceland Airwaves and many more. See below for a full list of Festival performances and your dates.

Jun. 23 - San Francisco, CA - Slims
Jun. 28 - St. Gallen, Switzerland - St. Gallen Festival 
Jun. 29 - Helsinki, Finland - Rock the Beach Festival
Jul. 4 - Arendal, Norway - Hove Festival
Jul. 6 - Roskilde, Denmark - Roskilde Festival
Jul. 12 - Toronto, Canada - Downsview Park
Jul. 20 - Chicago, IL - Pitchfork Music Festival
Jul. 26 - Guelph, Canada - Hillside Festival of Guelph
Aug. 1 - Venlo, Netherlands - Julianapark
Aug. 2 - Liege, Belgium - Micro Festival
Aug. 3 - Katowice, Poland - Off Festival
Aug. 8 - Oslo, Norway - Oya Natt Festival
Aug. 9 - Rees-Haldern, Germany - Haldern Pop Festival 
Aug. 11 - Castelbuono (Palermo- Sicily), Italy - Ypsigrock Festival
Aug. 24 - Los Angeles, CA - F Yeah Fest
Sep. 26 - Champaign, IL - Pygmalion Festival
Sep. 27 - Cincinnati, OH - Midpoint Music Festival
Oct. 30 - Reykjavik, Iceland - Iceland Airwaves Festival
Oct. 31 - Reykjavik, Iceland - Iceland Airwaves Festival 
Nov. 1 - Luxembourg, Luxembourg - Den Atelier
Nov. 2 - Brussels, Belgium - Witloofbar
Nov. 3 - Eindhoven, Holland - Hit The City Festival
Nov. 4 - Hamburg, Germany - Hafenklang
Nov. 6 - Copenhagen, Denmark - Beta
Nov. 7 - Stockholm, Sweden - Debaser Strand
Nov. 8 - Oslo, Norway - John Dee
Nov. 9 - Gothenburg, Sweden - Pustervik
Nov. 11 - Berlin, Germany - Bi Nuu
Nov. 12 - Warsaw, Poland - Hydrozagadka
Nov. 13 - Wroclaw, Poland - Bezsennosc
Nov. 14 - Prague, Czech Republic - 007 Club
Nov. 15 - Wurzburg, Germany - Café Cairo
Nov. 16 - Lausanne, Switzerland - Le Romandie Club
Nov. 17 - Milan, Italy - Lo Fi Club
Nov. 19 - Lyon, France - Marche Gare
Nov. 20 - Paris, France - La Gaite Lyrique
Nov. 22 - Manchester, United Kingdom - Deaf Institute 
Nov. 23 - Glasgow, United Kingdom - Broadcast
Nov. 25 - Leeds, United Kingdom - Brudenell Social Club
Nov. 26 - Bristol, United Kingdom - Start the Bus
Nov. 27 - Brighton, United Kingdom - The Haunt
Nov. 28 - London, United Kingdom - Village Underground

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Flaming Lips Coordinate Oklahoma Tornado Relief Shows

Some cool news out of the Flaming Lips camp:

Oklahoma City favorite sons The Flaming Lips will join an all-star line-up of musicians with a special connection to the state of Oklahoma for the Rock For Oklahoma Benefit concert, which will raise money for victims of both F5 tornados that struck Moore, Oklahoma City, and surrounding areas this spring. The Flaming Lips, Kings of Leon, Jackson Browne, Built to Spill and special guests will perform at the Chesapeake Energy Arena on Tuesday, July 23, 2013. Tickets are $35 and $50 and are on sale now online via or by phone at 1.800.745.3000.

Losses from these storms are estimated to reach upwards of $2 billion. Many of the short-term needs of the people affected by the tornados have already been met; the goal of Rock for Oklahoma is to help them with long-term issues and problems, such as regaining livelihoods. All of the proceeds will be dispersed to central Oklahoma community organizations and charities, via local charities.

"Shakespeare said, 'It is not enough to help the needy up, but to support them after,'" says Lips frontman Wayne Coyne. "In our small way we are trying to not just be here at the moment of immediate need, but to stay and help with the rebuilding. After all, this is our home and they are us and we are them."

At present, The Lips have recently returned home after dates around the globe in support of The Terror including shows w/ The Black Keys. They have a couple more dates w/ The Keys as well as a pair of shows w/ support from Spiritualized.

The Flaming Lips upcoming tour dates are as follows:

July 11 Raleigh, NC Time Warner Cable Pavilion w/ The Black Keys
July 12 Greenville, SC Charter Amphitheatre w/ The Black Keys
July 15 Wallingford, CT Oakdale Theatre w/ Spiritualized
July 16 Pittsburgh, PA Stage AE Outdoors w/ Spiritualized
July 17 Lewiston, NY Artpark
July 25 Salt Lake City, UT Twilight Concert Series, Pioneer Park
July 27 Troutdale, OR McMenamins Edgefield
July 28 Seattle, WA Capitol Hill Block Party
July 31 Costa Mesa, CA The Pacific Amphitheatre
Aug 1 Las Vegas, NV Bud Light Music First, House of Blues
Aug 17 Omaha, NE Maha Maha Festival
Sep 6 Isle Of Wight, UK Bestival
Sep 7 Stekene, Belgium Crammerock Festival
Oct 21 Tokyo, Japan Blitz
Oct 22 Tokyo, Japan Blitz
Oct 23 Osaka, Japan Hatch
Oct 24 Nagoya, Japan Club Diamond Hall

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Fall - Re-Mit

We’re on album number thirty. Try to keep up.

