Thursday, August 30, 2007

Two hours

From what I've seen, if there's one MTV show that's still beloved by people these days, it's 120 Minutes. As someone who watched during the Matt Pinfield years, it still is very much beloved for me. Serving as an introduction to bands from Pavement to the Promise Ring to Belle & Sebastian, I'm forever grateful. With a number of clips played on the show back in the day, as well as in-studio performances, on YouTube, now there's a Tumblr site devoted to them. (Kudos to Idolator and Jason for pointing this out to me.)

The strange thing for me is: I dont spend hours upon hours watching old clips these days. If this was twelve years ago, I would, but it's not what I'm really into now. Not to sound like a party-pooper, but it's like watching commercials for a product you already bought. The record, like the band, is the product being peddled to you. Since I bought the CD, do I really need to watch the videos again?

This said, I enjoy watching video collections on DVD from time to time. I like videos where's there's more than a band miming a song for the camera. In addition to Pavement's, Belle & Sebastian's, the Pixies' and Killswitch Engage's (which include videos and a documentary on the band), I have Suede's stand-alone collection of videos, as well as Superchunk's and Blur's. I guess the key factor with these is they are videos worth watching again and again. Great example of this: Suede's "Trash" without the Nowhere footage.

My point is, watching videos all the time is not something I'm all about now. I guess the Internet makes up for MTV morphing 120 Minutes into Subterranean and VH1 Classic 120 Minutes. Since an attitude with the Internet is, "Why wait? Find it now!", the desire for paying out of the nose for VH1 Classic lessens.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Would you like some coffee?

As stingy as I am with buying almost anything, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and quit making excuses. I often remember this whenever I go back to my copy of Scott Walker's In 5 Easy Pieces box set, which I picked up from the Tower Records liquidation sale last fall.

I had sampled just a few tracks and read rave reviews, but it was still a rather pricey gamble. But I thought: where else am I going to hear all this material and get it for $25 off the regular price? Plus, being a liquidation sale, it might not be there the following week. So I just shut up and bought it for $40 and some change. I haven't regretted the decision as I've been looping back around to his material as of late (after listening to it almost every week from October to March).

Kind of in the same vein is my decision to pre-order the DVD set people have waiting quite a few years for: the entire Twin Peaks series, including the 2-hour pilot episode and a load of supplemental goodies not found anywhere else. This is probably the best way to enjoy one of David Lynch's masterworks, flaws and all. And I could really give a rat's ass about how the quality of the show dips halfway through the second and final season.

When I tried to get into Twin Peaks last year, I was very discouraged by how the pilot episode was not available on DVD. Due to a rights issue that didn't get resolved until late last year, the pilot had never been commercially released in the US on DVD. But I wasn't aware of that until I rented the first disc of the first season last fall. Starting the first episode with "Previously on Twin Peaks," I thought all that I really missed was the discovery of Laura Palmer's body. I realized how wrong I was as the episode moved forward. I wondered who all these people were and what was really going on. After four episodes, I had to stop and hope that this set would come out sometime in the near future.

Even though I found the pilot on YouTube, I wanted to see the whole series on DVD. As nice and convenient YouTube is, it's no match for having the real thing. In the case of the whole series, the current availability is even more discouraging. Season 1 is no longer available on DVD, but Season 2 is. So, in other words, if you want to see the whole thing in one setting, in the words of Pavement's Bob Nastanovich, you'll just have to wait.

I must say this show is not some easy-breezy show to watch. It's intense and pretty dark. It's not the kind of material that's usually worth watching over and over again. Almost every character is a backstabber and/or having an affair -- all markings of unlikable characters. The overall tone is disturbing. (For me, in particular, what transpires at Laura Palmer's funeral is really disturbing, especially when you find out who killed her in the second season.) Yet I can't help but keep coming back to the show for many other reasons.

Even though lots of other hour-long dramas have learned from the mistakes from Twin Peaks, no other show has come close to what the whole show was. Forever an example of burning a storyline into the ground after a rapid rise, the show still resonates. I say it's better to experience the whole thing than dismiss it entirely. And that, in my opinion, is worth the dollars and spending hours watching the show.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Then I wake up and you're not there

I think now would be a good time to resurrect my version of what Frank often does on his blog. Except in my case, I want to share videos of songs from my childhood before Nirvana and grunge came along.

To recap: I was not born with a hip taste in music, so a lot of Top 40 music in the Eighties was my introduction to modern music. Since I'm not one to piss all over my past and pretend like it never happened, I like to bring up songs that I still like even though I have a much different perspective now.

