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Showing posts from March, 2006

Faith Alone

I'm not exactly sure where I heard about this documentary called Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music? , but I've been wanting to see it for a few months. With very little information out there (IMDb, as thorough as they are, do not have it listed as of this writing), along with some write-ups and clips on Right Right Right , I was thrilled to see it's now available for rent on DVD. Netflix took a while to get it in, so I had to wait a good month before it was available. Once it was available and arrived in my mailbox, I put everything else aside and watched it last week. I gotta say, I really dug the documentary as a whole, but along with other certain events in my life in the last few years, it stirred up a lot of mixed feelings. There was a time in college where I was listening to a lot of Tooth & Nail bands, like Slick Shoes, Craig's Brother, Stavesacre and MxPx. I still think highly of these bands (especially the latter two) because they always focu

Wrapped Up in Books

What is this obsession people have with books? They put them in their houses - like they're trophies. What do you need it for after you read it? You know it's interesting when you read Moby Dick, the second time, A-Hab and the whale become good friends. from Seinfeld , "The Ex-Girlfriend" --- I have to admit: I'm usually a slow reader when it comes to books. Certain books, like the last few Harry Potter books and Staring at Sound , have been easy to get through and enjoy but others haven't. In the last few months, I've tried to read Mat Callahan's The Trouble with Music and Frederic Dannen's Hit Men but found myself incredibly frustrated. The Trouble with Music is a great concept, but it goes a little too deep for me to fully understand the author's points. Centuries of philosophy, sociology and literature are thrown into the mix and while that sounds right up my alley, it all comes across a little too vanilla vague for me. Hit Men

The Boy's No Good

Yesterday I found myself in a position where I could either be an old grump about something or not. Here is the backstory: Currently, Fall Out Boy is a very popular band with "the kids" (aka, teenagers called such by people that are not that much older than teenagers). Their songs are poppy and they rock and the band members are cute and funny, especially bassist/lyricist Pete Wentz. Wentz is the star of the band as most interviews feature him, giving much less attention to his bandmates. The deal is, he is hated as much as those that love him. Troll any message board about the band and you'll see. I personally cannot stand all the sad emo looks the guy gives in publicity photos (see here ) and all the goofy stage poses he does (see here ). All of this only makes me enjoy Fall Out Boy's music even less (which I've always found to have a severe lack of life with its whiny vocals and neutered sound). Wentz has a label called Decaydance which is an imprint under r

Before You Were Punk

I'm not exactly sure when I first heard punk rock, but three moments in high school stick out for me. I remember my good friend Tim talking about how Minor Threat's entire discography could be put onto one CD. As someone who was into bands that had discographies that could fit onto five or six CDs, this was very different and it made me very curious. Tim dubbed me a cassette copy and I distinctly remember putting it into my car's stereo after marching band practice one day. Mere seconds into "Filler," I was hearing something so primal and incredibly fast that I couldn't compare it to anything else. While I thought it was cool, my life wasn't changed or anything. I felt like Minor Threat was a fun, angry band that played fast tunes. It's not like I was unimpressed either. Sometime later after listening to this Henry Rollins spoken word CD over and over, I finally got to hear what all he was talking about on the first disc. I picked up Black Flag'

Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice

I spent many years of my childhood in front of the TV and a large percentage of these years were spent watching kid-friendly stuff (especially cartoons). As I think about my life now with watching very little TV, I'm starting to see a recurring correlation with making anything kid-friendly. In particular, I think about how superheroes (like Batman, Superman and Spider-Man) were watered-down for a mass audience. I see the same thing happening with so many other things. Growing up, I never thought that a show like Batman (starring Adam West) or Super Friends was cheesy. These shows were on the TV and I found something worthwhile in them, so I watched them for hours and hours, day after day. Looking at these shows now, I see a whole bunch of campiness, but I don't think they're rotten. I don't wish to own episodes of them on DVD, but I wouldn't change the channel if they were on. Maybe I associate them with my "innocent" youth so I refuse to let them fall

"War, the red animal, war"