I’m almost tempted to encourage any Fall noobs to start with their latest, Re-Mit, which is exactly as Mark E. Smith described it when he offered, “Re-Mit is going to absolutely terrify people. It’s quite horrible.”

It is exactly as he described and more easily understood than anything coming out of his mouth throughout large portions of the record. He’s unintelligible now and seemingly proud of it. Mark E. Smith has finally turned his gurgle into a fucking instrument; it’s high in the mix and he explores a wide variety of gutturals, culminating into a coughing and wheezing fit at the end of “Hittite Man.

I shit you not.

It’s disgusting. It’s fascinating. And it’s as good as anywhere else in their catalog to start. I mean, if you can deal with the sound of actual phlegm coming out of a 56 year-old man, then you’ll have a blast with the rest of The Fall’s remaining 29 records.

This version of The Fall has now circumnavigated M.E.S.’ temperament for longer than any other line-up in their history, and their unifying interplay finds a good balance between Smith’s more idiosyncratic pull and the general public’s need for things like melody and chorus.

That’s not to suggest that Re-Mit is by any means accessible. It is not, but it is a tad more bouncy by Fall standards. Part of that is because keyboardist/wife Eleni Poulou now seems to be imposing more of her influence into the band mix, drawing obvious comparisons to the band’s other notable influence in M.E.S.’ life, BrixSmith-Start.

But where Brix made inroads in expanding The Fall’s reach with more orthodox arrangements, Poulou stays true to the band’s other constant: its passion for garage rock. Poulou brings new tones and possibilities to the mix, giving Re-Mit more character than such disappointments like Ersatz GB. In the band’s recent volley between impressive and passive, Re-Mit is firmly entrenched as a noteworthy offering, yielding no calls for M.E.S. to throw in the towel while remaining as challenging as they’ve ever been.

Quick note: the packaging of Re-Mit is completely worthless, consisting of a lone, one-page sleeve with a cover that looks like a Victorian version of J.J. Evans’ mural from the title sequence of Good Times. For real: if you absolutely must have the physical product for this Fall release, drop the extra on the vinyl if you’re able. Otherwise, the digital version will suit you fine while the material within those ones and zeros stays true to the band’s legendary course.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Iggy and the Stooges - Ready To Die

It’s not as bad as The Wierdness, but that’s not saying anything.

In fact, Iggy Pop isn’t saying anything relevant in the 21st Century, and we could admittedly go back into the last few decades of the last century and probably say the same thing.

Which explains why the rock universe collectively yawned when it was announced that Pop was revamping the ole’ “Iggy and the Stooges” marquee for a reunion album. If Pop and the boys couldn’t get the hint that the crowd only wants to hear Raw Power cuts, they could have at least read the reviews at how sacrilegious the last record was and steered away from an album of all new material.

At the same time, even Iggy’s most recent solo records were utter dog shit with Beat ‘Em Up, Skull Ring, or any of those ridiculous Francophile records reminding us to use a plastic bag when handling anything related to James Osterberg.

The fact that Iggy was able to drag guitarist James Williamson away from a lucrative job as an executive is admirable and is the only thing that saves this record from the same amount of vitriol that I had for The Weirdness.

In fact, Williamson delivers some exceptional performances, but not enough to come close to the last time he and Pop worked together, 1977’s Kill City. His return sounds like a legitimate second wind, while Iggy sounds like he’s gearing up for retirement.

“Businessmen with dirty tricks/Followers of 666” is the best Jimmy can come up with, which is funny, considering the entire retirement package that he’s been milking for quite some time. There’s no way that Iggy could command the kind of guarantee that he’s been getting away with by using “The Stooges” somewhere in the concert flier if he were to stay solo.

Somehow, I don’t think that Williamson is as big of a pushover as the Asheton brothers were, which may explain why the guitarist’s dna is all over this record, saving it from complete ridicule.
After a few spins, I began humming some of Ready To Die’s more embarrassing tracks and actually enjoying some of the good ones, like “Burn,” “Dirty Deal,” and the title track.

Saxophonist Steve MacKay adds nothing more than a less charismatic Clarence Clemons to the proceedings and bassist Mike Watt remains so browbeaten that he’s nothing more than a hired-hand, plodding along in the background like a tourist.

Which makes Ready To Die the equivalent of a Carnival cruise experience, in a sense. It’s  pre-packaged trip that makes for a few good snapshots but little in terms of adding to the moniker’s detailed punk rock previous works of art.

The troubling thing is how Williamson’s stunning guitar resurgence does little to wake Pop from an effort that could have been something more than a face-saving tour souvenir.

Instead, Pop practically explains everything wrong with Ready To Die on the song “Job,” where he finally admits: “I got a job and I’m sick of it.”

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

If You've Ever Lamented At The Lack Of Sebastian Bach Solo Records On Vinyl...Your Dreams Have Been Answered

"Does it feature double-gatefold artwork and 180 gram vinyl?" asked nobody.

Kick out the jams, mother trucker!
Iconic rock vocalist Sebastian Bach is proud to announce the forthcoming release of two brand new vinyl editions: one for his most recent studio album, Kicking & Screaming, and one for his recent live album, Abachalypse Now (taken from the CD/DVD package of the same name).  The UK label Rock Classics, under license from Frontiers Records, will issue both.  Kicking & Screaming will be available on 180 gram, limited edition single red gatefold vinyl on June 17th and can be pre-ordered here.  ABACHALYPSE NOW will be released on 180 gram, limited edition double colored gatefold vinyl later in June, exact street date to be announced, and can be pre-ordered here.  One disc of the set will be transparent blue and the other clear.  In other news, Bach fans worldwide can click here to check out the video for "American Metalhead," taken from the CD/DVD package Abachalypse Now.

