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Showing posts from July, 2005

Going Mobile . . . Once Again

I'll be in Houston visiting my parents this weekend. I have various things to attend to, but I hope to see this exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. I saw their Star Wars exhibit back in 2001 and was blown away. I hope for the same experience. For non-Texas folk, Houston is probably not the greatest place to visit this time of year because of its heat and humidity. Interestingly, I never really noticed how bad the heat was when I lived there. I endured three years of summer marching band practices out in the heat with very little problems. Sure, we practiced in the morning, but it was still hot. Now that I'm out of school and won't be visiting a band practice field any time soon, I don't complain about the heat. Instead of complaining about it, I choose to work with it. I rarely go outside for a long time during the day and take walks after 8:30pm during the week. We play kickball at 7pm on Sundays right as the sun is going down. The AC works and if it

Don't Turn Away

Whenever people ask me, "Who's your favorite band?," I can't say there is only one. There are several bands/artists that I have really enjoy over the years (like Ben Folds Five, Wilco, Led Zeppelin, Metallica) but definitely one of my favorites is face to face (the pop-punk band, not to be confused with the '80s Boston band, Face to Face). Yes, face to face was mixed in with a ton of pop-punk bands in the 1990s, but they were a cut above. They weren't about toilet humor or playing obnoxiously fast; they were inspiring back in the day and they're still inspiring today. Vocalist/lyricist Trever Keith's voice is big and open; not snotty, childish or grating on eardrums. Plus, what's coming out of his mouth can be understandable today or six months or ten years. Keith's lyrics are often general, non-specific and full of phrases to live by. Lyrics like, "There is someone who knows everything there is to know/There is someone who is too afra

Body of Song

I've only listened to Body of Song a few times, but I think I need to say something: it's great. Yes, the songs have a lot of electronica elements, but they also rock with live guitars and drums. I would say the album's pearl is Mould's voice. I don't think I've heard as much color in his voice in a long time. I don't know if it's because of the vocal effects he put on it, but he sings his head off with a variety of melodies. This is a different-sounding Mould but not a complete makeover. You definitely hear a lot of nods to his work with Sugar on Body of Song , but this isn't rehasing past glories. Mixing the energy of his power pop rock with keyboards and electronica is a welcome change. After my few spins, some of the strongest tracks are "Paralyzed," "Underneath Days" and "(Shine Your) Light Love Hope." I look forward to more spins. -One other Mould-related deal: Pop Matters has a great interview with the man h

Do the Vampire

Superdrag was one of those great bands that made a handful of great albums regardless of production value. Granted, their The Fabulous 8-Track Sound of Superdrag EP suffers from muddy sound quality and less-than-sublime songwriting, but things got much better after that. Regretfully Your's is a solid collection of tunes, including their MTV Buzz Bin hit, "Sucked Out." Recalling Cheap Trick and My Bloody Valentine in spots, Superdrag was honing in on some great adrenalized jangle-pop. Probably thanks to the financial success of Regretfully Your's , Head Trip in Every Key had more production dollars behind it. In return, the album is big, warm and rocks even harder. Showcasing one of the best "roomy" drum sounds I've heard on record (along with Jimmy Eat World's Clarity ), Head Trip is another collection of great tracks. For whatever reasons, Head Trip in Every Key didn't sell like hotcakes, thus delaying the release of Superdrag's thir

All You Need is a Ride?

I don't know if it is out of pure minimalism or pure laziness, but I see more and more rock drummers using only one cymbal (in addition to hi-hats) on their kits. Usually, it's just a ride cymbal. To my fellow drummers, I think this is too minimal. Some explanation for non-drummers: drumsets are usually outfitted with a 16"-18" cymbal (called a "crash") that have a rather high pitch when hit. A ride cymbal, usually 20"-24" in diameter, has a deeper, penetrating pitch when struck. For a band like the Flaming Lips, whose material is rich in melodies and orchestration, the drums work best when they are minimally set up. Drummer Steven Drozd pounds his drums and his ride with big, simple beats, thus allowing the guitars, pianos, strings and everything else some room to breathe. But what about all those bands that don't have that many colors in their sound? This is where I throw a flag. I often see this approach in a lot of these newer, garage-y

