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Monday, December 31, 2007

We're all refugees and we're all drifting like leaves

Perusing through Eric's year-end list, I came upon this write-up for Bloc Party's A Weekend in the City:

Back in January of 2007 I posted a Bloc Party track from this record and was swiftly asked to remove from my blog by someone in the band's camp. While I was cool with the request, it may have negatively colored my perception of this record that I've only recently begun to get into.

This got me thinking about something I've never understood, but have written about before. However, there's a new perspective on this. Hence why I'm revisiting the subject.

I'm very well aware of the uphill rig-a-ma-roll it takes to get people to pay attention to anything. Be it a record, movie, book, or show, it usually takes an amount of money and a lot of time trying to get the word out there. (The process of getting a song on the radio alone is a doozy.)

In the case of a record, if a blogger wanted to share a song from it as an MP3, who would be hurt by the exposure? On top of that, what if it was a blog that was widely read and had a great reputation? Who would want to put a stop to this if it was a legit MP3 from an album about to come out?

I remember when Torr posted a track from the highly-anticipated debut album by the Tears. The following day it was removed and replaced with a warning letter from somebody involved with the band. For me, I wondered what the crime was in wanting to hear a song and maybe consider checking out the album. Instead of allowing people to hear things that might help the band, people involved in working with the band want something else. Usually the exact opposite. Um, huh?

If any blogger were to take any interest in posting an MP3 from a band I've been in or a portion from a book I wrote, I would not try to stop that blogger. I'd be flattered if anyone wanted to take his or her time to spread the word about something I'd like to share with people. If it was an MP3 of a song that completely misrepresented my band or a portion of Post that was long deleted from the final draft, I'd attempt to clarify things, but not become some whip-carrying codger. Remember what they say about free publicity?

A decision like this often hurts a record. I recall how A&M Records asked KROQ to stop playing face to face's "I Won't Lie Down" because they started playing it a few weeks before their anticipated start date for radio. The record's momentum was stopped cold. This was incredibly stupid then and it still sounds stupid today.

So I ask, what am I missing here? Why does this momentum killing still go on?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Feliz Navidad

Regular blogging will resume after Christmas. Hope everybody has a good holiday. For now, here are some links to check out.

Former Buzz DJ (who got me into a number of incredible bands back in high school/college) David Sadof now has a blog with the Houston Chronicle.

Eric's music-year end list is split up into four parts, complete with an MP3 from each album.

The AV Club was asked about a certain movie that a reader didn't know its name, but this time, it was the one and only, Midnight Madness. Please, hold your applause, as Leo says.

And finally, here's a repost of that DBU student playing Dragonforce's "Through the Fire and Flames" on Expert.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Why Did We Ever Meet?

Kudos to Jess at Idolator for posting the Promise Ring's video for "Why Did We Ever Meet?" as part of the "12 Days of 90s Emo." It's funny with the timing as I was editing (what I hope to be the final edit of) the Promise Ring chapter last night and the video was mentioned. Of course, when the video debuted on 120 Minutes has very special significance for me.

I was a loyal 120 Minutes watcher my senior year of high school/freshman year of college. I'd tape it whether or not I stayed up and watched the whole thing. If I remember correctly, most of the show's playlist was dominated by British acts at the time. There was great stuff from Suede, Belle and Sebastian, Radiohead and the Verve, but the Promise Ring video really stuck out. And I really liked what I heard.

Just a few weeks prior, I heard the word "emo" for the first time. I asked a couple of friends what emo was and they just grumbled at the mere mention of the word. These guys were really into fast pop-punk like Ten Foot Pole and NOFX and were not fans of bands like Jimmy Eat World and the Promise Ring.

When I told one of them a few weeks later that I really liked "Why Did We Ever Meet?" and looked forward to picking up Nothing Feels Good, he asked me if I was serious. I was, and have been ever since.

The funny post-script to this story is when I ran into one of these guys a year later. He told me how much of a fan he was of the Get Up Kids.

Go figure.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Before I forget

Unlike previous year-end lists, I spent pretty much one afternoon thinking about all the records that rocked my world in 2007. In previous years, I spent a few days listing everything, whittled down the list, and then posted it. I don't think I left out any glaring omissions with this year's list, but I wanted to post a few things that have come to light since I posted my year-end list and read other people's lists.

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Decent debut album where fanboys disassociated themselves from the band after it leaked online, thus putting the "fan" part into question

Voxtrot - Voxtrot

I dug Voxtrot's two self-released EPs and found their debut LP to be a logical step-up. Sounding like they had a little more time to work on the record, Voxtrot doesn't sound over-produced nor does it sound rushed. There are plenty of good tunes here, like "Firecracker," "Kid Gloves" and "Real Life Version."

Strangely, hardcore fans seemed to just abandon the band because of this record. It's one thing to not dig a peculiar record by a band, but it's another to sever all ties with them because they put out something slightly different. If I remember correctly, this happened almost instantly once it leaked online months before it came out in stores. And it's not like a glaring difference in sound between this and the EPs. The band didn't turn into a radio-rock, screamo act or a chilled reggae act. So, I'm still in the dark with these naysayers. Maybe I should just stick to my thoughts and not give the pundits too much credit.

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A surprisingly good record that I didn't often listen to from start to finish because of wanting to hear Scott Walker again and again

Ash - Twilight of the Innocents

I had a lot of doubts about Ash reverting back to a trio for this record. Being a four-piece seemed to be what the band was always meant to be (even though they started out as a trio). All this aside, I found a number of tracks from this album to be great. Not necessarily going back to their pop-punk ways or metal ways, but instead forging ahead as a solid poppy rock band, Ash claims they have made their final album. They aren't breaking up, but aren't planning on doing albums anymore in the digital age. Of course, this could have been a PR move . . .

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Amazing what editing and reading other year-end lists can do

Band of Horses - Cease to Begin

I liked a number of songs from Band of Horses' debut, Everything All the Time, but found them to be a little plodding. Songs just dragged on and on. But I didn't realize this until I listened to Cease to Begin. (Kudos to Chris for mentioning it and the AV Club for posting an MP3 in their year-end list.) Cease to Begin puts the strengths of the band in front with compact songs. As simple as "Is There a Ghost?" is, it's an awesome opener and great mood-setter.

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After years of praise for a certain artist, something finally clicks and falls into place for me

Kanye West

I still don't understand the hipster mindset where everything has to be over-scrutinized except for hip-hop and glossy pop. Moreover, almost anything remotely sounding like hip-hop is probably going to be praised as cutting edge. But for me, I like rich melodies as well as atonal, angry-sounding stuff. (Thus explaining my equal love of early Scott Walker and post-Jane Doe Converge.)

I've had my reservations with hip-hop with its emphasis more on beat than melody. But I've never hated hip-hop. Given my daily exposure to some of the most popular hip-hop songs, I must say some things have sunk in. Most notably, an enjoyment of Kanye West's three proper albums. Melodies are aplenty as well as an admitted vulnerability -- something noticeably absent from a lot of the hip-hop I've heard in recent years. Where this leads I don't know, but it might make for an interesting 2008.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Well, not really. After all, she did get together with George Peppard. I mean, Fred.

Enjoying Tasha's Book vs. Film comparisons for the AV Club and randomly reading the Wikipedia page for Moonraker last week, I was reminded of a fact of life: it's rare when a film adaptation of a book sticks closely to the book's story. I think it's very understandable when a movie tweaks certain things to work in a movie form, but when major tweaks are done -- tweaks to where the movie is almost nothing like the book -- I can't help but be annoyed.

Far more insulting is when a new printing of a book carries a large circle or single-line header that says, "Now a major motion picture!" I understand this is just plain ol' marketing, but it's a kind of marketing that can create strange bedfellows. Moreover, two different stories that may contain certain similarities, but are both sold under the same name.

A very timely case in point: I Am Legend. Richard Matheson's book has been credited as the source for such films as The Last Man On Earth and The Omega Man, as well as the recent Will Smith-starring film. (As a side note, George Romero has credited the book as a major influence on Night of the Living Dead.) Now, I have never read the book or seen any of the three movie adaptations, but based on what I've heard and read, hardcore fans of the book may be very well-advised to stay away from the 2007 version. Plenty is tweaked from the book; so much so that the movie has more in common with 28 Days Later than I Am Legend.

Maybe I'm being too much of a stickler/purist here, but as somebody who's wanted to read the book for a while, I don't want to pick up a copy from the recent, late October printing. Since its cover is devoted to promoting the movie of the same name, what's between the covers is essentially another story.

Further incriminating myself as a stickler is how books are really kind of the last bastion of the written word not interrupted by advertisements. You don't read two pages into the Harry Potter books and see a full-page ad for the recent DVD treatment of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. You don't find a coupon for Joel Osteen's latest book a few pages into Exodus.

Books can send your mind into a world away from advertisements. At least I'm happy I've never read a book with advertising in the manuscript itself. Who knows if there will come a day when that indeed happens. But the point remains: do you want to read a book where the cover tells you one thing, but what you read tells you otherwise?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Movie favorites (and not-so-favorites) of 2007

Now for a similar look back at the movies I really enjoyed this year. Including movies released and not released this year, I watched a lot of stuff, mostly on DVD. Unlike the music list, I also included movies that frustrated the hell out of me.