One of the most inescapable hit songs of 1986 was Glass Tiger's "Don't Forget Me (When I'm Gone)." It was a regular on the playlist for New Orleans' B97, so I heard it quite a few times and always liked it. But these days, it seems like one of the many big hits from this era that you don't hear often on the radio or in clubs. I guess it's not as danceable as "You Spin Me Round" or tests as well with focus groups. For me, even though its processed drumbeats and basslines sound incredibly dated, I still like the walking melodies in the verses and choruses. And Bryan Adams' vocal cameo is still a nice touch.

Scrolling around through their videos on YouTube, they are very cheeky and laughable now, but not out of the ordinary in its day. The buttoned-up shirts and mini-mullets are just some of these characteristics. Despite all this, I can't dismiss how much I like this song. Plus, I wonder where the band is now. Turns out they are still together with almost all of the original line-up intact. As a matter of fact, they even made an appearance on NBC's Hit Me Baby One More Time TV show.

What I find compelling (and this ties into what I wrote about yesterday), Glass Tiger was an Eighties pop band, pure and simple. So it makes sense why they look like so many peer pop groups. They weren't originally a hardcore band that ditched hardcore for fame and fortune. That actually is rare and even when the band does this, there is an understandable reason why. I may never know how or why Simple Minds ditched their post-punk for Top 40 hits, but they were a rarity.

Something fundamental to a band's evolution is its roots. If a band started in LA by transplants in hopes of making it big, then it shouldn't be surprising if they cop a rockstar attitude. But there are bands that want to be a working band that does music all the time instead of being a pop band. I think any band should strive for its fullest, desired potential. From the fan angle, I might cringe at the sound of many Fall Out Boy songs and their image, but at least they're doing what they want.

So, cheers to Glass Tiger for helping me understand this.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Come on and wash these shores away

Selling out is a topic I've touched on here so many times before, but like other topics, the reason why I bring it up again is when I gain a new perspective on it. So, allow me to tread some new ground in familiar territory.

As someone who has followed a specific genre that often discusses selling out (punk rock and its various off-shoots), I've seen full cycles with bands from indies to major labels. I believe it started for me firsthand in 1996 when the Offspring moved from Epitaph to Columbia. The band's popularity had become so big that moving to a major label was a must. Did I really care about this move or how popular the band was? No. Did I think their next record would be an abomination because it was on a major label? No. The only thing I thought about were the vocal minority who feared the worst was on its way. What was "the worst"? Well, it depends on who you ask.

As proven over and over and over again, punk rock bands making the jump to a major label rarely means they abandon their hardcore fans and/or the community they came from. Yet it's that vocal minority that doesn't want their favorite/treasured band be known (or worse, liked) by people they don't see eye-to-eye with. I'm talking those annoying jocks, ditsy cheerleaders and stressed-out soccer moms and so on. But should a band take a beating on online message boards and middle fingers at shows for becoming popular? I say no, but I can understand why people feel alienated by bands becoming popular.

In the case of the Offspring, I felt their major label bow, Ixnay on the Hombre, was a perfectly fine follow-up to Smash. Sure they showed some different styles on the record (ie, the somber "Gone Away"), but it didn't feel like they became Seven Mary Three or Silverchair. What mattered most to me (and still matters to me) is whether the songs were good or not. The same applies to Against Me!'s recent Sire debut, New Wave.

Some background: Against Me! gained notoriety in the hardcore/punk underground with their distinct blend of pop-punk, folk and hardcore. Starting out as an acoustic project by frontman Tom Gabel, they played laundromats, bonfires and apartments at first. Assembling a full electric band and releasing the highly-lauded Reinventing Axl Rose on No Idea Records, the band's popularity grew much in part to non-stop touring. When word got out they were putting out their next record on Fat Wreck Chords, an annoyed fan poked a knife in one of the tires in the band's van. They had just played a basement show and as they were driving off, they heard the tire wobbling. This would be just some of the backlash the band would endure for the next few years.

With subsequent releases on Fat Wreck Chords, the band's popularity kept growing. 2005's Searching for a Former Clarity saw the band getting video airplay on various video channels, an appearance on Late Night With Conan O'Brien and an opening slot for Green Day on their American Idiot tour. So it wasn't shocking when the band announced they signed with Sire, a longtime imprint under Warner Bros, in late 2005. Fearing the worst was upon them, the vocal minority of fans cried out. And this was a full two years before their Sire debut came out.

My feelings on New Wave is, while a solid effort that sounds great, it's not as strong as Searching for a Former Clarity. I don't blame anybody involved with the record company or the production of the record for this; it just doesn't grab me like their other efforts do. That said, I see no reason to downplay my admiration for the band as a whole. I still like those older records and I still think highly of the band members as people.

