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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Ballad of Johnny Burma

Props to Eric for giving a heads-up on the recent DVD release of Not a Photograph, a documentary on Boston's beloved Mission of Burma. Taking in a viewing a few days ago, here are my thoughts.

First and foremost: I'm not a huge fan of Burma's work, but I'm a fan. Though last year's The Obliterati is really good, the Signals, Calls and Marches EP is still my favorite. That said, I wasn't watching the documentary in hopes this would be a concert film. I honestly wanted to know how in the hell did this band get back together.

Based on what I've read in Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life and interviews with the band post-reunion, their break-up was not an ugly ordeal. If anything, it was a sad one spurred by vocalist/guitarist Roger Miller's tinnitus. Not a Photograph fills in the gaps as far as what each of the three main band members have been up to. Miller has been working on music, bassist/vocalist Clint Conley has worked in TV, and drummer Peter Prescott works at a record store. Elusive tape manipulator Martin Swope chose not to participate in the reunion and no real concrete reason is given in the film. If anything, the myth around Swope continues.

What made the documentary really worthwhile was its honest portrayal of these guys. Conley, a fully-domesticated father and husband, had not played a lot of music since the band's break-up. His wife never knew he was in Mission of Burma. Also nice is Prescott's confession in a taxi that he's going to miss playing with the band after the initial reunion shows are over. Though the band has played many shows since then and are permanently reunited, I was glad to see this scene in the film.

On a personal note, I found the interviews with Azerrad and Moby were a great touch. Moby was the guy that introduced me to Burma via his cover of "That's When I Reach For My Revolver." A short time later (maybe less than a year later), most of the Burma catalog was reissued by Rykodisc and I picked them up. Reading the band's story in Our Band Could Be Your Life, Azerrad made me really care about these guys as people. So having him in the film totally made sense. His polite explanation of Nirvana and their years of existence to Conley's mother is pure gold.

Make no mistake, at seventy minutes long, Not a Photograph could have been longer. More explanation about Rick Harte and his Ace of Hearts label issuing their material could have been covered some more. As a matter of fact, it felt like the band's seminal recorded output is briefly touched upon. But still, a documentary about Mission of Burma is better than no documentary at all.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Callum Robbins benefit update

If you read Pitchfork this morning, you probably saw a news item about a second Chicago benefit for Callum Robbins. Shellac is set to play, but the date and venue is reportedly subject to change. Stay tuned.

Monday, January 29, 2007

We speak in different voices

I make no secret about how much I love At the Drive-In. I make no secret about how influential this band was in its day and is still influential. Every time I see a video for a band featuring five skinny guys in tight clothing, singing songs with shouting/singing vocals and noodly guitar lines, I revert back to those guys from Hell Paso. Yes, that band who was seriously considered a shoe-in for rock royalty but is now thought of as a "Oh well, they broke up too soon" band.

Since '01, many bands have (knowingly or unknowingly) aped the formula At the Drive-In did so well (which can be traced back to a number of bands on Gravity Records). So when I heard a song (and saw its video) from a highly-touted young band, I couldn't help think they owe some sort of debt. But this band supposedly has an "it" factor. After giving the song a few listens, I'm still asking myself: what's so great about Saosin?

I might be reading into this, but I wonder what their charm is over all sorts of other bands just like them. A hotly-tipped band for a few years, the band has sold a lot of copies of their EPs and self-titled debut album. Saosin's lead-off single "Voices" has a really catchy chorus, but this is definitely not a song that will crossover beyond the emo/screamo crowd. Yes, it's nice to hear lead singer Cove Reber sing clearly and not have any of the other band members scream like Kyle Bishop from Grade. But what gives?

One of the sharpest criticisms I've heard about At the Drive-In is they didn't write pop songs. No, "One Armed Scissor" is not like "Surrender" or even "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Maybe its the noodly guitar lines and the syncopated rhythms, but it's not unlistenable anarchy. There's plenty to love in the melody department.

So I wonder this: should major labels just give up the ghost and move onto something else? Hasn't there been enough damage with all these screamo bands? Or are they going to keep milking the cow until after the cow's dried up?

Friday, January 26, 2007

When "Keeping It Real" Goes Wrong (KSE Edition)

Killswitch Engage on Jimmy Kimmel Live

Maybe audio enhancements aren't all bad . . .

Friday Satire

Time for some more satire . . .

Man Appalled at the Abundance of Bum Notes in Oldies Music

It had been a few years since Marc Griggs listened to an oldies radio station. A regular listener of hot talk, modern rock and classic rock, he was shocked to hear a number of songs on 97.4 the Drive with bum notes, botched drum fills and some off-key vocals.

“I could’t believe it,” Griggs, 47, said Tuesday after his twelve-year-old daughter turned the radio dial to the Drive. “Music is supposed to entertain me without making any mistakes.”

A number of songs Griggs heard, like the Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man,” Sonny & Cher’s “The Beat Goes On” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” infuriated him. “There’s a really noticeable guitar hiccup at the end of the ‘Mr. Tambourine Man,’ Cher sings most of ‘The Beat Goes On’ in a different key and the drummer isn’t perfectly in sync when the third verse of ‘Sound of Silence’ starts.”

Compared to the modern music Griggs enjoys, from Nickelback to Rascal Flatts, he says those artists don’t make mistakes on their recordings. “Every note is perfectly in tune, there are no mangled drum fills and they rock,” Griggs said. “Why in the world would someone want to hear otherwise?”