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Movies I actually saw in a movie theater

Grindhouse
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Into the Wild
Southland Tales
American Fork

Grindhouse was totally worth seeing in the theater. Two great mini-movies with hilarious fake trailers made for a kick-ass experience. And it only cost $8. Yet praising it now seems to knocked aside by pundits because it didn't do so well at the box office. Tis an annoying shame by people who have been brainwashed by how box office receipts equate quality of film.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Into the Wild and Southland Tales were movies meant to be first experienced on the big screen. I enjoyed them overall and took something positive away from them. I couldn't say the same with American Fork. It was a movie that looked fantastic, but was filled with one-note characters and its attempts at humor annoyed the hell out of me. On the upswing, its soundtrack introduced me to an incredible Kinks track that I had never heard before: "God's Children." So, I can't say it was a complete waste of time.

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Movies I wanted to see in the theater, but didn't

Spider-Man 3
No Country for Old Men
The Simpsons Movie
The Darjeeling Limited

No matter how awesome a movie looks in the trailer or how highly praised it is by people that I trust, sometimes I just don't make it out for its theatrical run. I hope to see them eventually.

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Movies I claimed I didn't want to see, but saw them anyway a few weeks later

Hostel
Hostel: Part II

I initially expressed zero interest in seeing movies with stylized torture scenes, but changed my tune when I started thinking about the kinds of horror movies I like to watch. I wanted to see if Eli Roth's Hostel flicks had a deep subtext that went beyond the splatter and gore. Turns out I was right, but I was still rather grossed out by all the splatter and gore. At least these movies made me think and squirm instead of making me jump at empty "gotcha!" moments.

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Cult classics I didn't find all that great

Die! Die! My Darling
My Bloody Valentine
Creepshow
The Monster Squad

I understand seeing a beloved cult classic for the first time will not completely resonate with people. So, I don't blame anybody who doesn't understand what's so great about Student Bodies. I loved it when I first saw it and love it even more on repeat viewings. I could not say the same with Die! Die! My Darling, My Bloody Valentine, Creepshow and The Monster Squad. They simply just didn't much for me.

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Highly-acclaimed movies that I disliked

A Simple Plan
The Prestige

I had heard incredibly high praise for Sam Raimi's A Simple Plan for years. When I finally saw it, I didn't go in with high hopes, but I was sure it would be good. What I saw was a film filled with slightly-likable to very-unlikable characters digging their graves deeper and deeper. Too painfully bleak for me. And the same can be said with The Prestige.

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Highly-acclaimed movies that I really liked

Ordinary People
28 Weeks Later
Hot Fuzz

Hot Fuzz was probably the most enjoyable movie I saw on DVD this year. Paying homage to action movies, thrillers and murder-mysteries, Edgar Wright made another smart, highly-entertaining and heart-warming movie.

28 Weeks Later could have fallen into the black hole of so many sequels that feature none of the original cast, but it succeeds in its own ways. Dealing with the emotional impact of the Rage virus, as well as survival, this was more than a zombie munchfest.

Ordinary People still holds up really well as a snapshot of a family dealing with grief. For those dealing with the grief and those that aren't, its message rang very true for me.

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Find of the year

What's Up Tigerlily?

I had never heard of this movie until a friend suggested it to me at a birthday party. I mentioned to her how much I loved those Taco Bueno commercials where they took actual scenes from Spanish soap operas and re-dubbed them with corny dialogue about mexican food. So seeing a Japanese crime thriller re-dubbed as a hunt for an eggplant recipe cracked me up from beginning to end.

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David Lynch movies I watched this year

Lost Highway
Blue Velvet
Eraserhead
The Elephant Man
INLAND EMPIRE

Finally seeing the movie I always confused with Elizabeth Taylor and riding horses, I set out to see some of Lynch's cream of the crop. I liked each one and I found Lost Highway to be especially good. It's so underrated it's almost criminal. I hope to see Wild at Heart eventually, once I finish the Twin Peaks box set and finally see Fire Walk With Me.

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Documentary that's scarier than any fictional horror movie I've ever seen

Jonestown: The Life and Death of the Peoples Temple

This movie will not lift your spirits, but it's very well done. Incredibly personal with interviews from the few survivors, along with video and audio footage from the beginning to horrific end of Jim Jones' church, this documentary confronts the sadness and terror instead of shying away from them.

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Enjoyable coming-of-age movies about the twilight of youth

Diner
The Last Picture Show
Superbad

I've got a thing for movies that focus on the weird middle ground between youth and adulthood. So it makes sense why I liked all three of these movies. I don't know if I'll ever hold them in as high regard as I do with American Graffiti, but they were movies that struck a chord with me.

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That's it for 2007. To 2008 and beyond!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Musical favorites of 2007

Once again this year, my list of musical favorites is not solely restricted to material released in this year. That said, I listened to a lot of stuff released this year. So, let's get right to it and then talk about non-2007 releases.

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Albums that feature some killer songs, but I just didn't find the whole albums to be killer

Fountains of Wayne - Traffic and Weather
Bloc Party - A Weekend in the City
Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank

Modest Mouse's Good News for People Who Love Bad News and Bloc Party's Silent Alarm were my utmost favorite releases of 2004 and 2005, respectively. I wasn't expecting their follow-ups to really blow me away and well, they didn't. However, I'm glad I have songs like "Florida," "Dashboard," "I Still Remember," "Waiting for the 7.18" and "Sunday" in my iTunes.

In regards to Fountains of Wayne's fourth proper album, the band sticks to the formula from their previous album, Welcome Interstate Managers, and I can't say it's to their detriment or advantage. That said, I found myself listening to "Strapped for Cash" and "Michael and Heather at the Baggage Claim" quite a bit this year.

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Though I usually like to talk solely about my favorite songs/albums from the year, I can't go any further without addressing the following . . .

Album that kind of proves my theory about fooling hipsters and jaded music fans, but later realized it isn't that overrated

The Arcade Fire - Neon Bible

After numerous attempts to get into this highly-lauded follow-up to a stellar debut, I was about to devote some space expressing my theory about how it's an amazing achievement to fool people who nitpick Wilco but over-praise mind-numbing club bangers. However, recently listening to various tracks from this album prevents me from doing such.

That said, I still wonder: how in the world did Neon Bible not receive a tar-and-feathering while so many other follow-ups-to-breakthrough-albums usually do? Was it the pipe organ? Was it the topics of religion, war and apocalypse in the lyrics?

Beyond all of this, my main complaint about Neon Bible is how it's way more build-up than release. Meaning, songs build and build, but rarely lead to a satisfying climax. Funeral grabs me right away and doesn't disappoint. I wasn't trying to compare it to Funeral when I listened to Neon Bible for the first few times, but that's what still comes to mind.

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And now back to our regularly scheduled list . . .

Great songs on a great album, but maybe a few songs should have appeared as b-sides

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Living With the Living

Ted Leo and company put out another fantastic set of songs here. Fourteen proper tracks (and one intro track) rock and roar, but couple that with the free EP with four more proper songs, I had a little too much of a good thing.

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Albums that I liked, but just never got around to frequently listen to from top to bottom

The New Pornographers - Challengers
Fall Out Boy - Infinity On High
Maritime - Heresy and the Hotel Choir
Against Me! - New Wave
Parts and Labor - Mapmaker
Weakerthans - Reunion Tour

Sometimes my desire to hear new records from start to finish gets set aside so I can listen to Scott Walker again and again. These are some examples. And as much as I have strongly disliked what all has come with Fall Out Boy's popularity in the last few years, I found Infinity On High to be surprisingly tuneful and enjoyable.

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Dallas-based band who put out a fantastic record, but if I were to play it for people outside of the city, they would probably pass it off as "meh"

The Crash That Took Me - Orchestrated Kaleidoscopes

Consisting of members of [DARYL] and Black Tie Dynasty, there's a strong influence from My Bloody Valentine here. Thankfully it's not a retread or an attempt to recreate Loveless. A really nice progression from [DARYL]'s sound.

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The four albums released this year that I liked above all the other aforementioned albums

Wilco - Sky Blue Sky
Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Dillinger Escape Plan - Ire Works
Explosions in the Sky - All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone

Sky Blue Sky is probably at the top of this small list for a number of reasons. To put it simply, this is a moody record that I don't have to be in a certain mood to listen to. Another great Wilco album in my book.

Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is the album that helped me understand Spoon's unique blend of low-key, but memorable songs. Now I have five other Spoon albums to digest.

All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone is the best sounding Explosions record to date, with songs that effectively progress from their previous albums and Rescue EP.

Ire Works was touted to be the best Dillinger record to date by a certain band member. I can safely say he was right.

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Reissued in 2007, much to my delight

The Pipettes - We Are the Pipettes
Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation

We Are the Pipettes reminds me of when pop music was filled with memorable hooks instead of vanilla blandness or moronic blow-out-your-speakers beats. The stateside release adds two extra tracks and sports an entirely remixed sound. Though I'm not so sure that was for the best other than marketing, having songs like "Pull Shapes" and "ABC" out stateside is a good thing.

I might be committing heresy in saying that I haven't fully sunk my teeth into Daydream Nation, but well, I haven't fully sunk my teeth into it. As a matter of fact, other than the Goo reissue, my other Sonic Youth CDs just sit there waiting to be really dug into. Maybe that's something I should work on in 2008.