What I'm now seeing with the topic of selling out is this: it's a concern by a minority that appears to be a concern for a majority of fans. Let's face it, the way articles are written, selling out is an easy topic to touch on. For me, I could give a rat's ass because it really has nothing to do with the music itself. It means more to me to run into Against Me!'s drummer at South By Southwest and have a polite discussion with him about the band. If he was a stuck-up, pompous asshole with a handler turning me away from him, that might be another story. But even if he was, my decision about New Wave would be based on the music, not the minutiae.

Yet the general idea of punk rock is that it's for outsiders made by outsiders. Well, as out of step I might feel with the world -- even at 28 -- I understand I'm not some out-on-the-fringes outsider. I realize what so many people want out of life is not exclusive to loners. Of course, I doubt my brain would have understood that as a teenager. And I doubt most would ever understand this when they're teenagers. Hence why the concern of selling out remains and may always remain.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Half Things

Here's video of us playing "Half Things" on Good Day Live. Enjoy the rock.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I'm playing twice tomorrow

I've never done two apperances in one day, but that will change tomorrow. I will be drumming with J.D. Whittenburg early in the morning and again much later in the evening. Here are the details:

#1 Good Day Live, Fox 4 morning show
When? Sometime in the 8am hour.
Where can I see this? If you live in the DFW area, it's channel 4 on your TV.
How long is the set? Two songs.
How many funny faces will you make? A few.
More info:

#2 The Cavern
When? Midnight
Where is this place? Lower Greenville
How long is the set? 45-50 minutes
How much does it cost? $6 and it's 21+
Who else is playing? Somebody's Darling and Hardin Sweaty & the Ready to Go.
How many funny funny faces will you make? Plenty.
More info: The Cavern

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Out of Step (TV edition)

I may stay on top of things like new music and movies, but when it comes to certain technology, I'm way out of step with the times. And I have plenty of reasons why.

The TV situation in particular is laughable by today's standards. My 32" TV still works fine, but it's not a widescreen TV. As much as I'd like to watch widescreen DVDs on a widescreen TV, buying one isn't in the budget right now.

Along those lines is recording TV shows. Well, I still don't have cable hooked up in my house, but I don't miss it. I'm too busy reading, writing and watching DVDs. I find myself way more productive when I don't have the nag/guilt of watching my fill of something I'm paying for. So I still rely on my VCR to tape episodes of LOST just in case I miss them. TiVo just isn't in the plans either.

Connected to the VCR is my Playstation 2. I rarely play it, but sometimes I'll play a Tony Hawk game, NHL 2003 or Guitar Hero II. I enjoy it and I'm not so sure I'll make the jump to Playstation 3 any time soon. Is it really worth all that much for something that costs about as much as a new CPU?

Why I have allowed such things to go out of touch is because of hesitation towards ever-changing technology. My desire is to buy something that lasts for quite a few years, not a couple. The reasoning behind this comes from when I was in college and DVD players and CD burners were selling like hotcakes. Those who wanted the latest paid out of the nose for something that didn't have all of its kinks ironed out. I figured it was worth waiting for a 16x CD burner with software that had gapless playback under $150 instead of getting an 8x burner with all sorts of kinks in the hardware and software right when it came out.

The same goes for TVs: do you want to pay two months rent for a flatscreen TV that will burn out on you in just a few years? Sorry, even if I did have that kind of expendable cash, I wouldn't pay for this. So I wonder: am I alone in this sentiment?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Come Away With Me

Back when I worked at Best Buy, I often encountered a rather peculiar type of music fan: those who had passed the 40-year-old mark and wanted soothing pop-rock/easy listening to contrast their hectic life. I'm talking the people who bought Celine Dion's Let's Talk About Love, the Titanic soundtrack and Norah Jones' Come Away With Me. A certain percentage also liked new age and smooth jazz as well, but the point was, they wanted music that was easy and polished. Frankly, seeing this type of music fandom was scary to me.

Why fear crept into me was, from what I could tell, these men and women used to be fans of rock 'n' roll. Yet with the decision to get married, move out to the suburbs and drive their kids in SUVs meant they had to "grow up" and ditch that rock 'n' roll music. Modern rock music scared them, so they wanted music that was light and elegant. Their idea of "variety" was not far-reaching: Kenny G, Celine Dion and Matchbox 20. When I came across an Onion editorial spoofing this view, I realized I wasn't alone in thinking this way.

The deal is (and the encouraging thing is as well), these days, a lot of parents with young children aren't trading in their copies of OK Computer and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot for Norah Jones' latest or Michael Buble. They aren't complaining about how they can't find good modern music and they aren't scared by it either. In other words, they aren't going soft any time soon.

I'm of the argument that when off-the-mainstream music hits you on a deeper level, you're not the same. You cannot go back to the way you previously found music. You're no longer sitting by the radio hoping for a new song to catch your ears. You're no longer reading the local mainstream paper in hopes they review a record you might actually like. It's a hunt and a hunt worth your time, but you can't go back to your old ways.

