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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

What's in a (band) name?

Thanks to largeheartedboy for the link to this game. I always wonder where bands get their name from, but I've found their stories are rather anti-climactic. We're raised on the myths and "big fish" stories about bands, we think these bands are from another world. Well, all bands are made of humans made from planet Earth (even though ? of ? and the Mysterions claims he's from Mars).

Oftentimes, the name comes from a movie, a poem, a book, a joke or from a list of potential names. In the case of my book, I wish to shed some light on band names. To answer the frequently asked, "Where did you get your name?" question, I sought to clear up these stories as best as possible. Probably the funniest/interesting ones are for At the Drive-In and the Get Up Kids. In the case of At the Drive-In, guitarist/vocalist Jim Ward suggested the name after a line in Poison's "Talk Dirty to Me." With the Get Up Kids, vocalist/guitarist Matt Pryor's previous band, Secular Theme, had a song called "Suburban Get Up Kids." Pryor joked he had bad luck with being in bands with "S" in the name, so "suburban" was dropped.

Anti-climactic for sure, but the story behind the name is always interesting . . . to a certain degree.

Monday, May 30, 2005

I'm going out for a while . . .

It's been a long time since I had a day where I didn't have any commitments. After tinkering with the Jawbox chapter, I watched THX 1138 and two documentaries about the making of the film. Awesome movie that's still visually arresting thirty years later. You see Star Wars Lucas-isms all over the place, yet the film stands well on its own.

I picked up yet another book this afternoon. Slamdek A-Z is a history of the Louisville-based label, Slamdek, that was around between 1986 and 1995. There is a piece on Jawbox, so guess which part I'm reading first . . .

I downloaded some tracks from Feeder this evening. You might remember their song, "High" ("I'm going out for a while/so I can get high with my friends") featured on TV shows a few years ago. Great track. I really got excited about the band after watching their version of "Just the Way I'm Feeling" on the recent Later . . . with Jools Holland DVD I rented. I hope this band puts out a singles comp sometime in the near future . . .

Saw the Firebird Band Friday night. Always good to see Chris, Jess and John. They played really well and for once, a Dallas crowd showed them some appreciation. Jon LaMonica headlined the show and I was very impressed by their set. I remember LaMonica's old band, My Spacecoaster, and thought his solo stuff was great. Visually and aurally, seeing him was like Adam Lazarra singing Prince and Jeff Buckley songs. Interesting, in a good way.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Faithfully

One of the DVDs that has received a lot of plays in my player as of late is a live show of Journey circa 2001. Why? Because I really like Journey's music, pure and simple.

Yes, Journey. Complete with the wanky guitar solos, upper-register vocals and synthesizers. Sure, Journey is a relic from the corporate rock heyday (definition and discussion of corporate rock here), but their music still holds up.

Since the late-90s, the band's line-up has Steve Augeri on lead vocals and Deen Castronovo on drums, but that has made Journey better. Not to take any credit away from Steve Perry's previous work with the band, but Steve Augeri is as strong a vocalist as his predecessor. Augeri hits the high notes effortlessly and performs the songs flawlessly, just like Perry did (before all the legal matters and personality differences got him fired from the band). However, Augeri isn't a Perry clone. His voice is close enough to Perry's voice but it has enough freshness to make it unique. Augeri's voice on older songs like "Be Good to Yourself" and "Ask the Lonely" fits naturally well. Castronovo's drumming does the same. As good as Steve Smith and Aynsley Dunbar, Castronovo plays the classic fills but pumps new life into them.

As strong as Augeri and Castronovo are, some people can't get past the fact that Steve Perry and Steve Smith aren't in the band anymore. The band isn't taken as seriously (well . . .) and certain people are waiting for the day that Perry and Smith rejoin. I doubt the two will return. I'm just thankful that Journey is still kicking around, corporate rock cheesiness et al.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Driving Sideways

Jason suggested we watch Sideways last night. Previously, I showed some interest in the film becuase Paul Giamatti is in it and it's about men suffering midlife crises. However, I wasn't so sure about the film's prevalent theme of wine tasting. I'm not a fan of wine because I don't like the taste of wine. Plus, I didn't think I could relate to the "culture" of wine tasting.

Wine grievances aside, I really dug Sideways.

Just about 45 minutes into the movie, I couldn't help but notice the similarities to Swingers. I'm not knocking Sideways here; Sideways is not some cheap imitation of Swingers. Both flicks include guys that get out of town to think about their lives. They are emotionally tangled up in blue, but for different reasons. As a fan of Swingers, I enjoyed Sideways as much.

The themes of male-bonding and moving on are very relatable, even though the Miles and Jack characters are much older than I am. I could relate to the Miles character the most: he has a passion for something and focuses more on that passion than dealing with his emotional hang-ups. Giamatti nails the sadness of the character without making the audience get out the smallest violin in the world.

Though I couldn't really relate to the character of Jack, I thought Thomas Haden Church was fantastic. Goofy, serious and versatile, I really dug this performance.