I Heart Huckabees

It's been one week since I watched I Heart Huckabees , but it's still fresh in my mind. Dubbed "an existential comedy," I think that tagline fits the bill very well. Calling the film's tone as "quirky" and "offbeat" is too simple. Funny is funny, even if it's off the beaten path of what's traditionally funny. Like the title of the book my mother uses for her philosophy class, the unbearable heaviness of philosophy is made lighter in this film. The nature of philosophy is not knocked. Rather, it's understandable. I've tried reading philosophy books, but my mind derails off the tracks when I try to remember names and philosophies connected to those names. This may be the case because my mind was conditioned in college to remember the name over the meaning. Thankfully, I Heart Huckabees doesn't throw out a bunch of names and their philosophies. General ideas and concepts are thrown out in simple ways. The acting by all of t

The Half-Blood Prince

I can't believe it, but I finished all 652 pages of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in five days. I'm in the middle of reading other books ( Let it Blurt , Live from New York , Complicated Shadows , Please Kill Me ), but those had to be put on hold. The book is so good: it's evenly paced and there are no major slow-downs. Story-wise, like all the other books, more answers are revealed as more questions pop up. Of course, there are enough clues and hints about where the next book is heading, but there is so much that is up in the air. Rowling has not said anything about when the next book will come out, but if it came out today, I would drop everything and read it. What amazes me is the amount of time that it takes for people to finish reading these books. In the case of Half-Blood Prince , a friend of mine finished it 11 hours. Another friend of mine finished The Sorcerer's Stone in one night. For me, it took me weeks to finish the other books. Since I usually

Walking in Rhythm . . . With a Cell Phone?

In the last few years, I've seen people talking on cell phones while they are on walks. (When I mean "walks," I mean as a form of exercise by walking for at least 20 minutes straight.) I don't know about you, but the reason why I take walks is to clear my head. My brain needs a breather from things, including talking on a phone. I do not dislike talking on a phone, but being away from one for 20-30 minutes a day is nice. So I don't understand why people take their cell phones on walks. Sure, cell phones can be taken almost anywhere but call me old fashioned, I doubt that I'd ever take a cell phone with me on a walk. Now here's a curveball: while walking/harboring-the-delusion-I-can-jog on Saturday, what do I see? A jogger with a cell phone and an earpiece in his ear. At first I thought he had an MP3 player but upon closer inspection, I saw what it really was. I don't get it; what if somebody called him? I doubt he could really combine words into cohe

Breaking the Foghat Rule

As mentioned in Yo La Tengo's video for "Sugarcube" (where students learn how to be rock stars), there is a rule called The Foghat Rule: Your fourth album shall be double-live. Even though Foghat's fourth album was not a double-live album (I think that was their sixth release), the rule is a good rule to follow (as my tongue is firmly in my cheek). Well, according to Rolling Stone , Maroon 5 will release a live album this September. The number of releases from the band made up of former members of Kara's Flowers? One proper album along with some singles and an all-acoustic EP. Here's my question: Why release a live album now? This reminds me of when Usher released a live album following his first major album, My Way . In other words, you get all the songs you know by heart played live along with some covers or a new song. I don't know about you, but I'd feel ripped off. I can understand if a jazz artist released a live album after one proper album i

His goal in life was to be an echo

Some bits and pieces as I'm trying to keep my head on straight -Thanks to Tom, Chris and Tony for having me on the Good Show last night. Always a fun time with those guys and always a good time to be back at the station where I got my start. I think I got my points across about what my book is and is not. I hope people enjoyed hearing some Fugazi and Cap'n Jazz on the radio. -I'm nearing the 200-page mark in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince . I'm hooked - I can't stop reading it. I'm a relatively slow reader, but when I really get into something, I have a hard time putting it down. -I watched I Heart Huckabees last week. Absolutely fantastic film. It's hilarious while being incredibly weighty with philosophy. Good stuff. A full review is forthcoming.