Maybe it's the people I hang out with and correspond with on the Internet, but I have yet to run into someone my age who has given up the rock for mashed potatoes. And that's fine by me.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Photo Album

Here's another example of looping back around to a record and finding it to be fantastic. As of late, I've finally understanding the greatness that is Death Cab for Cutie's The Photo Album.

The Photo Album is the band's third proper and was released in 2001. At that point, my fandom of the band was very bizarre. I couldn't get into their second album, We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes, but found their Forbidden Love EP incredible. I kept telling myself to stay with the band and try to find tracks as strong as the ones on the EP. This would end up taking a few years.

Back during my brief 2002 MP3 pillage, along with getting into XTC, the Pernice Brothers and the New Pornographers, I downloaded the rest of the Death Cab's catalog. I also had a promo copy of The Photo Album, but I found myself with so much material that I didn't know where to start. Somehow I started listening to their 2003 album, Transatlanticism, and found myself really enjoying it. It would be the beginning of really turning around with these guys.

My biggest complaint about Death Cab around then was how anti-climactic their songs seemed. Songs would build and build, but rarely came to a moment where everything really clicked in. It was as if they were afraid of rocking out too much. Hooks seemed few and very far inbetween. And it didn't help that a friendly rival band of my band worshipped the ground Death Cab walked on.

The band was comprised of some people that were friends of ours, so we got to know a little more about how the band was run. Essentially the two main songwriters told everybody what to do and one of the two was a major control freak. Seeing and hearing the direct influence of Death Cab's seemingly anti-climacticism made me want to dislike Death Cab even more. One late night trip back to Dallas saw me trying to give The Photo Album another chance, but alas, I felt bored and sleepy listening to it.

Years later, after hearing certain tracks like "Styrofoam Plates," "Why You'd Want to Live Here" and "We Laugh Indoors" live on the Drive Well, Sleep Carefully DVD, I liked what I heard. I approached with caution with listening to other tracks from the album. Songs like "Blacking Out the Friction" really rang true to me and slowly I came back around to the whole album.

Now, why I bring all this stuff up is for this point: not everybody clicks in with a record at the same time. The Photo Album may seem so 2001 for fans who claim to be on top of the game, but not for me. Had it not been for Transatlanticism and Plans, I doubt I would have gone back to band's back catalog. It's like I'm hearing the promise of a great band in development, but I didn't have that perspective back in 2001.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Words only got in the way

Reading Nathan's interview with Frank Oz yesterday brought up a lot of memories of an interview I did a few years ago for Post. If you haven't read the interview, Oz often cuts Nathan off and comes off as condescending with certain responses. At the same time, Oz takes the blame about various matters in his career. It's an interesting read, but at the same time I felt weird reading a totally competent interviewer be berated because he doesn't seem to use the right words.

In my case, the person I was interviewing -- who will be unnamed here -- is a major, major person featured in the book and I was thrilled he agreed to do an interview. He seemed very approachable and accommodating via e-mail correspondence prior to the interview, but things were a whole lot different once I got him on the phone.

One of the first things he said to me was, "I don't know why you're interviewing me for this." Gulp. Deer in headlights. Make your stand now or you're going to lose this, I thought. I had to explain a lot more about my book with just a few sentences. It was tense from there until the end of the interview. I quickly realized this would not be the kind of interview I normally like to do. I like interviews to be conversational and not a cold question-and-answer. So I had to change things up on spot. Every question I had was carefully worded, but that didn't seem to matter since I was often cut-off because I used a word he disagreed with. It was a long 55 minutes and transcribing the answers was painful.

When it was all said and done, I found myself with a lot of great material and quotes, but also felt my ass was handed to me. All that time studying up on the guy's background and hoping to ask some questions he hadn't been asked everyday of his life didn't seem to matter. At times, he was very nice, generous and encouraging. Other times, he came across as cold and uncaring. It was weird and I've never had an interview like it since. (As a side note, when talking with friends of mine who have done way more interviews over the years, some of them had almost the exact same experience with this guy. I guess it's a rite of passage.)

Something I decided early on with doing Post was that I would take on whatever growing pains it took to get this done. Be it constant edits or awkward interview moments, I saw a greater good worth fighting for. Never before or since have I felt that way about something, but it was something I wanted to see come to fruition.

Back to the matter at hand, what I have learned with this kind of interview is how I don't want to be during an interview or conversation. It helps me when I'm the interviewer and when I'm the interviewee. As slightly annoying/strange it is to be asked the same questions over and over, I have to give the interviewer the benefit of the fact that this is our first conversation. How can a person know more about me other than stuff on the surface? Besides, I don't have to give the same answer every time. I say flex those creative muscles that helped you accomplish what you accomplished. The same applies when I'm asking the questions: let the person talk and don't coldly cut him or her off for using the "wrong" word.