Overall, Sideways really impressed me, but it made me think really hard about my own life and my emotional hang-ups. I wasn't planning on walking the dog after watching the movie, but I had to after the movie was over.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

This Station is Non-Operational

Yesterday, the Get Up Kids and At the Drive-In released posthumous collections. While the Get Up Kids are in the midst of their farewell tour, I think it's safe to call Live at the Granada Theater a posthumous collection. On the other hand, At the Drive-In suspended all activity in March 2001.

Hearing these releases bring back memories, but they also serve as nice reminders as to how excitement is perceived. As a point of reference, the way that people talk about bands like Fall Out Boy, Hawthorne Heights and Taking Back Sunday these days is not too far off from how people talked about the Get Up Kids and At the Drive-In back in the day. The line of "This is what the kids are into" comes up. The deal is, we're talking about fleeting thoughts.

When you read about bands in magazines and websites and see shows that are packed to the gills, you would be lead to believe that these bands are huge. Sure, they're big now, but most won't always be a big draw. The drying out of interest in bands that were once considered "huge" is interesting.

People still talk about the Get Up Kids, At the Drive-In, Jawbreaker, the Promise Ring, Braid and others these days, but the talk sounds like ancient history. The deal is, these bands' time in the hot spotlight was not that long ago. Maybe I'm trapped in a time warp, but 1999 is still fresh in my mind compared to say, 1985.

I remember the building excitement around the Get Up Kids in 1999, especially with hearing the Red Letter Day EP and the Vagrant sampler that contained the 7" version of "Ten Minutes." I often checked online in hopes of hearing about a release date for the band's next album. When Something to Write Home About finally came out in September 1999, things seemed to keep growing from there. The band toured on a tour bus, a lot of shows were sold out and you thought the band was unstoppable.

I still remember sitting in my car hearing At the Drive-In's "One Armed Scissor" and "Pattern Against User" for the first time. I was blown away by what I heard and I was incredibly excited about the forthcoming Relationship of Command album. The album came out to much fanfare and hype that At the Drive-In was the next Nirvana. Sounds very simple and plain now, but at the time, At the Drive-In was presented as the heir to the throne of rock royalty.

Eventually, the momentum just stopped to very little fanfare.

The Get Up Kids released On a Wire in May of 2002. People were baffled and a lot of people hated that record (and probaly still hate that record). In my case, I didn't like the lack of "oomph" in the material. I felt it sounded more like the band focused on the sound of the record rather than writing hooky material. I set the record aside but I picked it up again last year. I have really taken to it and surprisingly, I think it's some of their "hookiest" material. Definitely a record that grows on you in a good way, but people didn't think that way when it first came out.

At the Drive-In went on an "indefinite hiatus" in March 2001. When word got out that there were two new bands formed out the band's five members, everyone eventually realized that At the Drive-In was kaput. Here was a band that was perceived as the Great White Hope but was now just a blip on hipster's radars.

Thankfully, with all the younger music fans (please don't call them "kids") that are into modern day post-hardcore/whatever-you-call-it-core, there is still some genuine interest in bands like At the Drive-In and the Get Up Kids. Younger fans know some things about these bands and they judge these bands' off the music more than anything else. In the words of Ian MacKaye, "That's cool" because "music survives."

For us old fogies in our mid-to-late twenties, we've seen elements of these bands become kind of like a cartoon with younger bands. However, that stuff is out of our hands and not all young bands are cartoons. We don't forget the stuff that meant a lot to us, so maybe that's why it's hard to move on.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Something more, nothing at all or just a lot of confusion?

As an effective marketing move to sell more CDs, a lot of labels offer free DVDs with CDs or a CD/DVD bundle at one price. The perception is that you're getting something extra. However, are you really getting something you'll watch as much as you'll listen to the album?

In some cases, the bonus DVD has a lot of great stuff worthy of repeated viewings. Some good examples that come to mind are Queens of the Stone Age's Songs for the Deaf and Ash's Free All Angels and Meltdown. Using live footage, some interesting interviews and well-crafted music videos, these extras are very worthwhile.

However, a lot of CDs come packaged with one lame music video, some boring behind-the-scenes stuff and still photos. This stuff is hardly worth the extra dollars (often $4-$5 more in total cost).

Now with the widespread draw towards the DualDisc format (one side of the disc plays like a regular music CD while the other side has DVD content) things are getting a little out of control. Case in point, I was confused with which version of Ben Folds' Songs for Silverman I should get. Look here and take your pick: do you want the DualDisc version only, a CD and DVD "deluxe edition" set or this web-only offer with the "deluxe edition" with the bonus CD of rarities, Songs for Goldfish? I chose the DualDisc version for a reasonable price. I found the 24-minute documentary about the making of the album on the DVD side a good viewing. I was satisfied with what I saw but I wasn't craving more than what I already got.

I wonder, how much is enough? How much promotional fluff can you handle before you stop caring? We all know the music on the disc is the most important, but extras can help speed up the process of buying now over buying later. Call us suckers, but stop confusing us.