Sebastian Bach's latest studio album, Kicking & Screaming, was produced by Bob Marlette and debuted in the Top 75 of the Billboard Top 200 Album chart and received rave reviews from critics and fans alike. A website that nobody's heard of declared, "Sebastian Bach delivers a balls out gang of mountainous hooks, titanic grooves and straight down the middle hard rock." Sebastian Bach's recent CD/DVD package, Abachalypse Now, also received stellar praise, with Revolver avowing that "the fact remains that Sebastian Bach is still one of the most dynamic frontmen..."  Bach was recently named one of the 100 greatest living rock stars by Revolver, a magazine that will go under in the next 18 months. 

Sebastian Bach has sold in excess of 20 million records worldwide as lead singer with his former band, Skid Row and as a solo artist.  Far from just being a multi-platinum recording artist, the singer/songwriter/actor/entertainer has expanded his career over the past decade to include episodic television with a 5-season recurring role on the CW's hit series "Gilmore Girls", starring roles on Broadway ("Jekyll & Hyde", "The Rocky Horror Picture Show") and national touring companies ("Jesus Christ Superstar"), and has appeared regularly on MTV and VH1.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

GG Allin Creates Controversy Beyond The Grave With 'My Prison Walls'

Again, I need to preface by declaring GG Allin a talentless bozo who swindled a handful of hipsters to a point where he slogged out a career by eating poop and beating up audience members, all under the pretense of "art."

Have you ever listened to a GG Allin record? It's awful.

And when the shit-flinging and violence only dried up his tour revenue (Surprise! No one wants to book a show that ends with you having to deal with the cops and wondering how you're going to get reimbursed for a feces-covered Sure SM57 microphone at the end of the night), Allin adapted and upped the rhetoric to the point where he got coverage on a new media outlet: shock talk shows.

He kept suggesting that he would kill himself on stage someday...and take some audience members with him...a threat that never came because he was too much of a junky to get a plan together and too stupid to understand that nobody was ever going to let him carry out such a threat.

GG Allin died in the most spectacularly unspectacular way, and as his death got farther and farther away in time, so did the need to discuss his career or incredibly worthless musical catalog.

As we approach the 20th Anniversary of Allin's death, a very business-savvy company has determined that there are at least 2,500 schmucks out there that would be interested in a hard-cover edition of Allin's jailhouse musings.

For those of you not up to speed, GG Allin went to jail in the late 80's for beating the shit out of, sexually assaulting, and kidnapping a young woman after a performance. The girl was a "fan" of his music and Allin claims the incident(s) were consensual, but you know, he threw poop at people, so how is there any credibility to anything the man said?

They will have no trouble selling out this book, so get it while you can if you're more tolerant of GG Allin than I am. For anyone else, here's what you'll miss by not securing your copy:

  • GG Allin masturbated a lot while in jail.
  • GG Allin drew lots of self-indulgent pictures of himself while in the clink, most featuring a much larger penis than what he had in real life.
  • GG Allin masturbated a lot while looking at his own big penis portraits of himself.
Still with me?

Fine, here's the poop on this limited edition turd:

It was a dark and stormy night, so I took out my small penis and stroked it.
2013 marks the 20th anniversary of the death of GG Allin, the most notorious Rock N Roll artist of all time. For the first time ever, Allin's prison-era memoirs have been compiled in "My Prison Walls", a 208 page hardcover numbered limited edition collector's book that contains letters, illustrations, prose, and Allin's own personal accounts of his time spent in prison. It is limited to 2500 numbered copies.
The book begins with Allin's "30 Days In The Hole" his journal, in his own handwriting, detailing his first days in lock up. This comprises the first 50 pages of the book and gives the reader a first-hand account of Allin's mindset at the time. In addition, there are over 40 pieces of art and prose by Allin, plus correspondence with his family members, convicted serial killer John Wayne Gacy, Jeff Clayton of ANTiSEEN, and many others.
This book cover is wrapped in black saifu cloth and decorated / titled in red foil blood stamping. Each book is individually numbered and shrink-wrapped for protection and preservation. After the 2500 copies have been sold, the book will not be re-printed. In this sense, it is a true collector's item for any fan of GG Allin or the history of Rock N Roll music.
For more NSFW information on this, visit Vice.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

You're Dumb If You Live In The Seattle Area And Don't Go To Sub Pop's Silver Jubilee


$25?! I can raise that in can deposits in a month! So seriously, get to redeeming those cans right now so that you'll have enough dough to attend Sub Pop's Silver Jubil-eve comedy show with people who bring the funny.

And all the money goes to charity, so you can can the "sell-out" garbage.

Then on the next day, get your balls rocked off with what looks to be a line-up that rivals any bullshit Pitchfork Palloosa Festival in Bonnaroo, Tennesee.

Dig funnyman Eugene Mirman before digging the updated press-release.

I met Mirman once. We talked about Robyn Hitchcock and then I freaked him out after I answered the question "So what do you do?"

Why, what any other guy in his late-thirties would be doing on a Thursday night in an on-campus political function: trying to pick up university chicks!