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Bands/albums I finally "got" in 2007

Zao
Botch - We Are the Romans
At the Gates - Slaughter of the Soul
Death Cab for Cutie - The Photo Album

With repeat viewings of the Lesser Lights of Heaven documentary, I can safely say I'm now a fan of Zao's brutal metalcore. It's only taken me ten years to get into Dan Weyandt's demonic, scream-bloody-murder voice, but I love it (and the band's sound) on Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest, Liberate Te Ex Inferis and The Fear is What Keeps Us Here.

Botch's name has frequently come up in the last few years. Be it a hardcore show at Rubber Gloves or a number of AP issues, I finally took a listen to their renowned second album. I dig. The same can be said with At the Gates.

Death Cab's third proper album skips over the stuff that holds back We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes and just cooks. Amazing what happens when I listen to a band's last two records and then check out their earlier stuff.

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There you have it. To 2008 and beyond!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

12 Reasons

Before I divulge my favorite music and movies of the year, I figured I'd do an inventory of my year. Taking a cue from Py's and J's memes on Christmas, I'll do twelve entries here, mostly in regards to taking the good with the not-so-good.

1. The arrival of my nieces. Surrounded by love from their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, they truly are a blessing. On a side note, I look forward to introducing them to music as they grow up. No Dillinger Escape Plan just yet, but they won't have to endure any Raffi from me.

2. My first visit to see these nieces coincided with two major events: the completion of my first full draft of Post and probably one of the worst allergy attacks in recent memory. Literally as I finished up the draft, I came down with something. Oh, the timing of these sorts of things.

3. Hitting up South by Southwest for eight hours and having a ball. I couldn't argue with finding a $7 parking space right across the street from Emo's, receiving a free copy of Guitar Hero II and meeting a number of people in person I had only corresponded with via e-mail or phone for Post.

4. Seeing the closing of Punk Planet was sad. Connecting with fellow writers after the closing was great. Plus, seeing my interview with John Congleton appear in the final issue was very nice.

5. Being interviewed for a book on the Internet's effect on listeners was an honor. It feels great to realize all the time I've spent digging into music over the past fifteen years is actually worth something beyond amusing/impressing friends.

6. Entering back into the world of a full-time job was an overall improvement in my life. Though I don't stay up late during the week anymore, it's sure nice to know exactly how long it will take me to go from the office and back. In addition, it's wonderful to feel valued in a workplace situation/position. That's not to say I was never valued in my previous jobs; it's just understanding how all those other jobs taught me how to enjoy what I have now.

7. Playing my first out-of-town show was fun. But the period of inactivity behind a drumkit following that gig was not the best. Yet the one-off gig playing all Rolling Stones songs was one of the funnest shows I've ever done.

8. Getting to play drums on live TV was great, as were the gigs I played before and after that. Yet getting fired from that band makes me think I should only start bands from the ground up instead of joining bands that already have songs written.

9. Believe or not, going to my high school reunion was one of this summer's highlights. There was no awkwardness, no annoying stuff and some wounds were healed as well.

10. Having two of my best friends move to places within five minutes of my house. Definitely way more good than not-so-good.

11. Realizing how diet and exercise actually do improve quality of life. (And they aren't that hard to get into.)

12. Getting the blessing from two good friends to write my second book the way I want to write it.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Marshmallow World

I don't know if I've had a different experience than you this holiday season, but I haven't been bombarded by Christmas music everywhere I go. Be it at the mall, big-box store or one of my favorite places to eat, not every song is of the yuletide variety. All of the Christmas gifts I purchased were bought in stores, but alas, the number of Christmas/holiday-centric songs seems less.

I'm not complaining here; I'm just making an observation. I wonder though: has a backlash against wall-to-wall Christmas music been the reason for this?

I'm not bringing all this up in fear that people hate Christmas or Christmas music; rather, I think it's how certain people don't want to hear Christmas music all the time. Personally, I like Christmas music, but prefer it to not hijack my regular playlist on my iPod or CD player. I think the key difference between being stuck in rush hour traffic listening to a radio station that's all Christmas music and being stuck in a line at a department store: you have the option to turn the music off.

I'm thinking more of these places will play more Christmas music until Christmas Eve draws near. Burnout will seem less, right? Well, I remember a time when this method was used across the board, but I'm not so sure this is a throwback to days gone by.

For me, I like to spin songs like the Pogues' "Fairytale of New York," Mojave 3's "Candle Song 3" and Chomsky's rendition of "Christmastime is Here." Plus, I like to pull out Jeff Giles' mixes he put up on his well-remembered blog, Jefitoblog. Now with the Phil Spector Christmas album and the Charlie Brown Christmas album in my collection, I'm pretty set.

But as of late, I haven't really listened to that stuff. As a matter of fact, in the last few weeks, I've been listening to Botch, Dillinger Escape Plan, Zao, At the Gates and Scott Walker more than anything else. Simply put, that's the stuff I've really wanted to hear. Of course, that stuff is given a rest when it's time to wrap presents.

I do enjoy hearing Christmas music, but in the last few years, I've received an earful from people who detest it. Now all these years later, I'm wondering why I'm having to bear the grunt of their misery. Yet for me, it's just notes and rhythms with a certain holiday cheer.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Be Good to Yourself

Well, the rumors are no longer rumors: Journey now has a new lead singer. It's Arnel Pineda, the man rumored to be the one for a few weeks now, and not Patti Smyth, as previously rumored. Believe it or not, but Pineda is the seventh lead vocalist in the band's tenure. Supposedly the many, many live clips of him singing Journey covers helped him catch their attention.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Take your time, take your time, think, think, think

Stumbling upon this clip of future Dillinger Escape Plan drummer Gil Sharone guest-starring on Full House, I couldn't help but cringe. Not for Sharone or his scene partners John Stamos or Lori Loughlin; rather, the show itself. As someone who watched the show from the beginning almost to the end in its first run, I wonder why I watched this show in the first place. When I see it now, I find it incredibly unfunny and forced. Plus, I feel like Alvy Singer in that part in Annie Hall where he watches his friend put laugh tracks down on his hit show. He asks, "is there booing on there?"

Instead of blocking out my reasons why, I think about an experience I had with some of my younger cousins earlier in the year. Watching a certain channel devoted to kids aged post-toddler to tween, I sat with them one afternoon watching unfunny show after unfunny show. That said, it kept my cousins from bouncing off the walls, so my aunt and uncle could get things done uninterrupted.

Understanding the perspective my parents probably had with shows I watched when I was younger, I'm not about to dig out the cynical axe and start swinging. I think of it as adult retribution. And we all face it at some point.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

When Acting as a Particle

Though this policy has been in effect for the past six months, word came down today that all Universal artists may only have 90-second clips of their songs on their MySpace pages. Why MySpace is being singled out, I'm not sure, but "[t]he policy applies to any site where music can be embedded, except for Universal's own official sites, which still offer free on-demand streaming of certain complete songs."

I don't know about you, but clips instead of full songs are a mixed-bag for me. Sometimes a 30-second clip can pique my interest. Sometimes they don't and I need to hear the full song. I say it depends on what's on the clip itself. If it was an epic Coheed and Cambria tune, I probably wouldn't be excited if the clip just had sound effects and feedback. If it was a short Ben Folds tune, I'd probably have an idea about whether I'd want to hear more. So, this all depends on the artist and the song.

I recently took a listen to 30-second iTunes clips from the much-lauded At the Gates album, Slaughter of the Soul. Impressed by what I heard, I wanted to hear the full album ASAP. Mission accomplished, right? Well for At the Gates, but what about a band like Dillinger Escape Plan? That required me to hear the full songs to decipher whether or not I should hear their latest album, Ire Works.

If you've never heard DEP before, just think of it as a metal-hardcore band that really likes King Crimson, Mr. Bungle and Faith No More. If you can't think of that, just imagine music that either quickly tests your patience or blows your mind. For me, I've been a fan for a few years, but I've wondered how many albums they could do before it all just sounded the (chaotically) same.

If I only heard a few 30-second clips from songs like "Nong Eye Gong" and "Fix Your Face," I might have passed on hearing the album. Those tracks are the standard mathcore DEP is known for, but not all of the songs are like that. Had it not been for a full album stream on their MySpace page before its release date, I might have passed on hearing one of the best albums released this year. Go figure.

Again, I stand divided about which is better: a sample or the whole song. If I like the sample, I'll want to hear the full song and maybe even the whole album. This attitude has been in effect with me for a long time and well before the Internet was around. Ever since I heard the final section of "Unchained Melody" on the radio in 1990, I wanted to hear what all came before it. So, the same attitude applies in 2007.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Book update 12.03.07

With the spreading of the word of POST via its MySpace page, I'm not really surprised that a message board thread on it has now surfaced. The board is Viva La Vinyl, a place I had heard about, but had never checked out before. I had heard it was a prime location for whiners wishing I wrote the book they thought it should be, but so far, the complaints have been scarce.

Even if complaints dominated the thread, I wouldn't care all that much. Since I liked it when Kevin Smith hopped onto his board to answer questions, I wanted to continue that kind of interaction. I've already logged on to answer questions and comments, no matter how ugly they may or may not get. It's all in the process of telling people about the project rather than keeping it a guarded secret.