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Look through the classifieds

In the last month or so, the search for band members has been brought up in some conversations I've had. Kyle's new band Sound on Sound is looking for a bass player and Ryan is looking to start a new band. In talking with both of them, amusing/odd stories about the responses to "[musician] wanted" ads were brought up. If you've played in a band or wanted to start one, chances are good you have some funny/frustrating stories. Here are a few of mine in recent memory.

Four years ago, the 11:30s were down a bassist and a guitarist. Our fill-in bassist couldn't play with us anymore due to scheduling and our second guitarist moved back to San Antonio. Thinking I could keep the band alive as a trio, I posted a flyer up at Good Records for a bassist. I got a couple of legit responses, but both of the guys didn't return phone calls or e-mails after showing initial interest. (Come on, is it that tough to say you're not interested? I don't do subtle.)

One night I got a call from this rather spunky teenage girl asking if we needed a piano player. She saw the flyer, said she didn't play bass but was offering to play piano/keyboard for us if we supplied the keyboard. I didn't return her phone calls not because I was scared of saying no to her; I just didn't know what the hell to think or say. Though Dave and I never officially broke up the band, the 11:30s just dissolved a short time later.

Not so long after being let go from Voigt, I wanted to start a new band from the ground up. I posted an ad on a website for Dallas-based musicians and waited to see what kinds of responses I would get. My ad was very specific about the kinds of bands I liked and wanted to play music in the style of (the Jam, the Posies, Ride and Braid were just some of them). Most of the responses I got made me wonder if these people even read the kinds of bands I listed. One band was a cover band who played 3 Doors Down, Matchbox Twenty, CCR and Lynyrd Skynyrd covers. Another response was, "Hey, those bands you listed are cool. We're like Radiohead meets the Deftones." Um, not all rock music is the same. I didn't respond to any of these.

A few weeks later, I got a message from my old 11:30s bandmate Goose. He told me he found my new band. He said there was this guy in Dallas named Jason who played in Ashburne Glen. Three years later, I'm still in the band and very happy. But I'll never forget all those false starts and funny responses.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Can't You Hear Me Knockin'

I've received quite a bit of positive feedback from people who saw the Rolling Stones Hoot Night last Friday. Danny over at Boca Tinta has a great review of the whole show and said some very kind words about my playing. I left a comment ("All those years of fearing I would be thrown out of bands because I didn’t hit hard enough have worked!") and I thought it would be cool to share why I said that. I think it's a pretty funny story.

Back in high school, my first real band (as in, we played shows and wrote original songs) started out by playing a lot of Nirvana covers. We played "Drain You," "Rape Me," "Territorial Pissings" and "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter" and we even covered a Wipers tune that Nirvana covered ("D-7"). Our singer/guitarist was a huge fan of Nirvana and had a ton of rare Nirvana stuff on tape and on CD (thanks to those numerous Outcesticide bootlegs). I didn't know how far his fanaticism about Nirvana went, but I think it went pretty far.

A few months into the band, I read Michael Azerrad's Come As You Are: the Story of Nirvana. Reading it, I came to find the biggest complaint about Nirvana's drummers who weren't Dale Crover or Dave Grohl: they didn't hit the drums hard enough. Fearing I would be kicked out of the band because I didn't hit hard enough, I started hitting harder and harder. I didn't break a lot of equipment this way, but I definitely went through drumsticks faster.

Looking back on that time, that fear is really funny. Our scene of rock bands was small, so it wasn't like we had a lot of choices if we were looking for replacement members. There were plenty of available guitar players, but not a lot of available drummers or bassists. Strangely I think that's still the case where I live now. But I digress . . .

But the fear really drove me to step up in my playing. I like rocking out and for years, it was the only way I could deal with my frustrations about life. I never thought I could talk this stuff out with friends or family, so I banged away. These days, the banging away is more or less just for fun and what's best for the song. With Ashburne Glen songs, if we're rocking out, I don't want to let my bandmates down. If we're chilling out, I don't want to play too loud. I love having a wide range of dynamics. Ten years ago, it was mainly soft to loud with very little in between.

In the case of the Rolling Stones songs, I noticed how charged the choruses were when we practiced them. I think I was playing more like John Bonham than Charlie Watts, but if the song's a-rockin' I'm not going to drop the ball and cop out.

Some people want to hit something when they're mad. Hitting friends or lovers is illegal (and immoral in my book) and punching holes in walls costs you a trip to the Home Depot. So I choose to redirect my anger into something musical. I'm not as angry as I used to be and I'm not so sure I'll be devoid of anger. Here's to future pounding.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Place for Friends (. . . And Cam-Whores)

Over on Keith's blog, he has a post on a recent checking of his MySpace account: lots of Friend Requests from "cam-whores." If you're on MySpace, chances are very good you've received a Friend Request from these people. More often than not, they're fake spam profiles featuring some young female jailbait wanting to "meet new people." I am not bombarded by these on a daily basis, but I get a few every week. The delete button is always hit with these requests and the volume of requests has yet to be a problem.

But I wonder when I see a number of single female friends of mine who have their profiles marked as "Private" (meaning it's not viewable to people other than the ones on their Friends pages). Furthermore, I have yet to encounter a male's page listed as "Private." Are single women just overloaded with requests from male cam-whores and their ilk? Is the quantity so large that women have to go into hiding?