I will add this, it's really flattering when someone says, "Wow, you've done your research." On the flipside, it really sucks when an interviewee makes you feel like all that research doesn't mean squat. So my words of advice: give people room to make mistakes and allow them to not know everything that you know.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Girls Can Tell

This week's edition of Leah's Podqast series is on "dating advice for single guys." All three guests hit on some really sore spots for me and that's probably why I liked this episode. As painful as it is to hear about this stuff, it actually puts things in a better context for me. I'd love to be on a rebuttal episode, but even if that happens, I'd probably talk the whole nineteen minutes non-stop. So, in order to rein in my response, here it goes in written form.

Three key pieces of advice given in the episode are:

Women are really not that difficult. It's not rocket science.

Guys don't really have to think about it a whole lot. Just be yourself and be confident. You can smell fear. You can tell when a guy is afraid to come and talk to you or a guy doesn't really feel too confident about who he is. It sort of makes you not take notice of them.

Dating is ultimately a numbers game.

It would be easy for me to take this advice and just relax. The problem is, I can't relax about this topic. Relaxing means putting faith in something I don't have a lot of positive faith in. Almost every little attempt to put positive faith into it has been squashed by the regret of doing "the wrong thing."

Hearing the advice of being myself is a really tough thing to swallow. I've wrestled with the notion of "being myself" for a long time. What constitutes being "myself" anyway? I'm confident with a lot of stuff, but I'm not confident about a lot of other stuff. I'm shy in certain situations and I'm a court jester in other ones.

As you can probably tell, this stuff agitates me because this is an area where I don't allow myself to fail. I'm very hard on myself with a lot of things, especially here. I've played the fool way too many times and wonder if this is something I really need.

A situation presented on the show involves a woman staring at a guy in a bar, hoping he comes up and talks to her. I've never had this experience because I've never given someone I don't know a serious second glance. Besides, I don't go to bars to see and be seen. I'm usually there to see a band and/or hang out with friends. That's the comfort zone and see no reason to step out of it.

If I were to contemplate stepping out of the zone, the mental border police stop me with a ton of questions: How am I supposed to know she's single and interested in me? How am I supposed to know she's being friendly or flirty? How am I supposed to know she's single when she's essentially in a relationship with a guy, but they have yet to be "official"? How am I supposed to know she's got major issues? . . . And these are just some of them.

This approach seems like a poker game to me. You want to be friendly and open, but previous experience says to play your cards close to your chest. You'll get berated by your friends if you say the wrong thing, but you get even more grief when you decide to not play at all. It's a no-win situation.

Something I've recently understood about myself is my tendency to believe reality-based imagination is reality. Taking things out of context can present a distorted reality. These days, I try to distinguish between what's a thought based on my life now and a thought based on exaggerated memories. It can be very difficult.

In the case of this topic, years of hurt present the case that more hurt is on its way. But now I try to not forecast so much in advance. It's hard to not think about this stuff, but I keep getting the feeling there's a reason why this topic keeps coming up. Something tells me I should fix this, it feels pretty impossible to fix.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Energy for what?

As I noticed an unopened can of Rockstar Energy Drink in my fridge this afternoon, I got to thinking about energy drinks in general. What's the appeal of something like Red Bull or Rockstar? What kind of "energy" do you really get from one? And why are they so popular when mixed with hard liquor?

I've only had one experience with Red Bull and it was quite a trip. While attending a party one block away from my house, I decided to try this beloved mix of Red Bull and vodka. Funny thing is, I don't remember if I had one or two cups of this concoction; it was that strong. The whole night was not a blur, but I was pretty buzzed until I went to bed at 3am. I was talking really fast and was not very restrained. And this was with Diet Red Bull.

I think energy drinks would come in handy if you were really tired at work and trying to get through the day. I've had no interest in having one at my job. Sometimes I'll have a half-cup of coffee and that will be enough. As for co-workers, I have yet to see any of them have one. And I work at a place that is manned 24/7/365. I think they would be really popular with students who like to stay up late and cram the night before a test or a paper, but I'm not in high school or college anymore.

I have seen plenty of Red Bull and vodkas ordered at the few bars I regularly go to. They sure are popular, but I wonder how much of an energy boost someone would really want on a late night bar trip. It's as if they mixed Mountain Dew with rum or vodka. What are you going to do after that? Go surfboarding?