On the Radio

If everything works out (barring car troubles and weather), I'll be on the Good Show this Sunday night (the 17th) to talk about my book's progress. I'll be on some time between 9pm and 11pm, but I don't have specifics. You can listen to KTCU live with this link . If you can't listen live, I believe the Good Show now posts podcasts of their shows. Here is a book update: I'm still working on the Get Up Kids chapter. Thanks to Nathan Ellis (Coalesce/Casket Lottery) for some great perspective on the Kansas/Missouri scene in the mid-to-late-90s. Still haven't interviewed the Pope brothers though. I don't know which chapter I'll tackle next. Maybe the Sunny Day Real Estate chapter or the Jimmy Eat World chapter. So, here is a detailed chapter breakdown (bold=complete in rough draft form): A Starting Point (aka, introductory chapter) Dischord Records, Washington DC Jawbox, Washington DC Jawbreaker, San Francisco, CA Sunny Day Real Estate, Seattle, WA

Christopher Lee Appreciation

Scanning the TV dial a few weeks ago, I came across the final Police Academy sequel ( Mission to Moscow ) and who happened to be in it? Christopher Lee . Lee has been in a variety of films, but prior to his roles in Sleepy Hollow , the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Star Wars prequels, he was best known for cheesy horror flicks and other forgettable stuff ( The Stupids , Police Academy: Mission to Moscow , to name a few). Who knows if it weren't for him playing Count Dooku in Star Wars or Saruman in Lord of the Rings people would remember him as one of the many Draculas, The Man with the Golden Gun or maybe Lord Summerisle. I don't know if you can credit his agent or what, but talk about how it's never too late in one's career. If you want to talk about some massive career peaks and valleys, check out Lee's story. Speaking of a former co-star of Lee's, I wonder if this guy needs a new agent . . .

Student Bodies

My review of Student Bodies is now up on Doomed Moviethon . Being one of my favorite movies of all time, writing a review for it was a joy. I've seen the movie several times over the years and I think it's still fresh. Given its relative obscurity, how I even knew about this movie is interesting. I don't remember how Matt knew about Student Bodies (I think he saw it on cable) but we watched it at one of the many "screenings" at his house (which also included Kentucky Fried Movie and Midnight Madness ). Already a fan of Halloween and its knock-offs, I laughed so hard that it hurt. The humor is so deadpan and matter-of-fact that you have to pay attention to what's being said. If you only focus on the acting, you'd think it was an after-school special. However, by the time you see the murder weapon of choice for the first offing (a paperclip instead of rope, poison, a knife or a gun), you know this is some really funny stuff. The only crime is that th

Jandek on Corwood

Until last night, I had never watched a music documentary that creeped me out. Well, I watched Jandek on Corwood last night and I'm still creeped out. When I say "creeped out," I mean like how The Blair Witch Project , The Exorcist and Don't Look Now creeped me out. In other words, what you don't see or what you don't know is the scariest part. Here's the deal about Jandek on Corwood : it traces the legacy of a man only known as Jandek and his music. Based out of Houston, Jandek has made 20+ albums since 1978, has only performed live a few times and has given only a few interviews. Since his music consists mostly his ghostly voice and an out of tune guitar, the lack of concrete information only bolsters the myth. People don't know what his real name is or where he really lives. This is where it gets really strange. All of the people interviewed for the film are Jandek fans and they analyze/speculate who Jandek really is. Some speculate that he is

The Shape of Punk to Come

Even though each book chapter is named for one band/label, I don't exclude other bands/labels/etc. that I feel are pertinent. In the case of the Promise Ring chapter, Cap'n Jazz and Jade Tree are given extensive coverage. In the case of the Get Up Kids chapter, I mention Weezer, Dashboard Confessional, Napster and Vagrant Records. Sounds a little far-flung, but it will make sense. A topic that I feel is necessary to talk about/pay homage to is a piece that ran in Alternative Press back in 1998. Dubbed, "Hardcore's Evolution," there was considerable coverage to all sorts of bands considered "hardcore." From Agnostic Front to Converge to Four Hundred Years to Cap'n Jazz, all sorts of bands are mentioned. Since the Get Up Kids get a nice mention with their split 7" with Coalesce, I feel I should elaborate on AP's piece in my book. The late-90s saw lots of great hardcore come out (like Snapcase, Dillinger Escape Plan and others), but the one t

The Trouble with Remakes

I blogged last week about why I rarely go out to the movies these days. Here is a big reason that I forgot to list: the windfall of remakes. I can understand remaking a foreign language film into an American film (like Abre Los Ojos as Vanilla Sky ). However, remaking an older American movie that is easy to find on TV or on DVD doesn't draw me to the box office. The excuse of "modernizing" movies makes me wonder, do we really need a modernized version of a timeless film? Great films last over the years because they have timeless themes. Films like Psycho and The Wizard of Oz still hold up in their original form while their remakes are barely remembered. When I hear the term, "modern," I associate it with being in the now. The problem is, what a lot of people perceive as "the now" is always changing. Committing something to film that is cool, hip or ironic for the time being dooms its shelf life. What's that classic line from Perfect ? John T