The current status of the book is this:

-I've begun the final edit of the 220-page manuscript. That might sound like a short book, but it's not. One page in Word equals 1.5 pages in book form. So two pages in Word means three pages in book form. And it's all single-spaced with 11-point Georgia font. In other words, this isn't some short walk in the park.

-Editing is a slow process that is well worth it at the end of the day. Some days I take up to three hours editing one chapter, but I'm proud of the results.

-There is no word about a release date, but I hope to have this out sometime next year. Keep in mind, I've been saying this for the past three years. Hear me out though: the research has been done for almost a year, but I needed to spend some time away from the book itself. Spending almost everyday of your life on a project for three years straight can make you go batty.

-It looks like I will be self-publishing this, but I do not take this as a sign of defeat. Rather, this is probably the best way for me to get the word out the way I want it out. Plus, this route might help get this out there sooner rather than later.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

"If you could've found out what Rosebud meant, I bet that would've explained everything."

I accept the fact that writing a biography is bound to have some debate about portrayal. Even stating in Post's prologue that this is an in-depth peek at certain bands and an underground style of music going mainstream, I'm sure I'll hear about how I'm missing something or there's stuff I forgot.

It's not because I'm a lazy researcher; I argue it's because I cannot fully replicate a complete experience in book form. No one can. A book offers a window into life, and can show a very balanced view of it. But experiencing life only comes with living life.

That said, I can't think of anything worse than a significant period in rock music going undocumented. Debate all you want about who or what was more influential, but at least trying to put some sort of thoughtful perspective is better than doing nothing.

I've taken much time and concern for the past four years to make sure my findings are as accurate as possible. I didn't set out to be a "cold fish" investigative reporter, but I didn't want to be some cheerleading fanboy either. I think I achieved a healthy middle ground in the process. I could be wrong.

Being a biographer can be a thankless job. You want to present a balanced and accurate view based on your findings, yet they can still get people up in arms. I know certain people interviewed for Bob Woodward's Wired are still angry with him about his portrayal of John Belushi. (Just read Jim Belushi's quotes in Live from Saturday Night or the Belushi oral history for a sampling.)

Make no mistake, stories told in a compelling way are more, for lack of a better word, compelling to read. I don't think Woodward intentionally sensationalized Belushi's story, but it could have happened in the process. (In hindsight, Woodward's spin of "Why didn't anyone try to stop and save him?" does reek of tabloid-ish cash-grab.)

So far, I haven't heard this kind of controversy with David Michaelis's recent biography on Peanuts creator, Charles Schulz. Michaelis has received some criticism from Schulz's family over his depiction of Schulz in Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography, but there's a reason why there's an "a" instead of a "the" before "biography" in the title.

Schulz's wives and children no doubt have a different perspective because they had a different experience. They were his spouses and kids for crying out loud. Yet I don't think Michaelis's perspective is less valid because he was a longtime Peanuts fan, interviewed a lot of people close to Schulz and did his homework. I look forward to reading his book so I can come to my own conclusions. If the Schulz children wanted to write their own book, I wouldn't argue their perspective was less valid than Michaelis's.

Again, a biography is no substitute for life or a final word on somebody's life. Yet I find insight to be crucial for those that want to know more about the people behind the art. This stuff didn't pop out of thin air you know.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

This is not a charade. We need total concentration.

Anybody else have trouble reading and/or editing while listening to a podcast? As much as I'd like to listen to the latest Sound Opinions or SModcast episode while I edit a blog post or another Post chapter, I can't. I can listen to music in another room while I read or edit, but when it comes to listening to people talking, I'd rather be doing something lighter, like cruising through MySpace or playing on the drumpad.

I figure it's a concentration matter. I tend to slightly tune certain sentences out from the podcast and then think, "What are they talking about?" So, I rewind and realize I've missed something.

I find this all odd since I can play a drumset and listen to others, but I'm not coordinated enough to do this.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Over and over

From time to time, I tend to look over at my DVD shelf and stare. There are plenty of movies up there, but what takes up some precious shelf space are TV shows split up by season. Seinfeld and Dinner for Five take up a quarter of a shelf while LOST and Chappelle's Show take up about one-fifth. As I've watched the entire Twin Peaks series, I've wondered about how often I've actually re-watched entire seasons on DVD. The answer is none.

Keep in mind, I love all the shows I own on DVD, but I have to work up a strong desire to rewatch entire seasons start to finish. Since I like to watch an entire season in one blast (ie, one or two episodes a day), that tends to put other things awaiting to be watched on the backburner. Plus, watching an entire season is mainly for catching-up purposes for me. In the case of LOST, since I got into the show a couple of episodes into the second season, I had a lot of catching up to do. But have I rewatched the entire series so far to anticipate season four? Nope.

The chances are greater I'll rewatch a rerun on TV rather than rewatch an episode on DVD. (This is very much the case with Seinfeld.) Again, this isn't due to a fact that I dislike a show; rather, it's because there's a lot of other stuff I want to watch that I've never seen before. Is this a rather fickle attitude or am I going about this in an all-or-nothing kind of claptrap?

Monday, November 26, 2007

I practice daily in my room

In regards to the previous post (and Py's post on the same topic), I figured I'd share some more thoughts on the subject. Py mentioned how drum instructional videos "let you see superstar drummers break down complicated beats so you can feel like a talentless idiot." And I agree. But I think I've reached a point where my attitude about drumming has changed for the better.

Back when I was in middle school and high school, I had a desire for being a virtuoso on either guitar or drums. I chalk it up to getting into more technically proficient bands like Metallica, Rush and Dream Theater. Playing a lot of notes means you're a virtuoso, right? Well, that's one way of looking at it.

When I realized I didn't have the patience to learn guitar solos or complicated drumbeats, I forged ahead with a style that has been the style I like: simple, but not too simple or too unorthodox. Play for the song and don't over- or under-play. What all does that entail? Well, it varies from song to song. But I thought I had learned everything I wanted to learn and didn't think I had to learn anything new.

Well, after a few band practices spread out over a few months where I felt my playing wasn't up to snuff, I decided to focus on the basics of drumming. That meant getting out the old practice pad, doing some rolls and playing along with songs that I like. It's helped a ton when I get to sit behind my kit and I'd like to continue the woodshedding. This is not to dominate a jam session or show off. Rather, this is working up my skills already in place. That's what practice is, right?

I'm not interested in being an annoying drum nerd, but I'm not interested in being some lazy player. I've seen one too many guys play in the last few years who seem afraid to really play or just don't pay attention to the song they are playing. (And usually it's guys who think a ride cymbal is all you need to play with in a rock band.) Frankly, this has made me want to do something about it rather than sit back and complain.

Whether I like it or not, drumming is in my blood. Even when I'm not in front of a kit, I'm tapping along with something in my head. It explains the air-drumming that happens out of nowhere; often the amusement of those around me. I can't help it, but maybe this is something that's always been a part of me. I figure it all works with my attitude on life: there's a lot more to learn with stuff I've always been around.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

. . . and most importantly, how to dominate a jam session

Major kudos to the AV Club for posting this interview with SNL's Fred Armisen and his alter ego, Jens Hannemann. The YouTube clip is priceless as it spoofs a world I knew a lot about during my teenage drummer years: the instructional drum video. If you've ever looked up at one of the TVs in Guitar Center, chances are you've seen one of these instructional videos.

In no disrespect to those that want to learn an instrument beyond the basics, there's a blurry line between playing and over-playing. Oftentimes people go a little overboard. In the spirit of great satire, Armisen's nailed another memorable character here, even if it's just for drummer nerds like myself.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Aeroplane Flies High

Despite my suspicions about the resuscitation of the Smashing Pumpkins brand name, I must say seeing the reconfigured line-up last night was a good time. As a matter of fact, it was a really good time. And probably better than previous tours with previous line-ups. Yes, I'm probably out of line for thinking that, but let me explain.

Maybe I'm not recalling the right performances, but I don't think I'd ever seen the Pumpkins perform where it didn't feel awkward. Be it tension between band members or the playing was sloppy, but something felt off. What I saw last night was a well-oiled show with a sense of spontaneity. This was a $70 ticket show for me and I didn't feel gypped. Aside from the not-so-appealing-to-me tunes from Zeitgeist, I enjoyed the mix of singles, album tracks and "Drown." Yes, "Drown."

New members Ginger Reyes, Jeff Schroeder and Lisa Harriton fit well with Jimmy and Billy, coming across as valued members more than hired guns. Harriton and Reyes' harmonies on "Tarantula" were a very welcome surprise, as was Schroeder's ability to shred with the best of Billy's shredding. It all got me thinking this new line-up was meant to carry the Pumpkins legacy forward without ugly drama rather than piss all over their legacy with a cash-grab album and tour.

That said, I think I understood that I'm not one of those dedicated fans that refers to the band as "Pumpkins." The type that obsesses over everything they've done. In no fault to those people, I just can't consider myself one of them. I still like a lot of the band's material, but the days of me watching Viuephoria over and over again have long since passed.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Two Roads Diverge

The wait for Richard Kelly's Southland Tales has been long. Very long. I'd even say it's been too long. In development since Donnie Darko wrapped in 2001, along with other writing and directing projects, the six years saw expectations rising to monolithic proportions. With a negative buzz overshadowing it (and the flood of even more now that it is out), I just wanted to speak up about why I really liked this film. And I mean I really liked it.