Help me out here folks. Do you really enjoy a shot of sugar-filled energy late at night with your alcoholic intake? Is there something about the taste that makes it so tempting to have? What gives?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A contender for the greatest unanswered questions of all time

Here's a question: if Abercrombie & Fitch is in the business of selling clothes, why do most of their advertisements show models barely wearing any clothes?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Step aside, Red

A recent Crosstalk asked a really good question: Are Superhero Comics Played Out? It's a question I've asked myself over the years and my answer has always been yes. As a matter of fact, it's a big reason why I don't read them. I think, "how many times do I want to read about Spider-Man's origin, certain X-Men members dying and resurrecting, Marvel/DC crossovers, et al?" This stuff may be played out to me, but that's OK. I think there's a fundamental reason why superheroes stick around and should stick around.

I can't speak for people my age who still read superhero books, but I will say new generations of kids are always getting into comics. And they don't always want to read a reprint from the Sixties bound in a trade paperback. So, reintroducing an iconic hero is going to happen over and over again for the foreseeable future.

With my own experience, as campy as the Super Friends and Spider-Man cartoons were, they got me into superheroes, which in part, led me to comics. But comics were sold in dirty little stores where scraggly old men and young weirdos worked -- so my mother and I thought -- so I only went once. I never went back to one until I was in college and realized that my original perception was a tad off. Regardless, I was satisfied with the cartoons and movies between my trip to get the Buckaroo Banzai comic and the trip to get some of Kevin Smith's comics.

The way I see it, the idea of the superhero should be introduced at a young age. Superheroes have a good influence on kids. They did on my life, but I simply reached a point where superhero comics didn't do anything for me anymore. I can still be moved by the relatively-recent Superman and Batman live-action movies, yet keeping up with the comic series seems like I've seen and read the same old story before.

Plus, the abundance of obnoxious fanboys pretty much keeps me away from comic book stores. Not all fanboys are obnoxious, but there are plenty who are and it sucks. And I think about kids who go to the comic book shop for the first time and get a mouthful from one of them standing at the counter. Just being around someone who gives you grief for buying something he or she vocally abhors takes the fun out of discovering something for the first time. Chances are good a kid buying his or her's first issue of Spider-Man will not understand the supreme awesomeness of Watchmen and The Dark Knight. But that doesn't mean the person never will.

The point I'm going with this is, superheroes, no matter how played out they are, are essential to comics. They are synonymous with what most people think comics are and I find nothing wrong with that. I might not read them in comic form anymore, but that doesn't mean the idea of the superhero means less to me. I'm more inclined to read Box Office Poison, Torso or Dumped because they are closer to what I'm interested in now. I guess it's like what Halloween means to me now: when I was younger, it was about getting candy and dressing up in a costume. Now, it's about giving away candy and being nice to kids . . . all while I watch Halloween and Student Bodies later in the evening. In other words, it's a matter of taste changing with maturity.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Defensive Bickering

It fascinates me how we get really defensive with people we don't really know. Meaning, somebody we only really know through a message board post, a comment in a comment section, a random e-mail or even a phonecall. Yet we somehow take stock in these people. I wonder why.

It's one thing to get slightly defensive with a good friend over something like a record. But it seems much different when it's somebody you don't really know. I recently had a friendly debate with Matt over Metallica's St. Anger. He absolutely hates that record while I think it's an underappreciated gem. Is our friendship hanging in the balance over which one is right? Nope. This is a matter of personal opinion. He hates the record for his own reasons and I love it for my own reasons. If this was on a message board and I had never met Matt in real life, this would be a whole other matter.

For so long, it seemed like the only places I could discuss my various favorite bands was online. Be it e-mail discussion lists, message boards or comment sections, it seemed to fill a void. Back in college, I didn't really know anyone else personally who cared that much about Jimmy Eat World, Stavesacre and blink-182 as much I did. So, I joined in the discussions and chimed in whenever I felt I had something to say.

It's not like all of the discussions got ugly and personal, but plenty of them did. Debates about faith and selling out were had and I usually steered cleared of them. Usually I didn't think I had anything interesting to add or whatnot, so I just read. On the times that I did, sometimes I'd get rather defensive. Looking back, those debates seemed like a warped reality based almost completely on my imagination. People can be very vicious, even more in the written form than anywhere else, and this was a turnoff.

Now I realize that life's too short to get defensive with people I don't really know. I don't have the luxury to get to know everyone I talk to, but I choose to focus more on the people I know. Anonymous bickering may be a release for others, but it's not the life for me.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Once there were parking lots/now it's a peaceful oasis

So many band names come from all kinds of pop culture. Some are funny inside jokes, like how At the Drive-In got their name from Poison's "Talk Dirty to Me." Some are just random little things. Well, what happens when you hear about where a band name comes from and then you see where it comes from (or vice versa)? It's a strange coincidence that's happened a few times to me over the years.