When I last saw Red Animal War , I thought the band was done. Original drummer Jeff Wilganoski was leaving the band to move to Florida to play with another band and there was no talk of a replacement. At the show, there was talk of various side projects, including Saboteur and the Numbers Twist, playing shows soon. That was the case for the rest of the year, leading me to believe that without Wilganoski, Red Animal War as a playing and recording unit was finished. Well, I was wrong as I saw them play at the Doublewide last night. Though the line-up was different from the last show (Todd Harwell from the Numbers Twist/Flickerstick on drums and bassist Jeff "Meaningless" Davis was back on bass), it was still Red Animal War. Harwell did a fantastic job playing the older drum parts precisely and it was good to see Jeff on bass again. Promoting the new compilation of non-LP material, Seven Year War , a number of familiar favorites were played. Hearing these songs and seeing this

Opinion as Fact

I don't know how to fully explain this kind of personality, but it goes like this: when discussing music, movies, comics, DVDs and so on with other people, a person presents his/her opinions as unwavering, hard facts. There is no room to debate them because these views come across as strict and binding. The person could care less about another person's thoughts and ideas because he/she refuses to listen to anyone else. Certain ways he/she express him/herself (whether it's tone of voice, amount of time listening to another person or various other mannerisms), often give off the impression that he/she is above and better than everyone else. I wonder why a person is like this, but also realize that it's not something I should dwell on. I don't run into this kind of personality often, but when I do, it's hard to forget. My first encounter with a person like this was back in college. A friend of a mine knew a guy who knew a lot about movies, music and comics, but h

Where Have You Been?

In following music or almost anything in the media (like news, sports, politics, etc.), there is tendency to ask, "Where have you been?" whenever someone appears to be behind the curve. I honestly don't believe people are being mean when they ask this, but I get the feeling that people expect everyone who's usually up on this stuff to be on the same page at the same time as everyone else. Well, that's not how life is. For example, if someone were to hear Sufjan Stevens' Illinois today and discuss the album with somebody else, chances are good that the question will be posed. The album was a big hit with the indie crowd (especially a large number of MP3 bloggers) last year, topping many people's lists as their favorite album of the year. So, if someone were to realize how great it is now, posted his/her thoughts and feelings on a message board or conveyed them to a friend, the kind of feedback would not be the most open. In my case, I've been really

Monkey Business

I can't remember exactly when I first saw a Marx Brothers' movie, but I remember which one it was: A Night at the Opera . I was in either fourth or fifth grade and while I couldn't remember a single line from it, I loved what I saw. Certain scenes, like the famous Stateroom scene where fifteen people cram into one small room, made me laugh. So why has it taken me so long to get into the Marx Brothers' back catalog of films? I don't know, but after watching A Night at the Opera again, along with Monkey Business and Duck Soup thanks to Netflix , I can't get enough of their movies. Yes, the plots are incredibly rail-thin, not all of the jokes are funny and the musical breaks are a little distracting. However, there is more to life in these films than just gags and music. A central theme of the Marx Brothers' routines is that of sticking it to uptight authority figures. I think this theme never gets old, especially when it's tarred and feathered by fast

A preserved moose

This past Sunday, a random quote from This is Spinal Tap came into my head: Marty DiBergi : Do you feel that playing rock 'n' roll music keeps you a child? That is, keeps you in a state of arrested development? Derek Smalls : No. No. No. I feel it's like, it's more like going, going to a, a national park or something. And there's, you know, they preserve the moose. And that's, that's my childhood up there on stage. That moose, you know. Marty DiBergi : So when you're playing you feel like a preserved moose on stage? Derek Smalls : Yeah. There are so many great one-liners in this film, but I'm still trying to understand why this one is sticking out to me as of late. Maybe it's because of the allure of playing rock & roll music; the pseudo-suspended state of adolescence that comes with it. Yet the image of Derek Smalls, complete with a bushy beard, as a preserved moose cracks me up. Joking aside, it makes me wonder what really gets preserv