I'm not surprised Southland Tales has generated polarizing reviews. I could not tell you a clear-cut synopsis of the plot or what everything exactly means. I couldn't with Donnie Darko after my first viewing and it will take repeat viewings of Southland Tales to do the same. But that brings up an interesting question: is Southland Tales worth watching again and again? I say, by all means, yes.

This is one of the few films I've seen where a short and simple review cannot justify its merits or faults. If Donnie Darko was a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle, then this is a 1,500-piece puzzle. Kelly definitely swung for the fences with a film that feels part-Short Cuts, part-Dune, part-Blade Runner and part-Donnie Darko. And those are just some of the comparisons I'd make.

I think the source of division people have with Kelly's films is based on each film's core. Donnie Darko is a tragic -- but strong -- love story, while Southland Tales is a dark -- albeit heavy-handed -- political satire about apocalypse. More people relate to love stories over political satires, but that doesn't mean satire is completely unwanted or less compelling.

For me, I found the humor and strong acting kept the film together. There's a lot of exposition, characters and interweaving plots going on, and they're all rather hard to follow. Reading the prequel graphic novel made things a little bit easier to understand, but still, there's a lot of information to process in its 144 minutes running time. But I felt the information was worth processing. Coming off of Donnie Darko, anything less from Kelly would seem like a safe cop-out.

As I walked out of the film as the credits rolled, I had a better understanding of how to enjoy a film without apologies. I may have heard a fellow audience member utter, "Wasn't that one of the worst films you've ever seen?" but considering some of Kelly's influences, I had to smile. It's all a part of the process. None of David Lynch's films (except for The Elephant Man) came out to universal acclaim. Heck, Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me were considered by some as evidence that Lynch should never make a movie or TV show ever again. Yet he continues to make puzzling and challenging films. Films that I find worth viewing.

Lastly, I'll say this. A lot of people fall into this illusion created by marketing that the merit of film is primarily based on its box office gross. I highly doubt Southland Tales will do blockbuster numbers theatrically, but I wouldn't be surprised that it does well on rental. But does any of that stuff matter to me as a viewer? Not really. I argue the true success of a film is that it gets made and is available for people to see. And that's not something any Variety report, book about box office bombs, heated message board debates or rolled-eyed looks, can really take away from it.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Milk It

When I started writing Post, I didn't know of anyone else even attempting a book on post-hardcore/emo's history. Nothing Feels Good was on store shelves, but that only presented a superficial glance filled with typos. I always hoped more people would come out of the woodwork and write portrayals of how things were back in the proverbial day. As the years went on, I heard about Norm's book, Brian's book, Trevor and Leslie's book, and Ronen's book, and was relieved to find out we were all coming from different angles, writing distinctly different books. Still, there's been a fear of somebody putting out a book almost exactly like your book, at the almost exact same time. It takes thunder away and it can scare off readers. I know about this topic all too well as a reader myself.

For me, I usually read only one definitive book on a band, mainly to know their basic story. In the case of Nirvana, I haven't read Heavier Than Heaven, Journals or Nirvana: The Biography because Come As You Are was the only one written and completed before Kurt's death. Plus, I haven't heard the kindest things about Heavier Than Heaven and I really have no interest in Journals or Nirvana: The Biography. On top of that, I liked Azerrad's approach with Come As You Are and have had no interest in reading a book written after Kurt's death. I figured reading the other books would be redundant and less satisfying.

The same could be said for Chris Salewicz's biography of Joe Strummer, Redemption Song. Even though a friend of mine gave it an enthusiastic recommendation, I've had some hesitation since I read a very detailed biography of Strummer's life before the Clash and during the Clash called Passion is a Fashion: The Real Story of the Clash. Of course, Salewicz's book covers Strummer's post-Clash life more extensively and that's always intrigued me. But still, do I really want to read another take on John Mellor's transformation from a busker named Woody to Joe Strummer? Not really. (Then again, maybe I should just quit nitpicking, find a super-cheap used copy and skip to the post-Clash part . . .)

The point remains: as a reader, do you really want to read essentially the same band story over and over again? I guess that's what can scare off a lot of potential biographers and readers. I mean, I'm essentially up a creek if I ever wanted to read a definitive biography of John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Elvis or Brian Wilson given the plethora of books written on them. I doubt the post-hardcore/emo scene will get to that point, but you never know.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

This is beginning to hurt . . .

James Montgomery's latest Bigger Than the Sound piece hits on a topic that's been mulling around for years: how does Weezer remain popular despite being a pale version of themselves when they were with bassist Matt Sharp? For me, it's been a slow decline of receding interest.

To put things in context, when Weezer's Blue Album came out, they were a rare, distinct band. Instead of hiding their geeky side, they embraced it in a very sincere way. Nobody else was doing that in a popular rock band and, with those ten snappy tunes, Weezer were kings for a couple of years. Yet when Pinkerton dropped, it seemed like the band was phoning it in and being really bitter about life. I still remember Tim telling me the day it came out that the record "suuuuuuccccccckks" and based on my viewings of the "El Scorcho" and "Good Life" videos, I wasn't that compelled to check Pinkerton out. I think a lot of people did the same since the record disappeared after selling 300,000 or so copies.

Now, I still remember a few years later picking up Pinkerton at Matt and Tim's place and Matt praising the album. I couldn't help noticing in Matt's bedroom the large black-and-white Weezer banner saying, "If it's too loud, turn it down." Clearly, this band was still in the hearts of their longtime fans even though there was no word of another album.

The sealing of my fandom came with burning of a CD-R with all of their b-sides up to that point. I'm talking "Susanne," "Jaime" and even those live-from-a-high-school-cafeteria renditions of "The Good Life" and "Pink Triangle." I thought I had found pure gold and I wondered if they were ever getting back together. Well, my answer came less than a year later.

When the band announced a new tour, a new bassist, and a new album, people went nuts. Shows immediately sold out and plenty of new songs were played night after night. Bootlegs floated around Napster and I heard a few of them. "Preacher's Son" was one of the exceptional new ones and I hoped it would appear on the third album. It didn't.

When The Green Album arrived, I thought it was really good. Yet time hasn't been very kind to it. I've found myself agreeing with Matt's initial assessment of it: good pop rock album, but a weak Weezer record. Despite re-teaming with Blue Album producer Ric Ocasek and dozens (maybe hundreds) of songs to choose from, The Green Album came out rather half-baked and safe.

Furthering the decline was how the band performed live. Seeing a few performances on MTV, they just weren't that exciting to watch. Patrick did some shenanigans behind his drumkit, Mikey had some pep in his step, and Brian smiled here and there, but Rivers stood there like a deer-in-headlights.

With the follow-ups being Maladroit and Make Believe -- albums that have some great tracks -- the Matt Sharp years are still cherished most. For me, I enjoyed making the mix CD of a dozen post-Matt Sharp stuff, but if I want the best of the best, I go with The Blue Album and Pinkerton, hands down. And I'm not expecting the band's recently completed six album to change my mind.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

John Congleton Punk Planet interview (extended)

The following interview ran in the final issue of Punk Planet, albeit slightly edited for space. Here's the full thing:

Tackling macabre in rock music often involves dressing up in costumes and putting on make-up. It’s a surefire way to sell fantasy, but thankfully that’s not the way everyone does this. John Congleton, vocalist/guitarist/mastermind behind Dallas-based the Paper Chase, is not some gloomy guy who puts on an act for those who wish every day was Halloween. Congleton, with his blonde hair and slender physique, is a sharp, level-headed guy who draws more from what he learned as a pop-punk/post-hardcore fan in the Nineties than the movies he watched growing up.

Since ’98, Congleton has done four albums, as well as a few split singles and EPs, with the Paper Chase. As evidenced by their material, including 2006’s Now You Are One of Us on Kill Rock Stars, their sound is filled with tonal and atonal melodies found on pianos, orchestral strings and samples from obscure sources. Definitely not something you can understand in a snap, but definitely not pretentious noise, the Paper Chase embraces the appealing and the unattractive.

In the last few years, Congleton has really made a name for himself as a producer/engineer as well. Working with Explosions in the Sky, the Mountain Goats, the Polyphonic Spree, Minus Story, and the Roots, his talents behind the console board are as appealing as they are in front of it. His wisdom translates into how well he understands the conception of a song all the way to a finished album. He also understands how vital the process is to his life, whether it’s making a Paper Chase record or a session for somebody else.

Interview by Eric Grubbs

Would you say George Romero and John Carpenter influenced you as much as Steve Albini and Ian MacKaye?

I wouldn’t say that really any of those people are huge influences on me, but I grew up listening to all that Touch & Go stuff. So somebody like Steve Albini being a big part of that whole nexus – certainly.

The whole horror movie thing was never anything that I was like, “Oh, I’m gonna make a band that has this element to it.” I just really, really liked that kind of stuff growing up combined with comic books and a whole bunch of geeky shit like that. Every type of media that you experience is going affect how you write music. I’ve always been somebody who’s been more influenced by other things other than music when it comes to my music.

Movies like The Hills Have Eyes, Dawn of the Dead and Halloween aren’t just about scaring people – they have a lot of deep subtext.

I loved that about those movies and I picked on that at a really young age. [With Dawn of the Dead], that sort of mediocrity and whatnot – just sort of settling for this really mundane existence. Don’t you want more out of life than just two cars? I’ve never been satisfied with that kind of stuff.

