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"
"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


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.