Sense Field

If there was one band that I wish I could give more coverage in Post to, it's Sense Field . Their story is very interesting, but I just felt it wouldn't really fit with the overall flow of the book. So, here's a little description. Sense Field was introduced to me via two college-looking guys who were in Best Buy one day. Since I usually showed people where popular hit albums were, when I saw two guys talking about Texas is the Reason's Do You Know Who You Are? , I had to talk to them. Somewhere in the conversation, one of the guys suggested Sense Field. He compared them to Sunny Day Real Estate and I was very interested. During my second semester at TCU, my new friend Jeremy sang praises of the band's Part of the Deal EP. Since we had similar musical interests, I plunked down the eight or whatever bucks it was for the CD even though I hadn't heard a single song off of it. I really liked what I heard despite the fact that I thought Sense Field sounded nothin

iTunes shuffle (3.20)

It's a new week and I think it's time for another iTunes shuffle. "You've Got So Far to Go" by Alkaline Trio One of my favorite songs from Maybe I'll Catch Fire . Bassist/vocalist Dan Andriano's lyrics about spending time with a special person, complete with filling an ashtray twice and emptying every bottle in the place, are a nice touch. I've always taken it to be a song about a conversation between two close friends in which one of them has a lot to learn about life. I've had a few of these kinds of conversations in the last few months. "Christmas Time is Here" by Chomsky This is one of my favorite Christmas songs successfully remade as a Chomsky tune. I especially love the sleighbells. "Don't Give Up" by Petula Clark Here's a song that I first heard on a station I used to read traffic for. Along with Gordon Lightfoot's "Beautiful," Don McLean's "Castles in the Air," KAAM introduced

Staring at Sound

After months of struggling to get through one book ( The Trouble With Music and Hit Men have been especially tough), I finished Jim DeRogatis ' Staring at Sound in less than a week. Not since the last Harry Potter book have I been this fast in reading. Maybe that's because I've been waiting to read this book for about six months. Staring at Sound is DeRogatis' take on the history of the beloved Oklahoma rockers, the Flaming Lips . As someone who has been a casual fan of the band since 1993's Transmissions from the Satellite Heart , but was really blown away by the band's story via the The Fearless Freaks documentary, I was very curious to see what all DeRogatis added to the story. At 232 pages, he adds plenty. Starting from the ground up with the childhoods of original members Wayne Coyne and Michael Ivins, a lot of the seeds of how the band has conducted themselves throughout their careers are planted in these first few chapters. Going album by album, e

Mare Vitalis

Despite all the rain last night, I made the trek up to Denton to see the Appleseed Cast at Rubber Gloves. This was my third time to see these guys and the first time to see them with their new-ish drummer, Nathan "Jr." Richardson. As I've described their live show before, I feel like I'm watching waves crash on a beach. There's constant movement, but it's slow; there's a lot of beauty, but it's not all pretty; and it's rather peaceful. Last night was no different, and I think it was the best performance I've seen by them. Promoting their latest, sixth proper full-length, Peregrine , the Cast dug out a few nuggets from their past too. Tracks from Mare Vitalis and Low Level Owl were the highlights for me, but I really enjoyed the new material too. I was very curious to hear Jr.'s parts on the older material because he replaced an incredibly unique player by the name of Josh "Cobra" Baruth. Cobra had a style that could be best

Typos and Glam

Thanks to the good folks at Punknews.org for pointing out two recent articles that try to explain modern day emo. One is via MSNBC by Helen A.S. Popkin and the other is via the New York Times by Kelefa Sanneh and both are radically different. I think it's great that they're presenting different viewpoints, but like trying to read a certain book on the topic, it's really easy for me to get riled up. Though the Popkins' piece is a rather accurate, consumer-friendly summary of emo, the typos spoil it all for me. I'm not talking a super small typo; I'm talking some major errors. Ian "McKaye" ? "Summer Revolution" instead of Revolution Summer? Look, I'm not free of mistakes, typos and errors, but when I see a write-up from a professional, legit source, I wonder how much attention was really paid to the little details. It's not like MacKaye was misspelled once; it's misspelled four times . This reminded me of trying to read Nothi