Technically, I'm a prime target for cam-whores. Listed as "Single" and "Straight" (what I really am in real life), lonely females/spammers probably prey on this the most. Even if the profile is real, I have no interest in getting to know an aspiring porn star via a site like MySpace. I don't troll around the site looking for females to date. As a matter of fact, I've never thought of it as a site like Match.com or eHarmony.com. I use it as a source of networking/keeping in touch with actual friends of mine. In other words, I'm not one to drive a Single White Female I've never met in person crazy with flimsy flirting on MySpace or anywhere else.

So I'm curious with my readers who have MySpace profiles, have you seen this too? Is the number of lonely/horny males way more than the lonely/horny females? Or are there totally different reasons? I've heard of people listing themselves as 'Private' so their employer or parents don't see the page, but I'm not sure that's the most frequent reason.

Monday, January 22, 2007

You better stop and look around

Playing two shows in one weekend is way more than I normally play. On top of that, both shows consisted of totally different sets and band members. So this is why I'm running a little slow today (yesterday's muddy kickball game also has something to do with this).

As previewed in my previous post, I was a part of the Hoot Night at Club Dada on Friday. Covering a handful of Rolling Stones songs ("Paint It, Black," "Mother's Little Helper," "Ruby Tuesday," "Heart of Stone," "Angie," "Let's Spend the Night Together," "Get Off Of My Cloud" and "Honky Tonk Women"), our little makeshift band got the crowd hopping. I had never played to a dancing audience before, but it was fun. I give a lot of thanks to Ryan for getting this ball rolling for us.

What was peculiar about the other acts was how they reworked Rolling Stones songs and how certain people in the audience treated them. The Naptime Shake (aka, Noah Bailey) played first armed with only two acoustic guitars and a kazoo. Doing a few originals along with a few Stones songs, I really liked what I heard. However, it was during this set that a mystical figure appeared towards the stage: Beyond-Gone Drunk Guy Who Thinks He's Funny and Invincible. Complete with a hat straight out of the J. Peterman catalog, this forty-something sang brutally off-key along with Noah. Noah held his own and even thanked the guy for singing along.

BGDGWTHFI made an appearance during our set and his hat made its way to the stage. Joshua played a song with it on, as did Fred and Amanda. I think the guy liked our songs since we played the songs closer to their originally recorded versions. That said, a part of me wished the guy would just float out of there with his female companion. My wish was granted in the middle of Sean Kirkpatrick's set.

Sean tackled a number of Stones classics, including "Gimme Shelter," "Jigsaw Puzzle" and "Mother's Little Helper." As usual, he was unaccompanied with only his voice and piano. I can understand certain people decreeing Sean's approach to the Stones as sacrilegious, but that's not the view I took with what I heard. I'm a fan of Sean's work with the pAper chAse and solo, so I really enjoyed his interpretations of these songs. He isn't afraid of playing ugly notes and he's not afraid of playing pretty notes. However, for BGDGWTHFI, this was something to mock.

Making lewd gestures towards certain patrons, the guy was asked politely to leave the venue. As he's leaving, he walks right up to Sean and says, "You're a sad excuse for the Rolling Stones." Sean, with a big smile on his face and a gleam in his eyes, responds, "Thank you. I'm a sad excuse for the Rolling Stones." That must have been the highlight of my night. Sean treated us to few originals and that was a nice way to end the night.

Saturday night was a marathon. We played with the Happy Bullets in Shreveport, a solid three hours away from us. Riding together in a rented van, we got there in time despite the fact it rained the whole way there. Paired with local act the Peekers, we had an alright show with a good crowd. The Peekers were fun even though they were down a member due to stomach flu and had technical problems (including an overheated PA). We played OK, but it wasn't until the middle of the set that I got into the groove of playing our songs. My whole week was devoted to Stones songs, so it took me a few songs to get out of that headspace. The Bullets were fun as usual and I even played second snare drum on "A Proper Rifle Assembly."

After the show, we decided to head on back to Dallas. Regina was up for driving while we all slept (or tried to sleep). About an hour into it, I woke up to find us driving in pure fog. It was like Silent Hill sans the creepy monsters. Luckily, the white lines on the highway were visible for twenty yards, so we got home soundly and on time.

So here I am today. One day before scheduled unclehood. Stay tuned.

Friday, January 19, 2007

On With the Show

Some time ago on this very blog, I shared my frustration of drummers who play with only one cymbal. I'm talking drummers who have this notion that one cymbal can cover all sorts of bases when it comes to crashing and riding on a beat. I've seen and heard one-too-many drummers with this set-up and they drop beats and accents in the process. It's annoying to be frank. So why in the world am I playing with one cymbal tonight? I have some very good reasons.

Tonight is another "Hoot Night" at Club Dada. The last Hoot Night revolved around songs by the Beach Boys. Tonight's revolves around the Rolling Stones. Ryan from Zine-O-Phonic approached me about putting a band together for this and I agreed. Along with members of Blackheart Society and the Felons, we have a handful of Stones covers to play.

In learning these songs on the drums in the last few weeks, I couldn't help but notice that Stones drummer Charlie Watts is very conservative with his cymbal hits. So much so that I wanted to alter my kit so I didn't have the urge to get all cymbal-happy. I paired it down to my hi-hats and my 20" crash-ride and it works for the songs. But don't think I've joined the paired-down dark side for good. Ashburne Glen is playing tomorrow night in Shreveport and I'm playing with a full kit, complete with two crashes and a ride cymbal.