Indie yuppie

Ladies and gentlemen, introducing: the indie yuppie!

New York Post
5/19/05
By MAUREEN CALLAHAN

MEET the new yuppie: the urban striver who listens to "O.C."-approved indie rock, checks the right blogs to find out about "secret" rock shows, considers white iPod earbuds the ultimate fashion accessory - and is a lawyer with a mortgage and a baby on the way. Whereas once a yuppie was defined as being part of the establishment - think the '80s corporate drone who wore power suits, watched "thirtysomething" and loved the soundtrack to "The Big Chill" - today's yuppie strenuously identifies with all things counterculture. The strain was first identified a few weeks ago by Vice Records label manager Adam Shore, who derided what he called the newly created "indie-yuppie establishment" in an interview with the Columbia Spectator. He tagged offenders as anyone who identifies themselves through their love of what he considers the ultimate in polite, passive alternative rock: bands like the Shins, the Arcade Fire and the Postal Service that he derides as "comfy music." Shore's original comments were picked up by Scott Lapatine, who runs the heavily trafficked music blog stereogum.com. Stereogum's subsequent contest 'You Might Be an Indie-Yuppie If You . . ." received the most responses Lapatine has ever gotten to a single post. "If you can afford New York City rents and can go to these rock shows, you are definitely an indie-yuppie," says Lapatine, who fully admits to being one himself. "I just bought a ticket for the Death Cab for Cutie show at Central Park, and it cost $35 - at what point is that indie?" In other words, you must be an active, contributing member of society who considers your iTunes library an extension of yourself and who turns up for work at 10 a.m. - though you may be hung over from last night's secret Gang of Four show at the Tribeca Grand Hotel. "I was like, 'Oh, my God! That's me!'" says entrant Tanya Manchini, a 31-year-old editor from Hoboken (who admits she was relieved the Nine Inch Nails show she saw on Monday night ended early). "I crossed the line when I stopped dressing in thrift store clothing and started appreciating shoes by Michael Kors," she adds. Still, she says, "it's hard to reconcile yourself to it when you came up through the college radio punk scene, and then you grow up to become a person with disposable income. It really hit home." Manchini says that the indie-yuppie has replaced the conventional idea of yuppiedom - as does fellow entrant Georgiana Cohen, a 25-year-old Web content producer. "I'm marginally guilty," admits Cohen, who points to her CD collection ("I've got a few Bright Eyes CDs from 2000, before he was everyone's Jesus Christ") and her love of the movie "Garden State" as proof. "That movie is like the 'Citizen Kane' of indie culture," she says. "You have Natalie Portman's character saying that the Shins will change your life. And it dealt with that kind of ennui - [like] that Gen X malaise ten years ago. It's a badge thing - to say you saw 'Garden State' three times! In a theater!" Many newly minted indie-yuppies say the statement they most related to was "You might be an indie-yuppie if you put on a CD and secretly pray that you'll like it." It's a comment speaks to the effort involved in being an indie-yuppie, and the deluded self-esteem that can only come from knowing that you should like the Arcade Fire, or that Bright Eyes backlash is setting in. Self-described indie-yuppie Ben Garvey, 26 ("I have a mortgage and just went to see Built to Spill"), blames the Internet. "Any dork can sit at home and find out about new bands - it's just easier to stay on top of things," he says. "There would definitely be fewer indie-yuppies if not for the Web." But Vice's Shore says that he thinks the phenomenon goes beyond the conspicuous consumption of the right CD while wearing $200 jeans and sipping an iced chai latte. He's disturbed, he says, by the sheer level of politeness and sensitivity that has overtaken indie rock - which, in the '80s and '90s, was defined by coarse, reactionary bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden and even Pavement. "Why is it that when we're at war, and we have an administration that's so against youth, that music isn't harder and more abrasive?" Shore asks. "Now everyone wants to be the Shins. I just don't get it." The 33-year-old label exec - who, for the record, says he's not an indie-yuppie ("I don't require that kind of comfort in my music") - says he was surprised by the reaction he elicited on Stereogum. "I obviously touched a nerve," he says, adding that he never meant to spark hipster-on-hipster Web violence. "I was just trying to say that indie music has gone soft - I mean, it can't get any softer." But it may be too late: many indie-yuppies are now re-examining just what their CD collections, viewing habits and fashion choices say about them. "If you wear Shins pins on your messenger bag or your lapels, it's like saying, 'Look who I like! Here are my loyalties!'" says entrant Cohen, who cops to such accessories. But, she says, she draws the line at owning an iPod. "I have a different brand of MP3 player, because white earbuds are a theft target - but also because I don't want to be 'that person,'" she says. "I don't want anyone to think I'm some kind of hipster elitist."

Monday, May 23, 2005

Like a dog in . . .