". . . and if there's only one thing that I know"

Back in fall ’98, I saw Sarge in Houston at Fitzgerald’s for the first and eventually, only time. They went first on a four band bill, including the Gloria Record, Jets to Brazil and the Promise Ring. When they started playing, only a handful people were around, but it seemed like they were really into them. I had never heard of Sarge before, but was really drawn to them right from the first note. Nevermind the fact that it was three women and one guy playing music in a genre dominated by all-male bands, Sarge rocked as hard as any other post-hardcore band of its time. The songs were snappy, tuneful and a tad angular – all ingredients that I dug and still dig today. A couple songs into the set, I noticed a girl in the “crowd” singing along to every word that frontwoman Elizabeth Elmore sang. I thought it was cool to see, but at the same time, who had ever heard of this band? Well, I was in the role of the person singing along Tuesday night as Elmore’s main post-Sarge band, the Reputat

What's the skinny?

Something that baffles me, whether it's with indie rock fans my age or teenagers brainwashed in the ways of mall punk, why are so many of them skinny? There was a time in college when I bulked up to a hefty 180 pounds. XL t-shirts and 36 inch waist pants was where I was at. With more outdoor activity (ie, walks at least twenty minutes long a few times a week), I was able to shed some pounds. A few years later, I started eating less (maybe because of insanely high levels of anxiety) and was walking/running more, so I dropped even more pounds. I've been able to keep my weight at a steady level (150 or so) ever since and I've been able to wear L-sized shirts with no problem. I first became aware of all this skinniness when certain band t-shirts I got were L-sized at its largest. There were no XLs in sight, so it wasn't until I lost all this weight that I could actually wear them comfortably. Somewhere down the line, I realized that almost all of the merch makers kept a

Burritos, Burritos, Burritos

For most of my childhood and teenage years, when it came to fast food, it was always hamburgers for me. Whether it was from Wendy's, Dairy Queen, McDonald's or Burger King, the choice was always a burger and some fries. So why do I eat burritos more than anything else when it comes to fast food these days? In college, there was a Taco Bell very close to home and it wasn't in a super-ghetto part of town. Their drive-thru window was open late, so if I or any of my friends wanted a late-night snack, it was right there. I had long since lost favor for hamburgers, so Taco Bell was a whole new world. Though I mostly had tacos (soft or crunchy, beef or chicken), I would find their bean burritos to be best in years to come. Now I'm to a point where I eat at Taco Bell once every week and almost always get a couple of bean burritos and a seven-layer burrito along with some chips. Though I'm taking full advantage of the Chicken Caesar Grilled Stuft Burrito being temporarily b

I Become Small and Go

With South By Southwest kicking off this week, some articles popped up in local publications like the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram over the weekend. Two articles in particular, one by Thor Christensen and one by Cary Darling, cover bands/artists from SxSW's past that came in with a lot of hype but later received a cold shoulder by a mainstream audience and the same people that championed them before. As the music history buff that I am, I was really happy to see these get mentioned. Don't get me wrong: I'm not somebody who likes to dance around failure. However, I appreciate it when convoluted claims get struck down with the passage of time. Reminders are always worth mentioning in order to understand the present and the near-future. While a lot of SxSW is about the wide variety of acts that play and the networking possibilities that come with it, there's always a lot of talk of who's going to be a breakout act that year. The shows that

Editors

At this point, hearing about another British band that sounds like Gang of Four, Joy Division or Franz Ferdinand makes me want to groan and roll my eyes. All of the never-ending press on bands like Arctic Monkeys and Rakes compel me to get out my copies of Entertainment! and You Could Have it So Much Better so I can tune out the hype. But when it comes to a band that sounds a lot like Joy Division, how come I can't stop listening to Editors ? Despite a number of bands that sound like them, Joy Division has never been, to my knowledge, fully carboned copied. Credit Martin Hannett's mechanical-sounding production, Peter Hook's bass guitar leads, Steven Morris' drum machine-like beats, Bernard Sumner's skeletal, trial-and-error guitar lines and unassuming keyboard lines and Ian Curtis' tense vocals for making Joy Division unique. I have yet to hear another band sound exactly like them, but Editors comes relatively close. But again, why am I listening to somethin