Just kidding, all except the "I creeped out Eugene Mirman" part, which I'm pretty sure happened.

Sub Pop’s Silver Jubilee July 12th-13th, 2013:
Silver Jubil-eve: A Comedy Thing (for Charity!) Lineup: 
Eugene Mirman, David Cross, Jon Benjamin, 
Kristen Schaal, Kurt Braunohler
Silver Jubilee Lineup Additions Include: 
Built to Spill, King Tuff, METZ, Chad VanGaalen, & clipping.
Hardly Art Sideshow Stage includes: 
Hausu, Protomartyr, Deep Time, and More
Plus: Sub Pop Mega Mart Details

We at Sub Pop are feeling even more self-congratulatory than usual in sharing further details on our 25th anniversary celebration: the Sub Pop Records Silver Jubilee. To be held July 12th-13th in Seattle, Washington, the event will feature music and comedy performances by past and present Sub Pop and Sub Pop-related artists.
On Friday, July 12th, the previously announced Silver Jubil-eve: A 25th Anniversary Comedy Thing (for Charity!) takes place at the Moore Theatre. The evening will be hosted by Eugene Mirman and feature performances from David Cross, Jon Benjamin, Kristen Schaal and Kurt Braunohler, with additional guests to be announced shortly. Tickets for the event are $25 and are on sale now. More information ishere.
Then, on Saturday, July 13th, our entirely FREE, all-ages festival will happen to a stretch of Airport Way in Seattle’s historic & colorful Georgetown neighborhood. The music lineup has been expanded to include friends of Sub Pop Built to Spill (fun fact: Built to Spill recorded their landmark album There’s Nothing Wrong with Love, for the Sub Pop offshoot and respected indie label Up Records in 1994). Also added to the lineup are Sub Pop artists King Tuff, METZ, Chad VanGaalen and the newest addition to the Sub Pop roster, clipping., from Los Angeles. Our sister label, Hardly Art, will host the “ Hardly Art Sideshow Stage” at the Georgetown venue The Mix. The 21-and-over show, which features Hausu, Protomartyr, Deep Time, and more, will begin at 9pm. Please find full updated music lineup details below.
We’d also like to officially welcome clipping. to the Sub Pop family. The group joined the label earlier this month, and will release their label debut in 2014. In the meantime, listen to their album midcityhere or watch their latest video for “bout that” here.  
Finally, the temporary Sub Pop Mega Mart store, located in the heart of the Georgetown neighborhood, will open its doors on June 8th. Discerning music lovers will find records—including lots of rare and out-of-print colored vinyl—and merchandise from the label’s storied catalog, and take in an art exhibit featuring little-seen materials (sketches and artwork, label ads and press sheets, blue-lines and cutting room floor scraps) from throughout the label’s history. The store hours are Thursday-Saturday 12-8pm, and Sunday 12-6pm. The Mega Mart is at 6003 12th Avenue South in Seattle and will be open from June 8th until July 21st. 
All proceeds from both the ticketed Silver Jubil-eve comedy night and donations collected from the Silver Jubilee music event will benefit local organizations 90.3FM KEXP, Northwest Harvest and the Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation. In addition to these worthy organizations, Sub Pop is fortunate to be working with the Georgetown Merchants Association and great businesses like Nordstrom, Top Pot Doughnuts, Chihuly Garden and Glass, Georgetown Brewing Company, the Sandbox, Fantagraphics Books, Georgetown Records, Via Tribunali, Elysian Brewing Company, and the Georgetown Inn to create a one-of-a-kind event in a one-of-a-kind neighborhood.  
For more information and updates on the event, please visit
Friday July 12, 2013
Sub Pop Records’ Silver Jubil-eve
A 25th Anniversary Comedy Thing (for Charity!) 
At The Moore Theatre
7p.m. Door
Tickets $25, All Ages
Ticketing info here
Eugene Mirman
David Cross
Jon Benjamin
Kristen Schaal
Kurt Braunholer
Saturday July 13th
Sub Pop’s Silver Jubilee
On Airport Way in Georgetown
FREE, All Ages
Built to Spill
J Mascis
Greg Dulli
Father John Misty
Shabazz Palaces 
King Tuff
Pissed Jeans
Chad VanGaalen
The Baptist Generals
Brothers of the Sonic Cloth (featuring Tad Doyle)
Jack Endino’s Earthworm
And special guest TBA
Hardly Art Sideshow Stage 
The Mix
6006 12th Ave. S
9pm / 21+ / FREE
Deep Time
and special guests 

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Obligatory Daft Punk Post

I haven't written about the new Daft Punk record because I don't have it yet. It's intriguing, but it's farther down on my radar. Not because I don't like Daft Punk, because I do. Instead, it represents a moment in my life that is long gone and best forgotten.

I can tell you that, while I was never one to frequent clubs or other EDM activities, I'm familiar with them enough to tell you that there's nothing sadder than dancing to a Daft Punk song at some generic meat-market in a suburb of Chicago that's close the O'Hare.

Because you need a quick escape plan after your bad decisions.

Like I said, it's been a lifetime ago-which probably another reason why the new Daft Punk album hasn't moved much on my excitement level.

This cover of Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" by Atlas Genius is pretty bad-assed, and more aligned in my more acoustic leanings as of late.

One disappoint fact is that "Get Lucky" in fact is an original song by Daft Punk, and not a cover of the title track of Loverboy's incredible 1982 album of the same name.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sly & Robbie Present Stepper Takes The Taxi

This looks awesome.