I walk our dog, Juliet, almost every day for about 25 minutes. I walk her down the street for a ways and then turn around. Every time we turn around, she wants to walk farther. To make up for this, I let her walk all the way down our street on Saturday mornings and we end up taking about an hour to loop around. Well, this past Saturday was different.

I didn't think the temperature would be so hot at 10am so I proceeded on my regular schedule. As we walked home, Juliet stopped walking and sat down in a shady area. She was breathing heavier than normal so I let her cool off. We tried walking again, but she wanted to stop about four more times. Call me impatient, but I wanted to get home as quickly as possible. So, I picked her up and walked for a ways down the street. By the time we reach the home stretch, I put her back on the ground and she trotted back home with no problem.

Moral of the story: no more long walks as long as our summer-like weather keeps up. However, no matter how hot it gets outside, we have to get out for a little while since we spend so much time inside.

Sith Redux

I know I said "Let's move on" with Star Wars, but I can't stop thinking about Star Wars. Maybe I meant that we should (or maybe just me) stop being so combative about loving something. The following paragraph from Kevin Smith's recent Rolling Stone article and it just blows me away by how right-on it is.

"This new Vader cycle has split the one-time Old Republic that was Star Wars fandom into two warring factions: the Rebellion, and the normal people with a sense of perspective who don't need a term from the Star Wars lexicon to define them. The Rebellion is populated by the joyless, cynical ubertrolls who, sadly, take up the most space on the Internet. These are the hollow men and women who marched into the prequels demanding that Lucas recapture their lost Star Wars youth for them - that simple time in their lives when they had the excuse of prepubescence to explain why they were still virgins. With that much investment in make-believe, it's little wonder they emerged as more twisted by the dark side than young Skywalker himself."

Friday, May 20, 2005

In print

Well, Punk Planet issue number 68 (with Ian MacKaye and Amy Farina from the Evens on the cover) arrived in my mailbox today. Not only did Trevor do a great interview with Ian and Amy (more helpful book research!), this issue contains some record reviews written by your's truly. This is my first time to be in print and I'm thrilled to be writing for Punk Planet.

Life is very good.

They went with someone who had more . . .

I figure now would be a good time to explain the title of this blog. In all truth, it comes from a line in this movie. Here's the scene: Rob mentions that he didn't get a job at Disneyland playing Goofy because "they went with someone who had more theme park experience."

While funny in the context of the scene, the line is also frustrating and a little sad. I think we've all been turned down for things (jobs, dates, bands, etc.) and have received rather lame excuses for why we didn't get them. In the case of the phrase, 'theme park experience,' that sounds like a dressed-up way of saying, "We don't want to train somebody new to this field." Such a comforting phrase to people that want to make some money in a field they want to be in.

Stretching a bit and reading into the meaning of the phrase, 'theme park experience' doubles with my fascination with theme parks. I like going to theme parks, like DisneyWorld/Disneyland and Six Flags, but I have a fear of riding rollercoasters. I enjoy looking at a rollercoaster but I can't work up the gusto to ride one.

Yes, I like to look at, but not experience, a lot of things. This is something that says a lot about my view of life. Please do not take that as a thinly-veiled indictment of superficiality. I feel that there are things in this world that are better to look at than rather to deal with first-hand. Call this an indictment of denial and massive anxiety.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Wrapping up my morning with the Sith

Well, I saw it. Instead of talking about it at length and giving a lot of spoilers away in the process, I will say this: it is a fitting end to the whole series. Everything I wanted to know was answered and I was thrilled by the whole experience.

I finally don't care about people's criticisms and nitpicking of this series. I don't have to get angry while defending the series (especially the prequels) anymore. I've been a Star Wars fan since I was a kid and now a lot of things in its universe make better sense at 26.

Objective reached. Now let's move on.

My Morning with the Sith

My mid-days are usually reserved for napping and writing, but that won't be the case today. I will attempt to see a mid-morning screening of Revenge of the Sith. I plan on getting to the theater of my choice about an hour before showtime and read Let It Blurt until the movie starts.

As you know, I'm super excited about this movie. Both prequels are vastly underrated for several reasons and I'm looking forward to the conclusion of this part of the series.

I've kept up my part of the deal by not reading a single spoiler-filled review. Sure, we already know some vague things about how Anakin became Darth Vader, but I want to be surprised. Sure, I've seen the headlines on Ain't It Cool News and Roger Ebert's 3 1/2 stars review, but even if this movie was universally panned, I'd still see it.

Now I wonder, will George Lucas re-release all six movies in a DVD set with more bonus stuff? I wouldn't be surprised if he did . . .

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Bottle Rocket Tour, Revisited

Last spring, with the assistance of this website, I visited almost every location where Bottle Rocket was filmed. Since the movie was filmed mostly in Dallas and I had nothing to do for a few days, I figured I would take "the tour." I took pictures of the hotel where Dignan, Anthony and Bob hide, the bookstore they rob, Bob Maplethorpe's house, Hinkley Cold & Storage (now the Texas Ice House) and the street where Dignan and Anthony talk about the "Things Dignan's Not Supposed to Touch" list.