So why all the fuss about playing with only one cymbal? Well, depending on the music, crucial accents can be lost, thus diminishing the power of the overall song. I've seen many shows where the drummers side-step accents so they can keep it simple. I argue it's too simple. A ride cymbal is a versatile cymbal, but it's not that versatile.

However, I've seen some incredible drummers pull off amazing sets with only one cymbal and not missing a single accent. Matt Pence from Centro-Matic and Josh Prisk from Record Hop play all over their kits and don't miss a beat, fill or accent. Steven Drozd from the Flaming Lips is another great example. Because the Lips' material is already full of colors, keeping the drums as simple (and loud) is perfect.

But the worst offenders I've seen of beat/accent dropping are Fab Moretti of the Strokes and Warren Oakes from Against Me! Both are great drummers in great bands, but it's very annoying when I hear them glide through accents, seemingly not paying attention to the guitars and vocals. Whenever I hear AM!'s "Unprotected Sex With Multiple Partners," I cringe at the awkward transition Oakes makes from the intro riff to the verse riff. It's like he's letting down his bandmates. I don't want to let my bandmates down by dropping accents, but I'm not about to have some Neil Peart-like forest of cymbals either.

Maybe there's a deeper issue at hand here. I argue if you play very dynamic rock music, drummers need something more than just one kinda dynamic cymbal. In the case of the handful of Stones songs I'm playing tonight, I'm honoring Charlie Watts (who doesn't drop many beats despite always looking bored when he plays) and part of that means scaling back.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Yesterday's Papers

Jim DeRogatis's review of the new "reality" show I'm From Rolling Stone had me with its headline: I was once 'From Rolling Stone,' and it wasn't anything like MTV's new show. DeRogatis's time at Rolling Stone has been well-documented elsewhere (he has a whole chapter devoted to it in his book, Milk It!) and the sour grapes are still there, as evidenced by his review.

I have yet to watch the show, but I get the sense it's like so many "reality" shows: expose and embarrass people by tricking them into thinking they are gaining something while losing so much in the process. People want to see the show itself and (more often than not) could give a rat's ass about what happens to these people after the season (or series) is over. This is not the kind of stuff I call entertaining, but this brings up an interesting, albeit whole other topic: why the hell am I still reading Rolling Stone?

Say whatever you like about who's covered in each issue, but the sticking point I have always liked is the quality of its writing. A reader since high school (and a subscriber since college), I've enjoyed reading about people I'm curious about even if I don't care about the music this act is making. Its main stories about mainstream artists go deeper than the average mainstream music magazine, so maybe that's why I hang on.

But these days, when it comes to reading about music for me, it's mostly with various blogs, a couple of music news/reviews/features sites, Punk Planet, The Big Takeover and the SOMB (in addition to listening to the Sound Opinions podcast). Given the choice of reading about the new Ted Leo or Arcade Fire record on a website versus Rolling Stone's tribute to James Brown today, I'll read about the Ted Leo and Arcade Fire's records first and foremost and read the James Brown tribute at night before I go to sleep. That's just how I operate seeing as I spend most of my day in front of my computer.

So I don't think there's a sense of loyalty with me still reading Rolling Stone. Sure, the cheap subscription rate is nice, but I don't feel a sense of obligation. I do like to read it, but as compared to when I first started reading it, it's not the first and foremost way I read about music.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

'Cause the good ole' days weren't always good and tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems

A screening of Dazed and Confused at some point during the high school years is a rite of passage for many. More often than not, a trip to the local record store to pick up its soundtrack happens in the next few days. I never had that experience, but I don't feel any regret. If anything, I'm glad I saw it when I was older and away from that world.

In my case, I did not see the film until I was well out of college. I heard a little about it in high school; it was supposedly all about hanging out and smoking pot and it was so cool. If memory serves me correctly, none of my friends smoked pot. The classmates that did were not the kind of people I hung out with or wanted to hang out with. So why in the world would I want to see a film that's filled all these mellow pot-smokers? (That's probably the best excuse I can give you. I should also add there was never a point when a friend had a VHS copy and suggested we watch it one night. I wasn't about to go out and rent it myself.)

After finally seeing the film, I realized this wasn't all about smoking pot. More than anything, it's about hanging out and thinking about your future. That was high school for me, albeit spent mostly either on the band bus or in my room playing drums or guitar, and reading Rolling Stone and Guitar World. I look at certain aspects of those days with a lot of favor. But there are plenty of other aspects that I don't often think about that were not fun. High school didn't all-and-all out suck, but they weren't the best years of my life.

Watching the Criterion edition of the film last night, I listened to Richard Linklater's commentary and watched the 50-minute behind-the-scenes look, "Making Dazed." What is revealed on these supplements made me automatically think of Kevin Smith's Mallrats, also a Universal picture produced by Jim Jacks and Sean Daniel. If anything, both directors went through a major hazing process going from making $23-27,000 movies to $6 million films. Like Smith, Linklater doesn't really hold anything back and still sounds a little hurt by the whole experience.

Yet the really engaging stuff is when Linklater talks of how nostalgia puts on the rose-colored glasses. No, this is not some groundbreaking idea, but the way he talks about it rang true to me. He isn't overtly negative or positive about making the film just as he isn't overtly negative or positive about his high school life. He's grateful for the experience and obviously it was a major stepping stone in his film career. But he doesn't pine for the days of when he made this. These days, I figure he's too busy promoting Fast Food Nation in Europe and working on his next project.