Confronting fear is a common theme in your lyrics. Was there ever a time when you were a very fearful person?

Yeah. With all music, it’s therapy to a certain degree. I was a really nervous kid. I was a total latch-key kid. Didn’t go out much. Didn’t really want to. I mean, I didn’t learn how to ride a bike until I was nine. That’s the way my personality was then and it’s not too much different now. I don’t go out to shows that often because I don’t want to, it’s because I’m really busy. Quite frankly, if I do get the time to go to a show, I’d just rather stay at home and hang out with my girlfriend.

Now You Are One of Us deals with everyday fears, from what’s going to happen because of the presidential administration to the weather. Is being around people that are constantly afraid of the unknown a source of constant inspiration?

The whole album to me was sort of like this big fear of never making any sort of impact with your life. All my friends, everybody I know, and everybody I associate with, are pretty much artists. Except for family reunions, I don’t talk to people that aren’t artists. Pretty much the one common thing they all have is they’re trying to affect things. That’s what art is, you’re trying to affect your environment.

There’s a fear that artists will not accomplish what they want to as an artist or what they want to do in their life. I understand that because I make records for people and I experience that sort of painful scrutinization of “Am I accomplishing what I want to accomplish?” This is the fourth Paper Chase full length. There’s a lot of things in my head and my life about like, “Is this happening the way I wanted it to? Am I doing anything that’s worth a fuck? This has consumed my twenties. This is my life’s work. Is it worth a shit?”

The music sounds like you guys are unafraid to play ugly notes, but you’re also not afraid to play pretty notes.

I’ve always really liked the idea of things that were almost beautiful. The sound of something that’s just slightly broken.

Hip-hop inspired Jawbreaker to use samples in their music. Was that in any way similar with the Paper Chase? Was there a band or record that inspired you?

There was never any musical influence I could say except for maybe Public Enemy. I loved them growing up. Their stuff is so noisy and so crazy and they have all those weird samples going. I think I remember thinking that would be cool to do that in a rock idiom.

You don’t like discussing where the samples come from. Is there a reason why?

I think it’s fun if people can try and find them. I don’t particularly try to use stuff that is easily identifiable. I guess I don’t like to talk about it because it’s not important, to me.

Do you consider yourself a producer or an engineer? Does it depend on the project?

I consider myself both. The whole producer/engineer/whatever thing is just so fuzzy. I’ve worked on albums where I didn’t feel I produced in any capacity or helped them make any creative decisions, but I’ll get a copy of it that says I produced. Then there are records where I really feel like I did and they didn’t get credit me as that. So I don’t really care. Credit me as “Pizza Delivery Boy.” It doesn’t matter to me.

Normally, those kinds of things should be discussed beforehand. Like, “Do you want to be involved in that capacity? Or do you want me to just sit there and press play and help you get sounds?” Either way, whatever a band wants, I’m more than happy to do.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A place for . . . potential readers

If you're on MySpace and don't have a very restricted privacy level, you've received more than your fair share of unwanted Friend Requests. I have received plenty from crappy bands and aspiring porn stars, but it's never gotten to a point where I couldn't handle it. Yet I've done something for my newly-created page for Post that could be misconstrued as committing a similar annoyance. I'd like to explain myself.

Make no mistake, I want to get the word out on my book. This is not for fame or a feeling of warmth because I have a lot of friends on my list. The deal is, how I've spread the word (and will continue to) takes a lot of time and energy. I spent almost four years getting everything just right and I don't want this effort to go unnoticed outside of my friends, family and regular readers.

Instead of trying to befriend those who might have a slim interest in reading the book, I decided to go for ones I think might be very interested in reading. Taking a tip from Brian on how he built his friends list for his book, I typed in names like "Jawbox," "Red Animal War" and even "Empire State Games" in the search field and looked at the results. There were a lot of bands listed, but so were a lot of individuals around my age that still treasure these featured bands. So, with that, I just fired away.

In the process, I came to an understanding that my approach is rather different than some band that formed last week, recorded its first two songs, lists Panic! At the Disco, Powerspace and Chiodos as influences, and hopes to get a lucrative record deal. I rarely receive requests from authors, so for the ones that do (like Brian), chances are good I'll take a look. Not many people are writing books on this subject, so the playing field is small. I think it's totally fine to do the same with searching out possible readers. Besides, I'd rather have a list of 1,200 that would read this right away rather than 30,000 who wouldn't give a rat's ass in the first place.

With the ones that have some restrictions on sending a request (ie, must know his or hers last name), I sent a personal message giving a heads-up. I appreciate it when people do this for me, so I hope it would return the favor. The non-personalized nature of unsolicited requests drives me nuts. And I know I'm not the only one.

Anyway, in hopes that I have not committed the worst MySpace sin, I plan on sticking to this course of action. Though I believe this book has a chance to reach a wider audience, I'm seeking out the converted first and foremost. In other words, the ones who bought a 7" at a show, did a fanzine, played in a band that opened for one of the featured bands and so on. POST is a tribute to them more so than the ones who first heard about Jimmy Eat World because of "The Middle."

Friday, November 09, 2007

Two Friday links

Nick now has a blog devoted to his new comedy endeavor and my review of the original Black Christmas is online at Doomed Moviethon.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Open the floor . . .

Ripped directly from a post on Donna's blog, I thought I'd do the same.

With a 220-page manuscript needing another edit and the holidays coming up, the amount of time I have for blogging is a little uncertain. Even as a single guy with very little responsibility, it's becoming a little hard to juggle all the things I'm doing and want to do. Plus, I feel I've been running a little dry on ideas for blog posts as of late.

So, I figured it was time to hear from you the reader. I'd like to find out what you want me to write about. Leave a question or topic in the comments or in an e-mail, and I'll do my best to address as many of them as possible. Don't be shy -- what have you always wanted to know about the enigma that is Eric? (Or about the faceless proprietor of the blogspace you happen to have wandered into by mistake.)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

That's What (Music-Related Write-Ups) Often Do

Despite reading books that aren't on music (ie, Stephen King's Cell) and watching DVDs that aren't centered around bands (Twin Peaks, The Fog), as well as beginning another full edit of the Post manuscript, I've been very active with reading articles and watching documentaries on bands. I might be wrong, but it's been a little more than usual. As a result, I've been going bonkers wanting to hear more music by these bands.

I have to give full credit to Decibel's cover story on the mighty Dillinger Escape Plan for this recent surge. Dissecting the last few years of the band into a coherent and non-tabloid-ish affair, I felt compelled to dig out my copy of their '04 barnburner, Miss Machine. With their next album Ire Works dropping next week, I'm pumped. But why get all excited about a band when I read about bands all the time? I say it's in the way the story is told.

In the case of the Dillinger article, how Kevin Stewart-Panko details the band's parting with original drummer Chris Pennie from the horses' mouths . . . and not in black-and-white, simple ways. Pennie and his ex-bandmates explain what all went down, as well as the making of Ire Works. All in all, it's not some write-up about a metal band where the struggles of making their "heaviest record to date" is whittled down into three paragraphs or less. For an exceptional band like Dillinger, nothing less would do them justice.

The same can be said with what I've seen from the forthcoming book, Burning Fight. From the chapters I've read, Brian's done a very thorough job of explaining many sides of hardcore in general. From the political debates, various scenes and band member relations, he really left no stone unturned. And it's really made me want to check out a lot of the highlighted bands' records.

Couple that with a recent viewing of the Thursday documentary, Kill the Houselights, re-reading AP's oral history of Botch and reading Ryan's exhaustive, un-edited oral history on Coalesce, and I'm realizing something. For me, chances are very good that if a) I've heard about a band a number of times over the years b) read a long, well-done article, and c) have heard a sampling, liked what I heard, but have not heard more, I will probably go nuts wanting to hear more from a band.

All along the way with writing Post, I've hoped some people would respond in similar ways to the bands I've featured. So far, I've encountered that response here and there. People who've never really heard Jawbreaker or Jawbox have a desire to hear Dear You or For Your Own Special Sweetheart after reading their chapters. The way I see it, if I can give back as a writer to the bands that inspired me, then I've done part of a good job. Of course, the other part is telling a truthful and honest portrayal. Maybe that's why it takes a long time to write stuff like this.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Knock-Down Drag-Out

While having a meaningful chat with Ryan at our favorite bar a few weeks ago, a track from Weezer's apparently-universally-abhorred Make Believe came on the sound system. The track was "The Damage in Your Heart" and I found it surprisingly charming. I had never heard the song before as friends of mine advised me to avoid the album and I didn't have much interest in the album anyway. Now, I understand the band may never cook up something as potent as The Blue Album or Pinkerton, but I got to thinking.

Since bassist Matt Sharp departed from the band and they regrouped from a long hibernation, Weezer has released three albums: The Green Album, Maladroit and Make Believe. All three records have sold well, but longtime fans feel they don't hold a candle to the band's seminal material. If I remember correctly, my friend Matt felt Green was a decent pop rock record, Maladroit was embarrassing and Believe went back and damaged a few great songs in their back catalog. Since The Green Album is the only post-Matt Sharp album I've spent a lot of time listening to, I let that opinion be an excuse.