Well, I'm glad I took pictures because some things have changed.

First of all, the hotel where Dignan, Anthony and Bob hide looks completely different now. I found this out while en route to Austin for SxSW a few months ago. Right off of I-35E in Hillsboro is the hotel, near the big outlet mall. The hotel was a locally-owned place but now it is a Days Inn and looks nothing like it was in the movie.

Second of all, the bookstore is gone. The bookstore had long since closed when I was there a year ago but now the building is now completely gone. I found this out as I searched for an Al's Formal Wear the other day. The building was completely demolished because the mall in front of it is expanding.

I don't mean to sound like Luke coming home to find his home burned down and his aunt and uncle dead. Since I drive through these areas on a regular basis, I often forget that one of my favorite movies was filmed here. Makes me think about all the New Jersey residents that have to deal with people that want to see the locations where Kevin Smith filmed Clerks and Chasing Amy . . .

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Let's follow the road of hype

A few months ago, I heard some rumblings about this band called Autolux. They opened for Secret Machines and Moving Units on a recent tour that came through Dallas. I heard all this talk about how Autolux was better than the headliners ("Did you see Autolux? Man, they were incredible!"). Well, they played Dallas last night with the Raveonettes and a few of my friends suggested I go see the show. I didn't go to the show and haven't talked to anybody that went to the show, but I have to talk about this. Why? Because this my friends, is how hype begins.

This kind of hype is nothing new, but lets display some recurring patterns for the unitiated:

-Band gets talked about on message boards, shows, blogs, etc. ("There's this new band called _____ and I think they're awesome.")
-Band prepares album as buzz words are tossed around. ("This could be awesome!", "I'm really curious to see what this band can do")
-The album leaks onto the internet and people critique it on message boards.
-Mixed reactions to the album are abound ("This is brilliant!", "This is OK . . . ", "Meh . . . ", "What's so great about this band?")
-The album is released and reviewed. More mixed reactions come out. ("This is really brilliant!", "This is just OK . . ." "I think it's very 'meh'", "I don't get what's so great about this band")
-If this album is mostly perceived as fresh, interest grows.
-If this is not mostly perceived as fresh, interest goes elsewhere.

Right now, Autlox is perceived as fresh with a lot of untapped potential. This, in my opinion, may be the biggest form of praise out there. When you have a young band that has a decent-sounding CD and great live show, people's imaginations go wild. The band is on Sony, almost solidifying more talk on message boards, blogs and review sites with the kind of marketing/publicity money a major can through around.

Autolux's sound is best described in the vein of My Bloody Valentine and other late-80s/early-90s shoegazer/dream pop. A band in this vein is a welcome change in a day and age of bands more interested in late-70s/early-80s post-punk. Add in the fact that their music is pretty good and their live show is pretty good too adds more attention to the band.

Who knows if a dream pop revival is coming our way in the next few months. For now, I will watch this cycle and see if my predictions are correct.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Land of the Dead

I will definitely see Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith in the theaters some time next weekend. However, I'm debating whether or not to see this movie in a theater.

I'm a little new to Romero's zombie flicks because I've only watched them once. Dawn of the Dead is my favorite because of its satire of society, the terror of zombies and the emotionally involved human characters. I love the lampooning of consumerism and other society ills since these commentaries overshadow the gory nature of the flick.

I'm a really big fan of the recent zombie flicks, 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead, so I'm curious what Romero has to allow. If he had of directed Resident Evil, that would have been interesting. However, his . . . of the Dead movies are his own. Having him film Resident Evil would have been weird anyway. How could an inventor of a genre do a film based on a video game that was inspired by his earlier films?

Good question though: now that the world is filled with zombies in Land of the Dead, could they possibly milk another . . . of the Dead flick out? I doubt it but you never know . . .

Friday, May 13, 2005

Mattress Mac

I'm 95% sure about this, but I believe Mattress Mac was on Dr. Phil yesterday.

Who is Mattress Mac? Well, if you lived in Houston anytime in the '80s or '90s, you may remember seeing him in his Gallery Furniture TV ads. He stood in front of a green screen and sometimes wore a mattress case (hence the nickname). His outro was always "Gallery will save you money!" and he jumped up with dollars in his hand as he enthusiastically said it.

I haven't lived in Houston for four years so I'm not sure if he's still on Gallery Furniture's ads. However, watching Dr. Phil yesterday, I think Jim "Mattress Mac" McIngvale was on TV for a different reason.

The episode's topic was on OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Jim's 18-year-old daughter suffers from OCD and she discussed her condition with Dr. Phil. Not only was she interviewed by Dr. Phil, but her parents were interviewed too. Since this problem is a serious matter, seeing whom I believed was the Mattress Mac just as "Jim" on the show was a change of pace.

For me, I could really relate to the episode's topic because I have shades of OCD. Anxiety is the root of this and I work with it on a daily basis. Anxiety doesn't control me like it used to, but it still floats in my thoughts.