Thinking about what he said some more, I get the feeling that nostalgia is too often used as a fire escape from the present and foreseeable future. That stuff is too hard to handle. The Fifties weren't the most innocent times; nor were any of the following decades the worst of times. I guess it's all on what you look at and draw your own conclusions. For me, I have plenty of good memories from my past, but I try not to live like they can be easily gone back to. Believe me, I've tried and it's just not the same. I don't mean that in a grim way, but I feel it's way more enjoyable to enjoy what you are today (flaws and all) instead of having a Greatest Hits-like look at your past.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

These glory days can take their toll, so catch me now before I turn to gold

I like hitting up a bookstore or two every few weeks. Though I have a stack of books left unread (Nick Mason's bio of Pink Floyd, High Fidelity, and a bio on the Creation are just some of them), I'm always on the lookout for something else. Depending on how bad I want to read it, I may bring it home and start reading it immediately. But in my search for finding those kinds of books, I stumble across ones that make me scratch my head.

In the last year, I've come across two authorized books written by legendary people in the industry that sound really intriguing: Ed McMahon's Here's Johnny and Hal Blaine's Hal Blaine and the Wrecking Crew: The Story of the World's Most Recorded Musician. These guys have been around for a handful of decades in show business and what all do they say in their biographies? Not much.

I have yet to read either book start to finish, but after skimming through them, I wonder why they are so thin. McMahon's book is 240 pages, an average length for a book. But come on, this guy worked with Johnny Carson for 46 years and this is all he allows? Blaine's book is only 140 pages and I find that incredibly frustrating. Here's a man who's played on thousands of hit recordings (pretty much every Top 40 hit from the '60s you hear on oldies radio that wasn't by Motown, the Rolling Stones or the Beatles) and all the guy allows is 140 pages? What gives?

I'm not someone who loves reading dirty tell-alls, but I like it when autobiographies go towards the deep end. I'm currently reading U2 By U2, the oral history of the band and it's fascinating. It's 346 large pages filled with stories directly from the horse's mouth. There's very little ugly stuff, but plenty that open up who these four guys are. I've been a fan of U2 since elementary school, but I have an even greater appreciation for them now.

I'm not saying that everyone should have marathon autobiographies, but come on. When it comes to people that have been through so much, getting so little in return in frustrating. It's like talking to your grandparents about the Depression or one of the major wars and all they allow are simple anecdotes. There was plenty that went on, but we have selective memories. When I started working on my book, I knew I had to write this stuff down before it gets the total rosy glasses treatment. My generation's already making the first steps there. More steps will follow.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Worst Band Names of 2006

In case you haven't seen it, Kyle did a great job compiling The Worst Band Names of '06. Arctic Monkeys didn't make his list but they definitely topped my short, impartial list. I still think Guns N'Rosa Parks is pretty funny.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Said the Spider to the Fly

I knew going into a screening of Kill Your Idols last night that a certain percentage of the film would consist of back-biting comments. Still, I wanted to see it in hopes I could get something out of it. I couldn't have foreseen being so annoyed with certain aspects of the film that I would go home and spend four hours working on my book's prologue. It's not like Kill Your Idols is a bad film; I just find non-stop complaining with little acknowledgement of hope very frustrating.

Kill Your Idols' 75-minute runtime is split between showcasing New York's original no wave scene and a handful of modern bands that come from its influence. People like Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo, Lydia Lunch and Alan Vega are interviewed as well as members of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars and A.R.E. Weapons. Basic backgrounds on the forefathers were nicely done, but when it came to what some of its forefathers think about today's crop of bands, I became very agitated.

Why the agitation? Instead of discussing the positives and negatives of a scene becoming more mainstream, the constant negatives give this a grim view of today and tomorrow. Yeah, there's plenty to complain about, but this stuff is going to continue to develop whether the people like it or not. Plus, I find this odd coming from people who really had to search and dig for this world back in the day. What's holding them back from searching for something modern that is inspiring to them? Have they just given up?

For me, I gotta look back at what I complain about. I take many mall emo bands to task on here, but there are plenty of modern bands in that post-hardcore vein who blow my mind. It's easy to read some puff-piece on Panic! At the Disco or Fall Out Boy and become annoyed. But I gotta wonder what's so hard about getting into records by Cursive or the pAper chAse? This is a continuous search and it shouldn't stop. Kill Your Idols reminded me of that.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

How It Feels to Be Something . . . Off

Overall, I've really enjoyed Apple's upgrades with iTunes 7.0. That gapless playback option makes live records/bootlegs enjoyable to listen to. However, the latest snag comes from something I've found to be really funny: totally different artwork sometimes comes up when you select a track to listen to.

For example, after ripping four tracks from Weezer's debut album, The Blue Album, the artwork that pops up is from the band's third album, The Green Album. Both records are listed as self-titled, so it makes sense for the mix-up. But here's what makes things odder: after ripping the title track from Sunny Day Real Estate's How It Feels to Be Something On, the artwork from the band's Live record comes up. Pure catalog mix-up, right?

Well, here's an even stranger thing: after I ripped a couple of tracks from Neil Young's Greatest Hits, the artwork for Blondie's Greatest Hits came up. I gotta wonder: how do things like this get mixed-up? This isn't a common occurrence, but I've noticed this in the last few weeks.

Checking into the iTunes Music Store, I've found Sunny Day's How It Feels record to be conspicuously absent as all of their other records are available. Maybe that's why the artwork doesn't come up. But come on, a Blondie sleeve on a Neil Young album? What gives folks? Has anyone else seen this problem in their iTunes?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Idiocracy

After months of hearing mostly positive reviews, I finally saw Idiocracy last night. Paired with Office Space and Beavis and Butt-head Do America, it was a Mike Judge triple-feature. Watching them back-to-back-to-back, I must say that Idiocracy is worthy of Judge's previous two films.