Sly & Robbie, who are two of the most important people in the history of reggae music, continue to deliver some stellar foundations-this time with French saxophonist Guillaume Briard aka 'Stepper.' Definately an old-school dub and classy riddims from the vibe on the teaser below. 

Here's the poop for the upcoming U.S. release:

French saxophone player Guillaume Briard, aka Stepper, has worked with a veritable who's who in the Jamaican music industry. His main business today is however being an official member of acclaimed Jamaican riddim duo Sly & Robbie's band the Taxi Gang.The riddim twins have now opened their music vaults (jam-packed with immortal riddims and backing tracks) for him to record over for his own debut album 'Stepper Takes the Taxi', a set also including a number of brand new riddims.

Stepper has chosen his riddims with gentle care. They're bubbling, bouncy and lively and exquisitely mixed by French mixing engineer Fabwise. Stepper blows his saxophone tenderly and creates beautiful melodies over the sometimes haunting backing tracks. There are too few instrumental albums released these days, which makes this effort a welcome addition to a sometimes overlooked and forgotten part of reggae music.

Stepper's story begins in Paris during the 80's, when the young Guillaume hones his skills at several instruments with various formations. During a trip to Jamaica where he gets his nickname, he meets some of the artists he will tour and record with. Sly & Robbie opened their vaults for Stepper, who picked and chose classic riddims and brand new Jamaican sessions for this debut album. Prestigious musicians joined Stepper on this album mixed by Fabwise, the rising star of dubmasters.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

You're In The Jungle Baby! 20 Years After Appetite For Destruction

The Peter Case book got me thinking about an article I did six-years ago over at Glorious Noise, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of Appetite For Destruction

Also, my Grandmother recently passed away. She absolutely hated this band, probably uttering her Swedish expression for disgust, "Ish!"

In the spring of 1987, my cousin was a junior in high school and overflowing with Midwestern teenage rebellion. A couple of classmates convinced him to stand lookout in the doorway of the boy’s restroom at school while they detonated a pipe bomb in one of the stalls. The explosion created major devastation and, as my cousin later admitted, it’s a miracle that no one was hurt during the incident.
The two boys that created the bomb were expelled from school while my cousin was handed a fifteen day suspension which entailed the final week of his junior year classes and the first two of his senior year.
Axl shows off the leather fanny pack he made in industrial arts class.
His parents, feeling that this punishment wasn’t severe enough, grounded him for the entire summer and forced him to learn about responsibility by getting a job. In a strange twist of irony, the job he landed was filing papers for a local insurance agent.
He spent his time outside of work holed up in his bedroom, passing the hours reading music magazines and listening to heavy metal records. A five-star review in Kerrang! of an unknown L.A. hard rock band called Guns ‘N Roses caught his eye and he made a mental note to look into them the next time he tasted freedom again.

Towards the end of summer, his parents finally displayed a small amount of sympathy by allowing him to tag along to the mall one weekend while they went shopping. He made his way towards the record store and immediately looked for the band that received such a glowing review. He became enamored with the original Robert Williams cover art for Appetite For Destruction and used some of the money he earned from his minimum wage job to take a chance on this debut.
The small town in Central Illinois where my cousin lived at the time probably wasn’t much different than Lafayette, Indiana, the city that W. Axl Rose fled from at the age of seventeen. It would only be a matter of time, and a few dozen plays of that cassette copy of Appetite, before my cousin drew parallels between him and William Bailey.
Fueled by the imagery within that album and inspired by Axl and Izzy’s own similar tales of escape, he and another friend jumped into a 1979 Chevy Camaro and headed west. A mutual friend who didn’t join them seemed to put more forethought into the journey than they did: she set them up with crackers and peanut butter for the trip, knowing that their limited resources wouldn’t provide them with much cash flow for fine dining.
While the Camaro’s 350 V8 gave them enough dependability to make it across the country, it did so at a high price. By the time they arrived in Los Angeles, the majority of their funds had been spent on fuel with the remaining balance going towards Marlboro reds and Mountain Dew.
They spent their first night gingerly sleeping on the Camaro’s bucket seats in a seedy part of East L.A.
While Appetite may have convinced them that L.A. was ground zero for sex, drugs, and rock and roll, the “jungle” proved to be relatively uneventful. The pair cruised the strip, looking for evidence of the scene chronicled in heavy metal magazines and immortalized in their favorite hard rock songs. The reality was much different: while they naively thought that they would be able to run into the members of GNR hanging outside of the Whiskey, neither one caught a glimpse of anyone remotely famous. After growing tired of their lack of success on the Sunset Strip, they decided that they would have better luck at meeting some of their SST idols like Henry Rollins and Greg Ginn. A quick drive down to Redondo Beach proved to be just as dull as their time on the Strip.
Perhaps their most notable encounter came while buying sodas and cigarettes one morning in a convenience store. They struck up a conversation with a prostitute who was coming to the end of her “shift.” After learning about the pair’s predicament, and perhaps going though similar circumstances herself, she offered the teenagers some sage advice: “Turn around and go home.”
Twenty years after the release of Guns ‘N Roses Appetite For Destruction, I’m hard pressed to think of another album that speaks to the disenfranchised youth of America with such power to subliminally motivate them to hop in a Chevy Camaro and head for Los Angeles.
GNR was grubby looking and inked to the hilt at a time when tattoos and dirty fingernails weren’t a rite of passage, but a complete declaration of anti-social values and poverty. Rose’s lyrics also reeked of anti-social behaviors, with misogyny, addiction, violence, and the brutal reality of the underbelly of Southern California being common themes of their initial batch of material. Appetite was a welcome change from other hard rock bands of the time who were watering down their arrangements to be more palatable to radio and MTV.
The album foundered for nearly a year before someone finally had the good sense to recognize that under the grit of the album’s harsh subject matters was a song of tremendous vulnerability and beauty. By the time the rest of the world finally heard the gentle refrain of “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” the band instantaneously changed from spokesmen for America’s troubled youth to the mainstream’s resident bad boys.
From that point on, the band would never be able to recreate that stunning blend of ferocity and hunger like they did on the debut. We may have come to terms with the fact hat they, particularly Axl at this point, won’t be able to match the level of Appetite again. The challenge that I struggle with is how a blend of five fuckups managed to come that close to perfection in the first place, only to immediately distance them from that winning blueprint.
My cousin isn’t necessarily proud of his youthful indiscretions nowadays; he had a certain amount of reservation in using his past for this public display. The turning point was the record up for discussion. The moment he heard it would be a piece about Appetite For Destruction, he relented about the unflattering points of his teenage years. Because things like pipe bombs, Camaros, Marlboro cigarettes, and running off to Los Angeles are completely logical when Appetite is part of the backdrop. And while we still may be waiting for the next seedy underdogs to rise from the gutter and rally America’s youth, it’s nice to know that Appetite For Destruction still has enough vitriol in it to help teenagers make poor choices for another twenty years.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Peter Case - As Far As You Can Get Without A Passport