In my opinion, any person that is a guest on Dr. Phil is brave. Brave because these people are willing to talk openly with millions of viewers about their personal problems. I don't think I could talk that openly about my personal problems with a large nationwide audience (blogging doesn't count). So, seeing Mattress Mac as a human just like anyone else was pretty inspiring.

I should add this: when I was in third grade, Mattress Mac came to my school for a motivational talk. I believe he told us an anti-drug message and the overall tone of his talk was vastly different from his commercial persona. In other words, I've seen Mattress Mac as Jim McIngvale before, but seeing him on Dr. Phil was an even more different change of pace.

Just a nice reminder that people in the public eye are people too.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

To Cover or Not to Cover

In the last few weeks, I've heard three cover versions of Queen's "Under Pressure." One was by the Blood Brothers, one was a collaboration between the Used and My Chemical Romance and the other one was by another collaboration, this time with members of Small Brown Bike and the Casket Lottery. The Small Brown Bike/Casket Lottery version was the best, but I wonder: how is the best way to cover a song?

Some theories on covering songs include a) be as faithful to the original b) completely rearrange the song c) do a little of both. In my opinion, those theories vary between song choice.

In the case of SBB/CL's version of "Under Pressure," they stay true to the original and their rendition sparkles. Sure, they can't hit the high notes like Freddie or Bowie could on the original, but they make this "handicap" work. Stacy from Casket Lottery has a raspy, but melodic bite in his delivery. Not someone that could replace Freddie's vocals in a Queen cover band, but rather, this is an interesting alternate view. Instrumentally, everything is performed to a T: the subtle piano fills, the hi-hat barks in the verses and the multi-tom fill in the bridge and so on.

With the My Chemical Romance/Used version, they gloss the song up with the rather sterile-sounding perfection you hear in so many mainstream rock bands. The effect is bland, but I give the band credit for trying to stick close to the original melodies.

Then there is the Blood Brothers version: stripping the original's warm melodies and replacing them with scratchy abrasion doesn't work. Devoid of any enjoyable melodies, I reach for the Small Brown Bike/Casket Lottery version.

So, for you musicians that read this blog, what's your take on doing a cover? (I'm very curious as to what Bob and Kev have to say on this subject)

Here is a list of my favorite cover tunes:
face to face's version of "Don't Change" (originally done by INXS)
The Four Tops' version of "MacArthur Park" (done by various artists from Richard Harris to Donna Summer)
The Stranglers' version of "Walk On By" (originally done by Dionne Warwick)
Ben Folds Five's version of "She Don't Use Jelly" (originally done by the Flaming Lips)
Jimmy Eat World's version of "New Religion" (originally done by Duran Duran)
Neil Finn's live version of "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" (originally done by the Smiths)

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Is there life on Mars?

Yesterday, Wes Anderson's fourth film, The Life Aquatic, came out on DVD. As I had previously blogged, I dug the film quite a bit when I saw it in the theater. Now on DVD, I can dig in even more with all of the extras.

First of all, I am thrilled that there is an interview with film composer, Mark Mothersbaugh. You know him from Devo, but his talents truly shine as a composer. Each score he's done for Wes' films is different and unique but compliment each other very well. Seeing an interview with Mothersabaugh sans the goofy get-ups and costumes of Devo was a nice change. Not too long but very straight to the point, the interview answers a lot of questions I've had about him for a while.

Secondly, showing Seu Jorge's full performances of his David Bowie songs is a tasty extra. Granted, there is only so much you can watch of a man and his acoustic guitar, but hearing those songs in Portugese is great. His arrangements remind me of Jose Feliciano's transpositions (in a good way). Sure, there is a rather silly element to the sound, but they are great covers. Hearing the rather simple melodies of "Rebel Rebel" rearranged in a slower tempo shows off the beauty of the melodies.

Third, the commentary track between Wes and Noah is interesting. Yes, the track was recorded at the restaurant where the wrote the script. Yes, they have to talk over other people talking in the background. Yes, the bleeped-out references to Jacques Costeau are annoying. However, Wes and Noah work very well off of each other. Solo Wes can be a little slow and cold, so having him talk with someone else was a nice change.

I have yet to get to all the other extras but these extras are actually worthwhile. Let's high-five the Criterion Collection once again.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Teenage Symphonies to God

I like power pop as much as I like pizza and ice cream. I can't have those things every day, but I enjoy them on a regular basis. As I write this, I have parts of Teenage Fanclub's "The Concept," "Ain't It Enough" and the Raspberries' "Let's Pretend" repeating in my head.

Yesterday, as I read my new issue of Rolling Stone, I listened to Velvet Crush's Teenage Symphonies to God. I heard great things about this album (especially on the Sound Ops board) and I figured I would dig it since it was considered power pop. Well, after seeing a used copy at a local record store, I decided to pick it up. With just one listen, I'm very impressed. More listening is in the near-future.