Back in college, I really dug a melodic hardcore band from Chicago called 88 Fingers Louie. I had no idea where they got their name from until I read that it came from an episode of The Flintstones. I had seen so many episodes of that show growing up, but I was blanking on the episode for some reason. By pure chance a few weeks later, while visiting a friend in Austin, his little sister had The Flintstones on the TV. Turns out it was the "Hot Piano" episode with . . . 88 Fingers Louie. Weird timing I thought.

Last year, I was very taken with Clerks II for various reasons, including the music choices. Opening with Talking Heads' "(Nothing But) Flowers," I'd never heard it before but knew it was David Byrne and company because of Byrne's voice. Maybe the following week or so, I get a call from Nate Mendel, former bassist of Sunny Day Real Estate, and we get to talking about his former band for Post. Eventually I ask where did the band get their name -- a question that supposedly had been shrouded in mystery for years. Surprisingly, he clearly explained where he got the name from: "(Nothing But) Flowers."

Anybody else experience something like this?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Ryan brought it up: Guns N' Roses' Appetite for Destruction came out twenty years ago. This also reminds me: it's been twenty years since I moved to Texas. I must say, it doesn't feel like twenty years; it's more like twelve years.

Monday, August 06, 2007


Blame my imagination, but whenever I'd read about essential albums released at least ten years before, I thought the times were a tad more "innocent." Meaning, this great record could never be made in this day and age and there's no way something new will ever come close. Well, seeing how that's a load of baloney, but credit should be given where it's due.

In the latest issue of Alternative Press, there's an article devoted to the "Class of 1997: a look back at 10 albums that shaped that punk of today." Being a reader of AP off and on since 1997, it was rather surreal to read about records I remembered being released back in the day. I was a freshman in college and dug for a lot of music that wasn't so easily found (or not found at all) on MTV, VH1 or daytime radio. This was not an innocent time per se, just a different time compared to my life before and after it.

While certain magazines spun about trying to make bold statements in the now covering a lot of grunge and Britpop leftovers and electronica groups, AP actually gave a number of these future essential records some coverage. Say what you will about how the mag is mostly for the Warped Tour audience now, but at least they've always given legitimate/sincere coverage to stuff like this.

So, without further adieu, here's a little walk down memory lane:

blink-182, Dude Ranch (MCA)
A pop-punk record on a major label three long years post-Dookie? You bet. Though the band wouldn't become superstars until their next record, Enema of the State, this band showed a lot of promise here. (It did go Gold thanks in part to steady airplay of "Dammit" and eventually went double platinum.)

These are fast, tuneful little ditties clearly inspired by Fat Wreck Chords pop-punk. But there was a lot of other stuff that didn't make it sound like a NOFX knockoff. Maybe that's why this stuff still holds up well. Once Drive-Thru Records came in with watered-down versions of this style and sold a lot of records, it was a point of no return. I found this version so bad that I couldn't understand how anyone could claim this was worth a crap. Luckily for me, I started uncovering more about a sound Tom DeLonge and Mark Hoppus praised about in a 120 Minutes interview: emo.

Foo Fighters, The Colour and the Shape (Capitol)
A big record right out of the gate and still one of their best albums. A completely different vibe from the self-titled debut, almost every single song blew me away, right away. Previewing half of the album on Modern Rock Live along with interviewing Dave, Nate and new drummer Taylor Hawkins, I couldn't believe the songs I was hearing.

It was also on this program that I heard about a Pixies album that became my first Pixies album: Trompe Le Monde. Describing it as the Pixies' most accessible record, Dave's words inspired me to start with this one. Though his claim is debatable in retrospect, at least it got the ball rolling for me with that band.

The Get Up Kids, Four Minute Mile (Doghouse)
I don't recall this record coming out to much fanfare right out of the gate, but the band's name kept floating around throughout the year. Aaron briefly mentioned them in an extensive AP piece on modern hardcore and called them a poppy band. A poppy hardcore band? I had to hear this.

While record shopping in Austin at Sound Exchange, I found a used copy of Four Minute Mile. Despite listening to it over and over again for the next few days, I couldn't really get into it. Too rough around the edges for my taste, but there were a number of catchy songs. Thankfully I didn't write them off. By the Red Letter Day EP the following year, I, along with lots of other pop-punk, ska and hardcore fans were taking a lot of notice with these guys.

Deftones, Around the Fur (Maverick)
A bandmate of mine loved their debut, Adrenaline, and wanted to cover "7 Words." I dug that song and a number of other songs, so I looked forward to Around the Fur. Thanks to an eye-catching video for "My Own Summer (Shove It)," I was pretty impressed. Strangely, I never really got into this record. At least I was aware of one of the better, non-pseudo/macho moron metal bands. There weren't that many.