I wrote the review of the Peter Case performance before I read his first book, a brief autobiography about the early days when he rolled out of his hometown of Buffalo, New York and made it to San Francisco without any real plans of what he would do when he got there.

To do such a thing today would be seen as foolish. I remember telling my father once that I was going to move out west, hang out with some friends and become a recording engineer-a pipe dream, for sure, but a solid enough explanation in my mind to justify packing up and moving.

Almost immediately-like any good father, I suppose-began to dismantle my plans, pointing out the blatant lack of planning and how I would have no reliable source of income when I arrived to my destination.

I didn't care, man, I wanted to be free of all of this oppression man!

It's a common trait that many from the Midwest throw up, this notion that the region is so backwards and stifling that it somehow prevents a young person from achieving their dreams. It's nonsense, of course, because the reality that you can actually make your dreams in an area not known for it's culture and social agenda. Instead, living in the Midwest only means that you'll have to work harder in addressing the very superficial reasons you have that are pressing you to leave.

For years, I was bitter at my old man for telling me the truth. The reality is, if I was truly ready to pick up and split, I would have done it. But my dad's concerns made real sense to me, and yes, I'm an only child, so the idea of moving so far from the nest at that time also weighed heavy.

I looked at friends that had made similar choices, and was impressed at how little they ultimately used their new surroundings. It was an endless barrage of part-time jobs just to keep a roof over their head, and all of the shows and social events that they promised to embrace suddenly became something they couldn't afford.

Then there were those that completely abused their lack of a family safety net. They met with other lonely souls and brought their lives to the brink of addiction, some of whom are very lucky to be alive today.

Me? I stayed home. And although I'm not suggesting that my decision was one that everyone should adhere to, it is a choice that worked for me and one that I don't regret making now that I'm in a place where I love and around people that I love more than my own selfish needs.

And while I have no tolerance for those who depart because they feel the region somehow suppresses their dreams, I can abide those whose dreams require them to leave. In Peter Case's world, California was a different planet compared to Buffalo-and it came at a time when a lot of young people were doing the exact same thing.

When he reached Chicago, a man boarded the train on a cold winter night after Case. The two were remarkably similar: both had long hair, army bags full of clothes and a guitar case. Both were heading out West to begin whatever, although the gentleman he sat with was a couple of years older than Case and had been out to California on a few occasions.

He offered Case some advice: keep to yourself.

If it seems like I've spent a large amount of words talking about myself rather than As Far As You Can Get Without A Passport, it's because of the book's brevity than my own need to tell you the intimate details of what a chickenshit I am. Peter Case is someone who made the journey, and someone who made it for the right reasons.

Of course, that may be easy to say since he later became a renowned singer-songwriter, making the journey worth the hardship. But what makes the book so great is that you never get the sense that everything will end out alright. There are hints of Case's talents, but since he's very good at talking down his own abilities, there's always a sense that he could easily get shipped back home at any point. I mean, he lives in a junkyard at one point. I don't recall any Dylan stories where he's sleeping in retired vehicles.

At 51 pages, I finished As Far As You Can Get Without A Passport in the amount of time for a lengthy bowel-movement. And while I didn't actually read it on a toilet, the ending did have me holding my breath somewhat, with Case and his friend holed up in a small, Mexican seaside town with no gas, no money, and no skills in the Spanish language.

All he has is a guitar.

I believe As Far As You Can Get Without A Passport is a precursor to a larger book, or maybe it will be released in various increments, like a kick-ass e.p. Whatever comes next, I'm hooked. Even if I know how this story ultimately ends, I want to read about it and live vicariously through Case's own will to keep moving.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Peter Case Live In Cedar Rapids

Peter Case

Live At CSPS, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

June 4, 2013

Peter Case’s life is one that has been in constant motion.