Now I can add Velvet Crush to my list of power pop favorites: Big Star, Cheap Trick, the Raspberries, the Posies and Teenage Fanclub. Maybe I should check out the dB's next . . .

As much as I like the jangly guitars and sunny melodies, I can only handle this stuff so much. The songs are so sugary sweet that I need some non-sugary stuff in my diet. However, I always need accessible melodies; whether they in post-hardcorish stuff to country-tinged rock to punk rock.

Monday, May 09, 2005

I am extraordinary

Until Liz Phair released her second album, Whip-Smart, I had never heard of her. That's right: I never heard a song from Exile in Guyville and I still haven't heard a song from the much-lauded debut album. So maybe that's why I have no problem with her song, "Extraordinary," from her fourth, self-titled release.

Long-time fans have deemed Liz Phair a sell-out with Liz Phair, but you know what? I don't care. I have only heard "Extraordinary" from the album and I like it. A lot. Sure, the song reeks of the kind of studio trickery that is perfect for the Top 40 crowd but sickening for the indie rock crowd. Yet, the warm melodies are there and they sound good no matter how over-the-top the production is.

I find it odd that in a day and age of a lot of Top 40 hits have more cold, hard beats than warm melodies, "Extraordinary" was a Top 40 hit. Maybe the exposure of the song with Phair's sexy looks and poses helped out. Regardless, I like "Extraordinary."

Friday, May 06, 2005

Any Way You Want It

One of my latest DVD viewings included Journey's Greatest Hits. All of the videos of Steve Perry-era are included and boy, they have not aged well. I still love their music but watching the "Separate Ways" video is a prime example of how video replaced the radio star.

There is something about bright yellow shirts, tight blue jeans and tight white pants that doesn't jive with me. The guys look silly and they were trying really hard to accomodate the MTV crowd. People bought it, but the band probably regrets how goofy they looked.

Thus the lesson was learned: how much are you willing to give up in order to make your living in a superstar rock band? The cost of not doing giving in is high, but so is the cost of compromise. Interesting . . .

Now back to writing the Promise Ring chapter.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Ryan Adams Redux

After reading this thread about Ryan Adams, I bring up this subject again: why do people think Ryan is "returning to form" on Cold Roses? He's always been in form!

As I've said before, I don't get what is so great about his debut, Heartbreaker. I really like the record, but it showcases Adams as a chameleon. He's searching for his voice by aping his influences (especially Dylan).

He found his voice on Gold, his second album. Through the channels of 1970s country-rock, he got through to me. Every song is powerful, even at sixteen tracks.

He didn't know how to follow-up Gold: there were plans for a four-CD set of unreleased albums (including Destroyer, the Suicide Handbook, 48 Hours and demos) but that was reduced to one collection: Demolition. Then there was Love is Hell, a stark collection of songs that Lost Highway deemed, 'not commercial' or something like that (hence why it was initially released as two separate EPs). Going more with his rock roots (from the Smiths to My Bloody Valentine), Rock N Roll is an immediate batch of snappy tunes.

Now there is Cold Roses, which I have really taken to already. Harkening back to the moods and sounds of Heartbreaker, no wonder people say "it's his best since Heartbreaker." However, people have a grudge against this guy.

I've never seen Adams play live but I've heard he can be a sloppy mess in a live setting. You could say he's aping the Replacements, but I don't care. I like his music, but I know very little about his persona. Maybe people just let the persona overshadow the music. I don't know.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Forgotten Arm and Cold Roses

En route to my afternoon shift yesterday, I picked up Ryan Adams' new double-CD, Cold Roses, and Aimee Mann's The Forgotten Arm. As a fan of both artists, it may sound strange that I actually sampled a few tracks online before I bought them. Huh? Am I a fickle fan?

No, I just don't like wasting my money on weak and wimpy crap. Both Adams and Mann have released strong records before, but I just wanted to make sure I would like the new ones too. Well, I really like what I've heard after a few spins and I want to keep on listening.

This morning was perfect for listening to Cold Roses: the weather was cold, rainy and just gray, but I've been feeling really consistently well for a solid week now. The album is more in the vein of Heartbreaker (spare, country-ish rock) but luckily, this record isn't "Spot my influence on this track!" like Heartbreaker is. I don't have a standout favorite just yet, but I may have one (or two or three) soon enough.

On my way home last night I listened to the Forgotten Arm and I'm really impressed. This record is more upbeat than Mann's last two records. The songs are little faster than what we've heard from Mann before and there is a sense of urgency to them. As always, Mann's well-crafted pop with sparse instrumentation is in full effect. Hearing "That's How I Knew This Story Would Break My Heart" makes me want to pull out my Jersey Girl DVD (the song is played during Gertie's funeral). "Goodbye Caroline" and "I Can't Get My Head Around It" are some of my early standout tracks.

Rainy skies with a high in the lower 60s is forecasted today. I'm not sure which record I should listen to again. Maybe I should listen to Songs for Silverman again . . .