Taking recent listens to songs on all three albums, I decided to pool a dozen tracks for a possible single mix-CD. In hopes I could create a solid ten or eleven-song CD, I am considering the following:

from The Green Album:
"Don't Let Go"
"Photograph"
"Island in the Sun"
"Knock-Down Drag-Out"
"O Girlfriend"

from Maladroit:
"Keep Fishin'"
"Death and Destruction"
"Dope Nose"
"Burndt Jamb"
"Space Rock"

from Make Believe:
"The Damage in Your Heart"
"Perfect Situation"

I have ideas about track order and may consider dropping "Space Rock," but I'd like to hear suggestions from you the reader. Again, this is just a chance of enjoy ten or eleven gems back-to-back on one disc rather than put up bland and cheesy non-gems over three discs.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Blow out that cherry bomb

This past Friday night was my maiden visit to the slightly new House of Blues in Victory Plaza. There has been some negative hubub about the mere existence of this place on local blogs, so I figured I'd chip in with my experience. As always, albeit a few months late.

I could be misunderstanding this, but it sounds a lot like criticism people have with the House of Blues is that it's just another big company gobbling local business up. It's considered the CVS, Starbucks, McDonald's, Blockbuster or Clear Channel of music venues. Yet an important note to clear up is that there is only one House of Blues in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Denton area. It's not like every single live venue has been taken over and rebranded. Nope. It's just one venue out of many venues.

Based solely on my attendance of Friday's Spoon/New Pornographers/Emma Pollock show, I had zero problems with the place. I was even impressed with how there were options with where to park. I lucked out getting a $5 space right under the highway and right across from the venue. Though the doors opened about twenty minutes later than expected, the show ran smoothly after that.

Every staff member I crossed paths with was very polite and courteous -- and it wasn't a kind of fakeness where they acted brainwashed. As a matter of fact, they were the exact opposite of the staff at Tree's I witnessed a handful of times. I didn't feel like the Gestapo was walking around with flashlights, ready to throw down with anybody acting somewhat suspicious.

The sound was fantastic and all three acts were top-notch. Personally, it was a royal treat to see Neko Case and Dan Bejar perform with the New Pornos. I'm well aware how rare they make it out on the road with the band, so I was very lucky to see the eight-person line-up. Spoon did an even better set compared to their previous visit in June. And they had a horn section for four songs.

Again, this was my first trip to the venue. Things could be different on my next trip, but at least I had a very positive experience. So why in the world people find this place to be a thorn, I may not really understand. Maybe it's wrestling with the idea of the place over what the place really is.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Ashamed

Earlier this week, Josh did a post devoted to Emmylou Harris after watching Knocked Up. What's the connection? Well, Knocked Up features "We Are Nowhere and It is Now," a Bright Eyes song where Ms. Harris contributes backing vocals. He also mentioned other songs on the soundtrack, namely Loudon Wainwright's contributions. I strongly agree about the greatness of the songs in the movie, but one song I was not familiar with really took to me. And it comes from a very un-hip source: Tommy Lee.

I mean no offense to Josh, his blog or his readers, but a part of me felt like I had to be really brave to post the following comment:
Great songs on this soundtrack, including the Tommy Lee song during the drive to the hospital.

Why this feeling? I think it comes from the numerous times I've felt berated by people who think my taste in music is suspect. No matter how many times I've written about this general subject, the level of mean and callous statements I've received from people on message boards has had a lasting impact. They really make me wonder why certain corners of the Internet seem like a mixture of the Mos Eisley cantina, Comic Book Guy's store and a heated debate on Fox News. It's all about some anonymous people inflicting their misery about life into the world . . . and it's supposed to be therapeutic. I beg to differ.

In this case, I'm well aware that Tommy Lee isn't as cool as the Clash, Loudon Wainwright or even Haircut 100. But the power of Lee's "Ashamed," with its climbing guitar riff augmented by a string section, does not make me feel ashamed. Still, before openly discussing the love for it, I had to build up some mental defenses before saying anything. It's like I'm waiting for somebody to come out of the woodwork and say, "You suck."

Most of my life as a music fan has been isolating when it comes to music I really like that my friends don't. I respect my friends' tastes -- as they do with mine -- but when they don't see the beauty and power of a band like Killswitch Engage, I'm drawn to the online world. Once there, it's hard to pretend these virtual, non-friendly trolls don't exist in the real world. If you don't believe me, just go to a college radio station or a record store, or watch/read High Fidelity.

This is all a vicious cycle that makes me wonder why I want this kind of acceptance in the first place. I've got my friends and family, and they all rule, right? Sure, but when you want to connect with people on things you can't connect with people in your everyday life, you look elsewhere.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

So far away, we wait for the day

If you've ever played any of the Guitar Hero games, you'll probably be amazed by this clip brought to us by Robert Wilonsky. It's funny, I told Jason last night about how DragonForce's "Through the Fire and Flames" was on Guitar Hero III. Now this afternoon he forwards me this post. Very cool.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The New Blood

As I read Noel's rundown of all eleven (!) films in the Friday the 13th series (including Freddy vs. Jason), I thought about my days as a horror movie sequel fan. I never got to the point of seeing the Sleepaway Camp sequels, but there was a time when I wanted to see all of the movies in a series. Scream 2 had just come out and I loved it as much as the first Scream. So I figured this would be a worthwhile quest. Maybe my memory is hazy, but I think my quest began and ended with the Halloween series.

To recap: I had seen bits and pieces of the TV-version of the original Halloween (you know, with the extra scenes included) before watching the sixth entry, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. I figured I knew enough backstory from what I had seen in the first movie to get the gist of the sixth one. Turns out I was right even though I found the ending to be a big cliffhanger and a letdown because Donald Pleasance passed away before the film was released. Nevertheless, since I liked the film, I set out to see the rest of the series.

I checked out the original theatrical version of Halloween and loved it. My friend Tim told me the second film started right where the first one left off, so I hoped to see it soon. A few weeks later, in hopes of seeing Halloween II one night with my friends, I was a little put-off by the fact that we weren't going to watch it. For whatever reason (maybe it was checked out from Blockbuster), we watched Student Bodies instead and I was blown away. Still, I wanted to see II and I eventually did and dug it.

Being a huge fan of the series around this time, I even saw Halloween H20: 20 Years Later in a theater. It had to be great because it picked up right where the second one ended while completely looking beyond the Michael Myers-centric fourth, fifth and sixth entries. And I thought it was fantastic.

I think a year passed before Matt and I braved a viewing of Halloween III: Season of the Witch. We heard plenty of bad stuff about it and knew Michael Myers wasn't in it, but we wanted to see for ourselves. I think we both found the film bad and funny at the same time. A few years later, I saw it dubbed in Spanish and found it even more hilarious. I think it's the one movie out of the series that gets funnier with age.

Yet with age, the only Halloween movie that I care to watch is the original. I don't know what all works, but it still holds up very well. Maybe it's John Carpenter's angle of presenting Michael Myers as the kind of evil that never dies, I don't know. But the film is a classic to me. With all of the sequels, I find them to be repetitive and derivative of the original in some way. Once I realized this, it's never been the same.

I saw most of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers about a year ago and just could not get into them. I didn't bother seeing Halloween: Resurrection or even Rob Zombie's recent remake. Not to speak with a mouth full of sour grapes, but I just don't have the appetite for these kinds of sequels anymore.

I think the same applies to the Friday the 13th series, including the original. I saw Jason Goes to Hell years before I saw the original and I found it to be scary and gross. Then again, I was a high school freshman who had not really seen a horror movie before. When I finally saw the original (after seeing Halloween quite a few times), I saw the cheat the whole series (and most of the whole splatter genre) was: a bland take-off of a really cool movie. Maybe that's why I've been searching for other kinds of horror fare since.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Gonna Fly Now

Recently taking a listen to Eli Roth and Quentin Tarantino's commentary track on Hostel Part II, a lightbulb went on in my head. Discussing how Hostel Part II begins exactly where Hostel ends, Tarantino describes how he'd combine two movies onto one VHS tape and show them to friends. In one instance, he took Rocky, cut out the end credits and had Rocky II begin right away. Not only did I find that to be a pretty cool and fun thing to do, but I found something deeper with Tarantino's mention of Rocky.

If you're familiar with Tarantino, you've probably come to the conclusion he knows practically everything about almost every movie ever made. From the most obscure to the best known, he's probably seen them all (especially given his time working in video rental store). But what fascinates me is to hear a guy be so passionate about films in general, from the most commercial to the not-so commercial. And it's a good kind of fascination.

Now, maybe vocal moaners affected me more than open-minded folks, but for so long I thought most people who are passionate about film generally roped themselves off from any kind of commercial fare. For example, I'd hear about how The Matrix was a wimpy retread of Hong Kong films from the previous fifteen years. For people like myself who had never seen Hard Boiled or The Killer, I was uncool and unworthy in the eyes of the ones in the know. Once again, I have a hard time telling the difference between these conversations from the ones I heard in kindergarten.

I can understand the personal enjoyment of something when it's not so commonplace with people I don't really identify with. There's a pride in not following what the in-crowd appears to be into. Yet at the same time, there's this alienation from the world at large and it can get rather lonely.