Luke Wilson plays Joe Bauers, an average guy who is frozen for 500 years along with a prostitute named Rita (played by Maya Rudolph). After waking up in 2505, they find America has devolved so much that they are the smartest people on the planet. The effects of corporate takeovers and mass reproduction of nitwits, America is now Uhhmerica. Joe and Rita try to find a time machine but run into a lot of obstacles along the way.

This isn't a stark look at the future like Blade Runner or Fahrenheit 451. However, this isn't some stupid look at stupid people. Similar to his approach with Beavis and Butt-head, Judge makes stupidity funny. The humor is very deadpan and a tad dark, but not so dark that it's uncomfortable. There's very little of what I think of as "owww" humor (the physical pain seen in Jackass and There's Something About Mary). As a matter of fact, there are some shots taken at that kind of humor.

At its core, Idiocracy takes on a lot of things that Judge has lampooned before. Convenience stores, fast food joints, pro wrestling, monster truck shows and scuzzy talk shows are just some of them. But this approach is pretty different from Beavis and Butt-head. Instead of the stupid people being the protagonists, the smart people are, even if they don't fit the mold of the classic hero/heroine. There is an explicit message here: flex your creative muscles! Read books, paint pictures, etc. Because of this, maybe that's why the film really rang true for me.

I'm not so sure Idiocracy will catch on as well as Office Space. Office Space hits on a lot of nerves most working adults have. It's almost required viewing with people my age. But with Idiocracy, its appeal is smaller. I don't mean to say it's less of a movie, but I could understand people gravitating more towards Office Space. It's not for everyone, but definitely worth checking out if you like Judge's kind of humor.

Callum Robbins benefit(s)

More updates on the continued support of Callum Robbins:

Two benefit shows are happening this month: one is at North Six in Brooklyn and the other one is at the Empty Bottle in Chicago. Here are all the details:

Friday, January 26th at North Six
Ted Leo (solo)
Medications
The Forms
Last Letters
Doors at 8. Show at 9. $15.

Saturday, January 27th at the Empty Bottle
(surprise special guest)
Chin Up Chin Up
Bobby Conn
The Life and Times
Red Eyed Legends
Show at 8pm. $15.

Special thanks to Punknews.org for the heads-up. Stay tuned for more benefits.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Parents Just Don't Understand

And now, time for some satire . . .

Blogger’s Parents Don’t Understand What’s So Great About the Music He Writes About

DALLAS -- Bill and Linda Pearson are still trying to understand what’s so incredible about Grizzly Bear. And Joanna Newsom. And Girl Talk. The reason? Their son, Greg, has written about these acts, along with hundreds of others, for the past year on his blog, the Employment Pages.

Mr. and Mrs. Pearson, 58 and 56 respectively, remember a time when there was no Internet, MP3s or iPods. “We came from an era where music was something you lived with,” Bill says, “and there were no fears about exceeding bandwidth or hard drive space.”

Greg, 28, says his parents just don’t understand the mode so they don’t understand the music he praises. “Joanna Newsom’s voice melts my brain,” he says. “Joni Mitchell just doesn’t do it for me.”

Last year, there was a brief turning point: Greg wanted to borrow all of his parents’ Fleetwood Mac and America LPs. “With Midlake’s The Trials of Van Occupanther, I got so back into albums like Rumours and America,” Greg says. “But as soon as I ripped them to my hard drive, a new Girl Talk b-side came my way and I had to listen to it immediately and post it.”

The Employment Pages logs 500 hits a day, two of them come from Mr. and Mrs. Pearson for curiosity's sake. “We wonder how much time he actually listens to these new songs before he posts them,” Mrs. Pearson says. “We’re really wondering when he has time for his job, his girlfriend and their cats.”

Greg assures his parents that there is plenty of time for all of those in his life. But blogging is a first and foremost thing. “I can’t be the last dude to talk about something that’s so two days ago,” he says. “I like having the bragging rights of talking about an artist six months before Pitchfork [Media] writes about them.”

Still, Linda prefers to go about her day listening to John Denver and James Taylor LPs as Bill enjoys his small collection of Neil Young bootlegs. Yet by the end of the same day, chances are good that Greg has sampled two new Arcade Fire tracks, a demo from the forthcoming Sufjan Stevens album and has finished ripping the audio from the new Neko Case live DVD. “This is a totally different time,” Greg insists. “I have so many choices that the hunt just never ends.”

American Hardcore - the DVD

According to their MySpace page, American Hardcore will be released on DVD February 20th. Some 90 minutes of extras will be on there, including deleted scenes and full-length performances. If you want a well-done, thorough, yet straight-to-the-point documentary about American hardcore punk circa '80-'85, this is the one. I highly recommend it.

Ache Delay

My recent New Year's Eve festivities were like the last two New Year's: dancing away at the Smoke. This time, I danced for about four hours straight. Stomping around on the hard floor, I knew there would be some aches and pains the next day. But I wasn't prepared for what happened the next day. I woke up in the morning not hurting at all. I felt fine . . . until the afternoon.

After sitting at my desk for a few minutes, I got up and my calves were sore. Really sore. As in, hurting-to-walk-sore. So I wonder, has anyone ever had this experience of ache delay?