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

musicforthemorningafter

I remember when Pete Yorn's debut, musicforthemorningafter, arrived at KTCU. This was at the tail-end of all these bands with Jeff Buckley/Radiohead imitators as lead singers (Ours and Paloalto come to mind) and I saw the cover and groaned. Yorn looked like a Jeff Buckley look-alike and matters didn't help that he was on the same label as the late great Buckley. Well, I'm glad somebody recommended me to listen to the record instead of looking at the cover.

My old bandmate Dave suggested a few tracks for rotation, so I listened to the whole record. I was very impressed and kept listening the record for many months. There isn't a stinker in the bunch and I recently dug the record out. It's still fresh to my ears but I wonder: whatever happened to this guy?

I didn't pick up his second record, Day I Forgot, because I didn't like its first single and my friends told me that the record wasn't very good. Even though they (as in, Best Buy, Target) sold the record for $5.99-$6.99, I still didn't pick it up. Call me fickle, but if a record is crap, no amount of money is worth it.

I know Pete released a double-live record, but I didn't pick that one up either. Come on, he's breaking the Foghat rule (as described in the Yo La Tengo's "Sugarcube" video): your fourth album must be double-live. (As a side note, I believe Foghat's fifth record was double-live).

All kidding aside, I'm curious what this guy will do next. His Columbia Records site is still active and it is updated often. I wonder if he's working on a new record. Hmm . . . .

Monday, May 02, 2005

Frequently Asked Questions

To address some frequently asked questions about my book, here are some answers:

Who are you?
I'm a twenty-something Dallas resident (DOB 2/13/79) that reports traffic for a living. Since I work a "split shift" (meaning a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the afternoon), I have the entire midday to do whatever I want. So, I write/revise/research during that time. Also, I write record reviews for Punk Planet.

What's this about shingles hitting your head?
It's true, a pile of shingles were dropped onto my head on March 1st, 2004. Here's the story: I was en route to drop off my monthly rent check before I went off to my weekday afternoon gig. As I walked down the steps of my apartment building, I saw piles of torn shingles all over the sidewalk. Roofers were throwing these shingles off at a rapid rate, so I approached with some caution. Right as I thought I was in the clear, a small pile smacks me on the head. I was not in major pain; just a little stinging and some bleeding.

I don't know about you, but whenever I'm sick or have a cut on my body, I keep thinking about when I'll be "well" again. As a fan of post-hardcore/emo for many years, I was always annoyed by people that thought it was stupid whiny music for skinny white teenage losers. Well, instead of wondering when someone else was going to write a book on the genre, I figured I should write one.

Isn't there another book on emo out there?
Yes: Andy Greenwald's Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers and Emo. His book is a collection of essays on how he perceives emo and how the music impacts a younger audience/culture. My book is more of history/anthology of the genre with a focus on DIY, work ethic and what happens when a genre is filtered through the mainstream. I'm not defining emo here: this is a look at the 1980s DIY underground's influence on bands in the 1990s. There is a lot more ground to cover in this genre and I'm just putting my slant on things.

Why aren't you spotlighting (insert band name)?
There are tons of bands in any genre that have made some of sort of overall impact. Well, I can't talk about every single one in one book. This is an anthology; not an encyclopedia. My focus is on a select number of bands and labels that I feel have made the biggest impact on the genre's past, present and future.

The audience should care about the people profiled in the book, so I felt the best way to do this was to break up the chapters by band/label, ala Our Band Could Be Your Life.

CHOMSKY!

After taking a hiatus that was rumored to be permanent, Chomsky is back together. Seeing them play Saturday night at the Barley House was a reminder of how awesome this band is.

Here's some backstory: Chomsky was introduced to me via KTCU with their A Few Possible Selections for the Soundtrack to Your Life album being in heavy rotation. Hearing its sixth track, "Road," on a regular basis was a great lead-in with this hard-to-describe band. You could hear their 1980s college rock influences (especially XTC), but they definitely didn't ape their influences.

Steve was kind enough to give me a CD of an acoustic session Chomsky did on the Tom and Steve Show. Hearing their stuff on acoustic guitars, stand-up bass and a snare drum was (like so many cases) the litmus test of how strong the material was. Well, I was very impressed and I followed the band closely from then on.

I saw them play at the Aardvark in Fort Worth numerous times, at the front of the TCU student center a few times, Club Clearview in Dallas a few times and once at Red Eye Fly in Austin. Never a disappointment live or on record, but upon the release of their Let's Get to Second album, the band just seemed out of steam. They played on the Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn and then poof!, they reportedly broke up.

Seeing them play Saturday night, my faith in Chomsky was restored. They played a lot of songs from their A Few Possible and Onward Quirky Soldiers records and a few new songs that were really good. The set included the standards ("15 Minutes to Rock," "Road") with not-often-played-live tracks like "Warm," "Tape Number 7" and "Straight Razor," thus raising the "awesome!" level. Finishing with Glen doing bits of Def Leppard's "Foolin'" and "Photograph" solo was a fitting end.

Man, I'm glad they're back.