The Fearless Freaks

For the longest time, I thought the Flaming Lips were a goofy little band with noisy rock songs. It wasn't until I saw them in concert on the Soft Bulletin tour that I understood that they weren't just some goofy little band with noisy songs. Lyrics like "And if God hears all my questions/well how come there's never an answer?" and "Love is the greatest thing our hearts can know/but the hole that it leaves in its absence can make you feel so low" really struck me. In a time when random bits of words and ideas were pieced together and presented as deep poetry, this was deeper to me. Prior to the Lips taking stage for their Soft Bulletin show, there was a 15-minute montage of footage from a forthcoming documentary called The Fearless Freaks . There was no word as to when the full documentary would be released, but whenever it did, I had to see it. Well, The Fearless Freaks was released on DVD earlier this year and I placed it on my Netflix queue. Aft

Set Yourself on Fire

"When there's nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire" So begins Stars ' Set Yourself on Fire , but don't think this is some death metal band doomed for mockery on Monsters of MySpace . I heard about Set Yourself on Fire through a few positive reviews, but once I saw the video for "Reunion" (thanks to Frank over at Chrome Waves for listing it), I felt compelled to buy the record. Well, if you like what you hear with "Reunion," pick up Set Yourself on Fire . The other tracks are not carbon copies of "Reunion," but if you like the vibe of this song, you'll probably love the rest of the album. An understandable comparison would be to the Arcade Fire, but Stars does not sound like a watered-down version of them. I only make the comparison because their approach is similar. Their songs are complex in structure, but they grab you immediately. There are plenty of hooks with pianos, clean guitars, horns and strings t

Paradise

In addition to kickball, writing and grocery shopping, I took a listen to Paint it Black 's Paradise . After listening to it a few times, I kept saying this: Wow . I keep saying this as I listened to it again this morning. I'm still a big Lifetime fan (comprehensive band history here ) and really enjoyed Kid Dynamite (who featured Dan Yemin and Dave Wagenschutz from Lifetime) back in their day. Ever since Kid Dynamite essentially split off to None More Black and Paint it Black (even though Dave Wagenschutz is now in both bands), I've enjoyed None More Black more than Paint it Black. Simply, I felt that None More Black rocked more. When I first heard Paint it Black's debut, CVA , I thought it sounded like Kid Dynamite Part II with Yemin on lead vocals. I wasn't impressed so that's why I gravitated towards None More Black. Well, after reading an interview with Yemin about how he put a lot of his musical influences (from rap to rock to hardcore) into Paint it Bl

Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July

No plans for today other than doing some writing, grocery shopping and kickball. Here's a little numbers rundown of my holiday weekend: 2 - number of hours I watched of the Live 8 "highlight" special on ABC. The highlight for me was Pink Floyd (with Roger Waters in tow) doing "Money." Isn't "Money" a cynical song about personal greed? 2 - number of bands I saw play live last night. The Happy Bullets and The Tah Dahs played together at the Meridian Room. The Meridian Room doesn't usually have bands because they don't really have the space for bands to play. How all six Happy Bullets with their guitars, keyboard and bells were able to fit into the corner by the kitchen was interesting. The sound was great and both bands were really on. 1 - number of DVDs I bought this weekend. After waiting and waiting for it to come available on my Netflix queue, I broke down and bought the Flaming Lips documentary, The Fearless Freaks . A full review i

DVD vs. Theater Redux

I've posted my feelings about this before, but after reading/seeing story after story that talks about the current box office "slump," I feel I should chime in again. Here are my reasons as to why I rent DVDs from Netflix/buy DVDs of movies I love more than I go out to a movie theater. 1. The price of admission $8.25 to see one movie? The average price of a DVD is between $14-$25. Seeing a movie twice in a theater covers the price of owning it once on DVD. 2. DVDs have extra things that you want While the extras listed may be a fraud from time to time (fluffy director talk, EPK puff-pieces, deleted scenes that add nothing interesting), a lot of commentary tracks, deleted scenes and behind-the-scenes documentaries add more to the experience of the movie itself. Seeing 25 minutes of commercials and movie trailers for things you don't care about aren't worth your time. 3. You aren't distracted by annoying audience members I'd rather deal with my dog oc