And the years and the miles are quite apparent in the man’s appearance; his face now detailed with lines and a mound of grey on his chin. It’s quite a difference from the shaded hipster of The Plimsouls or even the still-boyish look of the cover of The Man With The Blue Post Modern Neo-Traditionalist Guitar release.

The last thirty years have seen him traveling the roads of “almost recognizable” and “cult favorite.” He has probably hit a bunch of the same venues over and over again, making his career seem like a sequel to Groundhog Day than the places of interest for a well-traveled icon.

This would be only his second visit to our state professionally. While contemplating the number of times he’s been in Iowa, Peter remembered a story of a gig in Missouri that he missed, primarily because he became lost while patrolling the Hawkeye state’s back roads.

As an Iowa native, I can say from experience that some of those roads lead nowhere.

For Case, the road helped shape his experience and that own experience began when he told his parents-both of whom were schoolteachers in the Buffalo public school district-that his next step would be to drop out of school.

And with plans like that, you can imagine the next item on the “To do list” was to find new housing accommodations. Teachers don’t respond well when their kids tell them they’re dropping out. It tends to be somewhat of an insult to their profession.

Case got his G.E.D. and got the hell out of his parent’s house. He traveled from the cold Buffalo climate to the warm, inviting arms of California, where he ended up a street performer in San Francisco. He looked closely at his new surroundings, and from those observations, he turned the stories into songs.

His first encounter with notoriety was while he was in the band The Nerves, an early punk rock entry with pop overtones. Green Day would make similar advances more than a decade after The Nerves split, but they always acknowledged how it was bands like The Nerves that did it first-and some would suggest, did it better.

Case later got more exposure as the frontman of The Plimsouls. They cracked the Top 100 with a song called “Million Miles Away,” an infectious piece of power pop that it not only got added to the soundtrack to the movie Valley Girl, it also got the band a cameo in the film.

The movie would become Nicolas Cage’s first starring role in what would prove to be a very successful career, but the band’s fortunes were not as great. The Plimsouls were actually in the process of breaking up when Hollywood called, but since Hollywood was just down the street from their home turf, it wasn’t glittery enough to keep them from splintering just as their popularity was growing.

I remember discovering The Plimsouls through that film, but I also remember something more striking when I took the obligatory step to learn more about them.

By the time I noticed, Case had already embarked on a solo career. What I didn’t know was how far Peter had moved from his power pop past with his debut release Peter Case.

It was a very organic and rootsy affair. Peter Case is an Americana album before such a name even existed.  “Old Blue Car” was the leadoff track from that record, and it featured a loose beat, sparse arrangements, and Case honking on a harmonica in between his passionate ode to an old car and its most important accessory: a pretty woman around his arm.

During a time when pop music embraced the processed digital chill of a state of the art technology that sucked the life out of most recordings, producer T-Bone Burnett kept it simple. And Case went back to the music that caused him to question authority and drop out of school to begin with, so the pairing is mutually beneficial.

Case has stuck to this style of music ever since. More important than his commitment to  authenticity is the man’s true passion for the history of music itself. He peppers his records and set lists with songs from the past, paying close attention to identifying every performer in case you want to look into their work after the gig.

Case is an obvious follower of Mr. Zimmerman and he has made a point to carry on the tradition of lone troubadours like him. And while simple inspirations like sex, drugs and rock and roll would also fuel his younger passion, when the day came time to make a choice for a career as a rock and roller or just a simple folk journeyman, Case chose the one that was more closely aligned with his own muse.

Right out of the gate, his worked gained him a Grammy nomination. “Old Blue Car” became a left-field curio because it sounded so different when compared to the college charts he was accustomed to. The record company liked the attention that his album garnered, and they complimented it by throwing large sums of money to pair Case with notable session players and expensive producers.

As he noted in one of his stories before hitting the material, the moment that he delivered an album that cost next to nothing even while maintaining the critical accolades that followed him throughout his career, was the moment when the label dropped him. The large costs would keep him tied up in legal paybacks for many years to come, so an album recorded with the utmost efficiency only stacked the deck in Case’s favor.

Peter Case starring as Merle Haggard
Ironically, when Case began scaling back his musical approach as a cost-cutting measure,  his music suddenly blossomed. This was the approach of his idols, but more importantly, it was an approach that complimented his clever storytelling skills to no end.

Before too long, he was better known for his commitment to the American roots than the Paisley Underground. But for some like myself, his proper start began with rock and roll, but it is obviously his talents as a songwriter that places Case at the top of the artistic food chain, regardless of what genre he associates with.

On Tuesday night, Peter Case’s skinny tie was a neck holder for his harmonica, his chiming Rickenbacker turned into a refurbished acoustic 12-string, and anything that required electricity was either left behind or not working (spoiler alert!).

He’s sitting down for most of his performances now, and when he raises up from his seat, Case’s back instinctively slouches over with age. His smooth face from the days of his youth is now comprised of wrinkles and a grey goatee that he occasionally tugged at.

Case is approaching 60, and if it’s not enough that a man his age is still pulling weeks of one-nighters in intimate settings like CSPS, what does make this fact a little more frightening is how heart surgery was the only thing that seemed to sideline him from his constant tour schedule just a few years ago.

He acknowledges the toll, but the passion in his acoustic performances also acknowledges a musical history that requires a never-ending commitment. For example, Case approaches a song by Sleepy John Estes with such unbridled enthusiasm that you wonder if the preservation of the songs and stories of our country’s music is more important to him than his own self-preservation.