Whenever I hear people around me talk about how they saw a really commercial movie over the weekend, a part of me wants to roll my eyes and be suspicious of their taste. It's so easy to and I must admit I have done this in the past. These days, I hear both ends of spectrum, but I see essentially the same thing: we all have our own reservations. There are those who thought Wild Hogs was a truly funny movie and could never fathom seeing Into the Wild because the main character dies at the end. Of course there's the exact reverse, but for me, there's no real formula for the kinds of films I like. I merely want to watch something I might get something out of. That "something" usually is a sense of depth. And it can come from watching The Muppet Movie, Eraserhead, Hostel or Lord of the Rings.

The peeling of onion I'm seeing is how common liking the ultra-commercial and the non- is. Looking at the queues belonging to friends of mine on Netflix, they're all over the place, just like how mine is. I think it's safe to say that I find comfort in knowing that it's not so off the wall to enjoy Undercover Brother, 28 Weeks Later and Knocked Up. Man, I wish I knew this back in college . . .

Friday, October 26, 2007

BIG book news . . .

. . . well, not so big, but I now have a MySpace page for my book. Feel free and send me a friend request. Stay tuned for more book info!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Punk Planet Reviewer Spotlights Part 3

from Punk Planet #77
Therapy?, Infernal Love
Ireland’s Therapy? was like a secret handshake in my high school. The few fans that I knew would say their name with a deepening of the voice and a widening of the eyes. This trio had something special going on, but nobody could really explain what exactly it was. Upon hearing Hats Off to the Insane and Troublegum, I think I knew what was up. Up until that point, Therapy? had a string of singles, mini-albums, and records that were very melodic and punky but also sounded like Prong and Helmet records. Yet on ’95’s Infernal Love, the cold industrial sounds were replaced by smoother sounds coupled with a wider scope of songwriting. From barnburners like “Stories” and “Misery” to the Police-like “Bad Mother” to the stellar singles of “Jude the Obscene” and “Loose” to the peaceful “Moment of Clarity,” Infernal Love is probably the band’s finest album start to finish. Also special of note is their strings-and-vocals version of Hüsker Dü’s “Diane.” Reworking the song like Nick Cave fronting the Kronos Quartet, the song goes to a much sinister place than the original ever did. The band released a handful of records after Infernal Love and is still going today. They’ve never reached above a secret handshake for many in the US, but for what they do, that’s quite alright.

from Punk Planet #78
Paul Westerberg, Eventually
I’ve come across way more people that prefer rough-and-tumble Westerberg than polished Westerberg. I’m not going to argue about which is better (“Kids Don’t Follow” is as great as “World Class Fad” in my book), but Eventually is one of Westerberg’s most consistent solo albums. Ten years after its release, it doesn’t sound a day old. The guitars, drums, keyboards and vocals still pack a punch and that’s pretty remarkable. Though the album gets a little dodgy in the middle, tracks like “Love Untold,” “Angels Walk” and the Byrds-like “These Are the Days” are killer. Fellow ’Mat Tommy Stinson makes an appearance on the funky party that is “Trumpet Clip.” “Good Day” is a heartfelt tribute to fellow ’Mat (and Tommy’s brother) Bob Stinson, who had died only a year before. Eventually is not adult contemporary schmaltz, but it’s definitely not drunken anarchy either. Westerberg’s critical hosannas as a solo artist came years later when he started making records in his basement. I can’t say this approach has made for the most qualitative material, but he hasn’t lost his knack for writing a heart-tugging rock song.

from Punk Planet #79
Stereophonics, Word Gets Around
In late ’97, I had enough of bands being praised as the next Oasis, Verve or Blur. So that’s my best excuse for why I rolled my eyes at the Stereophonics when I saw their “Traffic” video on 120 Minutes. I thought, “Here’s yet another band with a singer singing into a microphone positioned at his forehead instead of his mouth. Coupled with an anti-climactic ballad . . . No thanks!” Thankfully, when the band’s second album, Performance and Cocktails, came out stateside, V2 sent out a college radio sampler with tracks from both albums. Being immediately struck by Word Gets Around’s “Local Boy in the Photograph,” I wanted to hear more. Despite some lackluster records in the last few years, Word Gets Around and Performance and Cocktails are still really strong. But it’s Word Gets Around that I think of in the highest. Songs like “A Thousand Trees,” “More Life in a Tramps Vest,” “Not Up to You” and “Same Size Feet” tell of tales from small working class towns. Subjects like suicide, murder, affairs and pub life aren’t really that pleasing to hear about, but the band has a way of making them work in their tuneful songs. Frontman Kelly Jones has a raspy/bluesy voice that can turn people off, but I just can’t picture this stuff working with anyone else. This is definitely a record worth trading your copy of Be Here Now for.

from Punk Planet #80
Texas is the Reason – s/t EP
Consisting of three songs originally recorded as a demo, this is a fine introduction to this lauded New York post-hardcore band. In my case, it was more than just an introduction to a new band. When it came in a shipment at the big-box retailer I worked at, I was very curious. So curious that I bought it without even hearing a note beforehand. The liner notes, complete with its triple-photo band portrait on the back, didn’t look like anything I had seen from Revelation at the time. I thought they only released shout-y hardcore and fast pop-punk. So, somebody like Texas is the Reason was truly unique in its day to me. That led me to labelmates Sense Field and many other bands like them. This music was never hard, angry or bratty; it was something else. What exactly made up this “something else” category would have simpler names in later years, but the feeling remains whenever I go back to the source.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Punk Planet Reviewer Spotlights Part 2

from Punk Planet #73
Handsome – s/t
In a time well after grunge had lost its bite and before nü-metal became moronic and contrived, anything could go in major label hard rock in 1997. Comprised of ex-members of Helmet, Quicksand, Iceburn, Murphy’s Law and Cro-Mags, Handsome had an incredible amount of potential in this vacuum. Mixing the moody, detuned heaviness of their older bands with poppy melodies, Handsome presents a band with a lot of bang. With a blow-out-your-eardrums kind of mix, Handsome sounds very modern by today’s standards. The notable exception is that instead of the standard, sing-through-the-nose vocal technique that so many bands embrace today, vocalist Jeremy Chatelain projects a clear and aggressive voice devoid of sap. Plus, thanks to Terry Date’s production, the band sounds incredibly heavy, but not sloppy, muddy or cheesy. Though the band’s career was doomed early on (various band members made no bones about not getting along with each other in interviews), they held it together long enough to make something fantastic.

from Punk Planet #74
Tripping Daisy, Jesus Hits like the Atom Bomb
There was a time in the mid-’90s when industry insiders thought Dallas was going to be the next hotbed for alternative rock in the mainstream. The Toadies, Rev. Horton Heat and Tripping Daisy had hit records on major labels, but a citywide takeover (thankfully) did not happen. Though commercially ignored in its day, Tripping Daisy’s final record for Island really stands out as a highpoint of their career. In ’99, I had the pleasure of seeing the band perform for free on a sunny spring afternoon outside at TCU. Showcasing a number of songs from Jesus Hits like the Atom Bomb and songs that would eventually make up their final, self-titled album, Tripping Daisy won me over big time. Previously, I thought they were another goofy alternative rock band with one big hit. Seeing them play in this setting with this material convinced me to at least check out their then-new album. Utilizing keyboards, trumpet and multi-part vocal harmonies, Tripping Daisy hits a number of homeruns throughout these fifteen tracks. As far as some of its relevance today, if you want to understand how Tim DeLaughter went from fuzzy guitar rock to the symphonic circus that is the Polyphonic Spree, check this one out.

from Punk Planet #75
Chomsky, Onward Quirky Soldiers
Of all the bands I followed in college, Chomsky was a Dallas-based band that had a sound that was truly sans identifiable reference points. Though you might hear slight influences like XTC and the Police in spots, Chomsky’s music had flair of eccentric originality. Though the band had a few line-ups over the years, this era of the band was them at their best. Hearing Onward Quirky Soldiers now, I’m still not exactly sure why they are so special to me. This was a band I saw at least thirty times and never got tired of them. They could be a little goofy but that never got to the point where they were cheeseheads. With their dense melody lines and solid drumbeats as their meat and potatoes, Chomsky had a special formula that worked for this album and the one before it, A Few Possible Selections for the Soundtrack of Your Life. They followed Soldiers up with Let’s Get to Second, an album that lacked the spark of yesteryear and as of this writing, the band is on indefinite hiatus. Not to sound defeated, but even if the band never reforms, at least they have two fantastic documents of this spark.

from Punk Planet #76
The Dambuilders, Against the Stars
Like a lot of records I spotlight in this space, Against the Stars is another criminally ignored album that you always see in the bargain bin. Other than some nice rotation on 120 Minutes with their “Burn This Bridge” video, Against the Stars disappeared as quickly as it arrived. I say that’s too bad because the band made a fantastic record that is smooth, catchy and rocking and is as relevant today as it was in 1997. Writing simple rock songs with nice augmentation with violin and keyboards, the Dambuilders were a band that could fit well in the Alternative Nation, but they weren’t as easy to grasp as the more teen-friendly bands were. Despite recording most of the record in drummer Kevin March’s basement, Against the Stars doesn’t sound like it was. Sure, there are moments where the guitars sound they came from a demo tape (see the chorus to “Break Up With Your Boyfriend”), but I’ve heard way worse. The Dambuilders would never make another record after this, but at least they went out with some sense of a bang with Against the Stars.