Back in college, I frequently went to the on-campus gym. I ran on the treadmill for 20-30 minutes and lifted a lot of weights. I was sore immediately after I was done and remained sore for a few days. So I'm well aware that if I do intense physical stuff with my body, there will be aches and pains. But they're good kinds of aches and pains.

As much as I am prone to avoid matters where physical pain is a result, I really enjoy exercise. I played kickball for a couple of hours yesterday and walked the dog twice (30 minutes each time). I'm a little sore, but the whole experience of playing kickball and walking Juliet is far greater than the stiffness. But these strains were immediate and not on ache delay. I wonder what gives.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Me, Myself and I

I have no idea what makes a random YouTube clip go viral. Most of the time, if it's something so funny, bizarre and/or awkward, you have to share it with friends immediately. Those friends find something of value and pass it along and so on. The passing becomes so fast that right when you want to show it to some friends, they've all seen it. So I was surprised to see this clip (found on Defamer via Junkiness) be passed over yesterday. It's a promotional video from 1988 centered around actor Corey Haim called "Me, Myself and I." If you have nine minutes and thirty seconds to spare and want to feel better about your life, check this one out.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Todos Los Dias

I joked on another blog about blogging everyday, even on holidays. The deal is, I'm amazed at how certain blogs are updated every single day of the year. Even more, people like David at Largehearted Boy and Frank at Chrome Waves have their daily updates online by 9am. So I have a few questions: How do people go about this? Do they always have a computer with Internet access at their disposal 24/7? How much time do they spend blogging?

Blogging is important for me to do, but I can't do it everyday. I tried blogging every single day last year and I stretched myself too thin. Looking into the new year, I think I might cut back on blogging so I can finish my book. I live a rather solitary life, but I can't spend it all in front of a computer.

The deal is, a number of these bloggers don't have solitary lives. Some are married (with or without children), some are in committed relationships, a lot of them frequently travel around the country (or the world) and most of them have jobs to go to. In other words, these people don't fit the stereotype of lost, lonely, unemployed geeks with tons of free time.

No matter what, there are lots of other factors in daily life that can sway a daily blogging routine. I'm talking doctor's appointments, meetings, catching flights and taking kids to school. In the case of holidays, Christmas morning is incredibly busy with gift-giving, cooking and/or travelling. For me, I've been fortunate to have a flexible schedule that enables me to spend a couple of hours a day blogging. I'm not sure I'll always have a couple of hours to blog, so I want to make the most of what I have now.

I'm not the fastest with HTML, so I can't fully understand how a post filled with hyperlinks can arrive online every morning. My posts generally take a while to write and edit. I usually write from scratch every weekday morning and go from there. Maybe a lot of these bloggers prepare their posts the day/night before and post them the following morning. So I ask you, the reader: have you ever wondered this? I ask you the blogger: what's your method (if you don't mind sharing)?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

High Fidelity?

This was posted a few months ago, but I'm finally getting around to writing my take on it. Here's the gist: with the iPod and various other MP3 players becoming more of the standard with listening to recorded music, is audio fidelity not a priority anymore? "Back in the day, high fidelity was a big deal, a significant aspect of the listening experience; any serious music fan was, to some extent, an audiophile," Michael wrote. "That's all gone by the boards. Now, music fans walk around with those awful standard iPod headphones – they don't care a jot about frequency response or stereo imaging, they only care about the convenience, portability and perhaps prestige of the player."

So that makes me ask: how come we live in a culture that prefers the pristine sight and sound of HDTV and DVD, but doesn't seem to care about audio fidelity of music? Are we just really accepting that computer-based stuff (ie, MP3s, YouTube videos) aren't up to snuff, but we prefer them because they're easy to handle?

Not to be snobbish about it, but audio fidelity makes a lot of difference to me. Case in point, over the holidays, I finally got the chance to hear Mastodon's Blood Mountain. The deal was, it was on an iPod through a home stereo via MP3s ripped at less than 128 kbps. The constant fluttering of the sound distracted me from the actual songs. Trying to feel the heaviness of the guitar riffs, the pulsing of the drums and the brutal-to-clear vocal melodies just wasn't happening. When I heard the album on CD last night in my car's stereo, everything was in focus. Even though the CD was a CD-R made up of MP3s ripped at 192 kbps, that made all the difference. The sound was full and in my face. Now I'm understanding the greatness of Blood Mountain.

These days, I listen to my iTunes library more when I'm at home. I'm very well aware that listening to music on my computer is no match for listening to my car's single-disc player or my den's multi-disc changer. Since I'm at my computer most of the day, it's convenient to not get up and change a CD out of my boombox. Since my moods are always changing, I like the accessibility of clicking from the Style Council to Against Me! to Killswitch Engage with ease. It's hard to argue with selection between a CD with twelve tracks and a hard drive with thousands of songs.

When I go on walks, it's important that my iPod is not blasting in my ears. I have to hear cars coming by, police/fire vehicles coming by, etc. Plus, I don't want to pull my headphones out and have my ears ringing. So it's important for me to have the iPod at a contained volume level. This sure beats having a portable CD player on me. Nothing worse than a CD skipping because I took a step up onto a sidewalk.

But if I want to really get into an album, I put it on in my den if I'm at home or in my car if I'm travelling. This way I can hear almost everything in the mix, especially the bass guitar. These are the the best ways of really judging an album before I pass judgment. That's just where I come from.