His sets are so open and filled with enticing narrative that an evening with Peter Case on stage is probably the same kind of evening with Peter Case in your living room. You become enraptured by his stories and passionate picking that even when Case flubs a note or the proceeding story begins to ramble, you remind yourself that he’s traveled a few thousand miles just to play here. I’d say he’s allowed to stretch out, miss a fret, and refer to his career in self-deprecating terms.

Even a non-functioning keyboard would only interrupt the set for the amount of time it took Case to work his way back to his acoustics. And when he was advised later in the set that the keyboard was now working properly, Case only used it for one song. He doesn’t like traveling the same road twice, so the idea of the keyboard was an exit from several miles before. He used it for maybe one or two songs before returning to the acoustics.

He’s an excellent picker, but he is far from being a perfectionist, allowing the flubbed frets and missed runs to act as moments of integrity. Case can be showy when it’s necessary, but he also peppers it with moments of self-deprecation just to let you know that he’s good enough to make a living at this thing, but he’s not good enough to be a star.

That’s the only frustrating thing about him, because he should be a star. When he dismissed such a notion after a bit on banter from yours truly, he was speaking against the title in its most superficial of terms.
A star in my mind is someone with the kind of chops that can influence others to pick up an instrument and run with it. Case certainly has the power to do that, and he’s patient enough to acknowledge his own stars. There’s not a doubt in my mind that Case would view some of the same artists that he covered that evening as “rock stars,” even though they probably never even saw an electric amplifier.

By the third standing ovation encore, Case didn’t even bother to return to the stage. Instead, he hoisted his acoustic guitar up and walked around the front row of tables, sans microphone. He sang the most honest version of “Beyond The Blues” ever, and it transcended everything else he did that evening at the Legion Arts hall.

And after two-hours of stellar music that already made the evening a perfect encounter, his final selection only confirmed what I yelled from the crowd earlier: Peter Case is indeed a rock star. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires Of The City

I bought the vinyl version because I liked the cover and it’s better appreciated in that format.

It came with a poster of the cover (bonus!) and a cool record sleeve, the kind where there is a scratch-free plastic lining that protects the grooves. It was almost as if the makers of this record-Vampire Weekend’s third long player, Modern Vampires Of The City-knew that it was meant for a major piece of work.

True to its packaging, I had to walk away from the album for a bit after side one finished with “Hannah Hunt.” Not because I had something else to do or because the record created a passive moment where I didn’t feel like getting up off of my ass to flip the record over.

I walked away because I needed to savor what is the most perfectly executed (proper) side that I have heard in quite some time.

And guess what? Side two is just as flawless.

Modern Vampires Of The City finds Vampire Weekend obsessing over time, and for good reason: the band members are approaching 30 now, and everyone knows that you are hunted and killed when you turn 33 and a third.

Hell, I didn’t start obsessing about death until I was at least 40, so I guess that makes V.W. “old souls.”

“I want to know, does it bother you?” Ezra Koenig asks on “Don’t Lie,” “The low click of a ticking clock.” Instinctively, he admits to his fellow twenty-something that “there’s a lifetime right in front of you,” but with each subsequent verse the outlook isn’t as rosy.

Life is fleeting, and because of this, the band has already delivered a modern classic. The origins of this record may have been intended to address the remaining critics who felt the band’s fey charms are the product of spoiled opportunities instead of legitimate talent, but the end result far exceeds a mere exclamation point against their previous work. Instead, Modern Vampires takes a rightful place next to such records as Sgt. Pepper’s, Fear Of Music and Paul’s Boutique.

Remember, I flat-out panned this band’s first record-and I stand behind my original complaints. It wasn’t until the second record before I became converted, but trust me, nothing on that record will prepare you for how far this band has come in such a short amount of time.

Modern Vampires is very much a product of its moment, incorporating strange and new sounds from around the world in a package of undeniable pop music that is unlike anything else in your collection right now.

By “pop music,” I mean this is a record that you’ll be returning to repeatedly, and because its songs are so infectious, it will be the record your children will adopt as their own, repeating the cycle. I have to confess that much of my enthusiasm for this record is to consider the longevity of it.

Part of the record’s prolonged exposure is because of its analog warmth, regardless of the format. While utilizing various modern trickery (pitch shifting vocals, kinetic editing, punched-in transitions), there’s nothing about this record that sounds like it’s the product of a hard drive. It’s an el pee, in every sense of the word, and because of that intentional attention to sequences and the album’s current state of irrelevance, you have to wonder if this band is paying tribute to the format or signaling its last breaths.

Because finality is all around Modern Vampires and Koenig’s words-regardless of how fragmented and cryptic they are at points-may prove to be incredibly prophetic. Throughout the record’s length you can catch moments of our world’s economic struggle, endless conflict and dwindling faith. You can also find the obligatory glue that we all need while navigating those heavy topics: love. While it may not always provide the joy we all would want, its lure is enough to make life more tolerable.

But it’s the performances themselves that are surprisingly uplifting. Virtually every emotion is covered within the arrangements of Modern Vampires and each one is a celebration of life even when the record’s primary theme is that of mortality.

Even the cover ends up being more complex than its visual beauty suggests. It’s a toxic snapshot where over 150 people died as the result of the smog that seems to envelope American’s largest city.

And like that photograph of the city that Vampire Weekend calls home, the band has taken a similar snapshot of their everyday dread and turned it into an amazing thing of beauty that will last longer than the time we all have left to enjoy it.