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Let's Face It (Mercury)
The one Bosstones record where everything clicked was also their most popular. Like their previous efforts, they fused metal, ska, punk and melodic tuneage, but had yet to make a really solid effort. I should also note (and it seems so long ago), but ska was huge around this time. Sure, you had Slapstick and Skankin' Pickle before this, but bands like Goldfinger, Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake and the Bosstones got us pop-punk fans into ska. But once these bands released their follow-ups about two years later, the novelty of skitchy guitars and horns was over. Let's Face It is definitely one of the highlights of this genre.

Ben Folds Five, Whatever and Ever Amen (Sony/550)
One of my favorite records of all time. This is everything I liked about '60s/'70s pop mixed with fuzz bass, jazzy drums and a little bit of humor. You can't go wrong with any of the Five's three proper albums, but this one is still the essential one.

I must say, it was very odd to see "Brick" become a big hit later in the year. No other band can say its biggest hit was a downbeat number about abortion and these guys are still like no other.

Discount, Half Fiction (Kat)
A record I've never heard from a band I've heard little about. Not necessarily pop-punk, but energetic poppy punk/hardcore with female vocals. I know these folks played a lot of shows with Hot Water Music back in the day and featured Todd Rockhill, a future member of the Draft who has 3/4s of Hot Water Music in it, and Alison Mosshart, currently of the Kills. I don't remember this record getting a lot of talk back in the day, but maybe I wasn't looking hard enough.

Modest Mouse, The Lonesome Crowded West (Up)
Another record I don't really know much about and don't remember coming out to much fanfare. The strange thing is, merely a year later, I heard some high praise about Modest Mouse. It still baffles me as to how these guys could play the massive Ridglea Theater a few years later and almost sell the place out. Nobody really knew who they were, but a lot of people wanted to go see them. Definitely a record I should give some more attention to (or just burn a copy from Jason's copy and eventually get to it.)

Snapcase, Progression Through Unlearning (Victory)
I thought all hardcore was like Sick of It All, Minor Threat and Agnostic Front. Nope. Owing more to Helmet and Quicksand, Snapcase's second album still doesn't sound like a diminishing return. While labelmates Earth Crisis were spreading/warping their militant straight edge/vegan views to "the kids," Snapcase talked about broader things. Despite singing about us killing through our ignorance, Snapcase wasn't all about singing about a one truth/promise you make to yourself about abstaining from alcohol, smoking, drugs and promiscuity. (You know, rallying cries a lot of people made before they realized the world isn't black and white.)

Progression Through Unlearning is still an inspiring record musically and lyrically, especially the line, "Now I can walk through those, through those fires that burn in the path of my dreams." Plus, the documentary on the multimedia section of the CD is still a worthwhile watch.

The Mr. T Experience, Revenge is Sweet and So Are You (Lookout!)
A record I remember seeing advertised, but I've never heard it. There were so many Lookout! releases at that time and Dr. Frank and crew was just one of their bands. I was more into playing catch-up with Screeching Weasel, Operation Ivy and Green Day back in '97 and these guys just fell through the cracks.

So there you have it. But I still can't believe it's been ten years since all this came out. Then again, time flies when you're doing want you want to do.

Friday, August 03, 2007

"What is this obsession people have with books?"

As I go through another round of edits on Post, not only do I wonder when this will come out, but how it will come out. Moreover, I wonder if there will ever be a time when the books we read will be via the Internet. Akin to how we listen to music with MP3s, get news from websites and read about bands via blogs, I wonder if books will be next. I highly doubt it's going to happen in the near future, but consider the question: would you really want to read a novel on your computer?

Books are portable and can be read anywhere at any time. Unlike an MP3 or CD player blaring music, you don't worry if reading a book is bugging someone next to you on a train. (That is, unless you're reading aloud.) Plus, there haven't been any advancements in making a book completely available online and compatible with something like an iPod.

There's something inherent with surfing the Internet: it's hard to stare at something for very long. As much as I appreciate well written articles, blog posts, reviews, etc., I rarely read a multi-paragraph write-up at first glance. So asking me to read a whole book online is a test of extreme patience.

I remember attempting to read Billy Corgan's memoir, The Confessions of Billy Corgan, on his website (currently found here along with other things). Shortly into it, I had to stop. There was nothing wrong with his writing style, but I just didn't have the patience to sit at my computer and read a whole chapter. (I should also add that I was not really that interested to know about the first time he saw his grandmother naked.)

As easy as it would be to throw my current draft of Post up on a website, I think that would be a cheat/retreat in the long run. It would be like serving lasagna after only ten minutes in the oven. Though it may seem like it's been in the works long enough, there are a lot of things at work that say to hold off and wait to publish this in print form.

What do you think? Would you ever consider reading a book on your computer?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Back to School

Once again, I'm the guest on Leah's Girl Talk Podqast this week. This week's edition is devoted to high school. I discuss matters with a high school senior and my ten-year high school reunion.