Still, seeing how advanced home theater set-ups have morphed in the last twelve years, it's strange to see how condensed music listening has become. Picture quality and surround sound are big deals. Movies and TV shows are now viewable on iPods, but they have yet to become commonplace viewing. I doubt they ever will. I might be comparing apples with tomatoes here, but think about it. CDs are still the best ways to listen to music. Then again, there are still plenty of people that prefer vinyl over everything.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

ALVIN!

What if DragonForce got together with Alvin and the Chipmunks to cover a Killswitch Engage song? You'd have this. Still, it's a great song.

The Journey Continues . . .

This piece of news doesn't surprise me. Here's the statement:

JOURNEY NAMES JEFF SCOTT SOTO OFFICIAL NEW LEAD SINGER

December 19, 2006 -- Jeff Scott Soto has been officially named the new lead singer of Journey. He had been filling in for Steve Augeri, who had to leave the U.S. tour with Def Leppard shortly after it began on June 23 due to illness.

“We are so grateful to Steve for all the years he dedicated to Journey,” says Journey in a joint statement. “We thank Steve for all his hard work and we wish him only the best in his future endeavors. Over the past few months, we’ve come to realize that Jeff has proven himself above and beyond that he can sing the hell out of our songs and we’re happy to officially welcome him as part of the family. We’re excited to start a new chapter with Jeff and we’re excited about what the future may bring.”

Steve Augeri states: “Singing for Journey these last eight years have been the most challenging and the most rewarding of my career. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the band, and especially the fans, for the privilege of being part of a musical legacy that has touched so many hearts and souls. I wish my fellow bandmates success and happiness as they continue to make great music in the future, as I will strive to do the same myself.”

Jeff Soto also adds, “With delight & pleasure, I am accepting the offer to continue my tenure with Journey now as their permanent vocalist after the amazing past months we've spent together on tour. I also pay high respect to Steve Augeri for coming in and helping Journey continue their legacy for nearly the last decade and to Steve Perry for co-creating this legacy. I hope to now add and help drive Journey into the next stage of this band's future.”

The latest from J. Robbins

J. posted another update on the fund and his son, Callum:

12/31/06

Goodbye to a year of extremes.

If this is the last thing I will write here in 2006, I have to say that the degree of goodwill, kindness and support my family has experienced in just the past couple of weeks has had a huge impact on us, and it is helping in very concrete terms to make a way forward for our son Callum. He will have his first adaptive high chair/play chair in January, one that supports his back and trunk and will help him make the most of his limited arm mobility. We have to pay for this piece of gear up front, and then insurance decides what if anything they will reimburse. It has not been easy to get my head around the idea of my family as a charity ... but before Kim and Bill put up their page for Callum, we wouldn't have been able to put the money down for this chair, and now thanks to them, we can. This amazes me.

Even in a year that brought us a challenge we'll spend the rest of our lives trying to comprend, we have a lot to be thankful for.

Spinal Muscular Atrophy Foundation
Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy
Muscular Dystrophy Association,,,
all do great work aiding families dealing with SMA and its associated burdens, and funding research into a cure. Donations to any of them will help more than just one family.

Wishing a brighter 2007 for us all -

happy new year

j

Monday, January 01, 2007

It Still Moves

Back in 2002, Goose and I saw Guided By Voices at Trees. It was an amazing show, albeit the things you'd expect at a GBV show. Bob Pollard bounced around the stage drinking beer after beer. They played something like 40 songs in over two hours. Nate Farley was so drunk by the end of it that Tim Tobias was telling him which chords to play. This show ended up being the only time that Goose or I would see GBV. It was also the first time we ever heard of My Morning Jacket.

At this point, MMJ was a relatively unknown band with two proper records out. Following the end of their tour with Guided By Voices, they would tour with Doves, become one of Dave Grohl's favorite new bands and sign with RCA Records' ATO imprint. Since then, the band has released two stellar albums, It Still Moves and Z, and has toured all over. I am happy to see this promising band deliver and grow. Their DVD/CD set, Okonokos, serves as a reminder as to why I love this band.

While the two-disc CD is good, the single-disc DVD is essential viewing. Set against a swamp-forest stage set with an impressive light show, the band tears through most of Z, some of It Still Moves, a couple At Dawn songs and even a song from their Does Christmas Fiasco Style EP. There's not a bad moment herel they just play and that's perfectly fine with me.

Shortly into the DVD, I remembered their trademark stage move. Whenever they go into a jam out part, Jim James moves a few steps to his right, Two Tone Tommy moves side-to-side and Patrick Hallahan flails away on the drums. These three guys have some long hair on their heads and it always flies around when they do this part of the song. By now, this is a standard sight for MMJ fans, but this reminded me of what drew me to the band in the first place.

There's a good reason why guitar solos/jams are frowned upon: they detour from the song at hand. So seeing a band jam out opening for a band known for rarely breaking the three-minute mark, I thought this was an odd fit. The deal is, MMJ never strays from the song at hand when they jam. There are no extended solos or any sort of wankery. Plus, the songs are really tuneful. Three years down the line, this is still the case.

It's not like I completely forgot about My Morning Jacket, but Okonokos serves as a testament as to why they are one of the best bands out there. However, trying to describe their sound to someone at this point is insanely difficult. Thinking about how a lot bands are described these days, calling MMJ a Lynyrd Skynyrd/Radiohead hybrid or the Flaming Lips covering Neil Young really cheapens their actual sound. They have touches of those sounds, but so much more. Here's a clip so you can judge for yourself.