Life's questions . . . on shuffle

Here's another play with the "shuffle" option. This time it's via a bulletin found on MySpace. Some of these answers are rather funny while some are pretty right on (especially question #2's answer). Check out We Shot J.R.'s post with the same questions. Go to your music player of choice and put it on shuffle. Say the following questions aloud, and press play. Use the song title as the answer to the question. NO CHEATING, you must use the song that comes on. 1. How does the world see me?: "Late" by Ben Folds 2. Will I have a happy life?: "You’ve Got to Look Inside Yourself" by the Pathways 3. What do my friends really think of me?: "The Moon is Down" by Explosions in the Sky 4. Do people secretly lust after me?: "The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism" by the New Pornographers 5. How can I make myself happy?: "Bad Cover Version" by Pulp 6. What should I do with my life?: "Perfecting Loneliness" by

iTunes shuffle (3.9.06)

In the last few weeks, I've seen MySpace bulletins, various blogs and places like the AV Club feature people setting their iPod/iTunes libraries on "shuffle" and talking about the songs that come up. So, taking a cue from these, here's a sampling from my iTunes library on "shuffle": "Ask the Lonely" by Journey Here's a song that I discovered by just letting the CD play through. I never heard this song on the radio back in the day, but apparently it was a big hit. It's from the Two of a Kind soundtrack, a flick featuring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John post- Grease . I love the chorus melody and find its "When you're feeling love's unfair/you just ask the lonely" line very relatable. "Day Two" by Explosions in the Sky From the long out-of-print EP, The Rescue , this is Explosions in a rather experimental mode. Reportedly the band wrote and recorded eight new pieces in eight days and this came from the s

Is there life in numbers?

Reading this article on American Idol runner-up finalists, I came across a quote that hits on a subject I've been thinking about as of late. "60 million people watched the finale the year I was on," Idol runner-up Jon Peter Lewis said, "and I think Fantasia sold just over a million. It's a small fraction of the viewers who actually buy the records." So I pose the question: why do we put a lot of faith into numbers that only show a fraction of what's really out there? Box office receipts, SoundScan numbers, concert ticket sales and ratings are some of the tools used to measure business in the fields of media. I have no beef with these measurements, however, I have a beef with people that are led to believe that something is of value (or not of value) because it sells/earns a certain amount. Are we really that passive with how we measure apparent worth? Referring back to Kyle's post about Hawthorne Heights, the projected sales figures for the ban

1994-2001

As I continue my research on Post and work on rough ideas for my next book (too early to discuss here), I get the feeling that the time period when I was in high school and college was a relative black hole for modern rock music. Before the simplification of the past to make sense of the present (aka, hindsight) sets too far in, let's analyze a few highlights. 1994-1995 : 1994 saw the death of Kurt Cobain and in turn, saw the death of grunge for a lot of people, yet bands like Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Weezer and Pearl Jam kept alternarock going. Green Day and the Offspring hit the airwaves mere months after Cobain's death, thus giving grunge kids a lot of pop-punk to chew on. 1995-1996 : Major labels tried to replicate blockbuster pop-punk with a number of other bands (some young and some older), but no one truly breaks out. A large number of Britpop acts (ie, Oasis, Blur and Pulp) make crossovers to the US. 1997-1998 : Pop-friendly ska and swing make inroads t

How Nothing Feels

I have never met Andy Greenwald in person. I've never talked to him via e-mail him nor have I ever interviewed him on the phone. All that I know of him is through a few online interviews with him, some of his writing in Spin , and his book, Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers and Emo . As vocal as I've been about why I don't like his book, let the record be known that I don't have a beef with this guy personally. However, there are a few things about his book I would like to discuss that constantly anger me. As the Wee Demon put it best in her article on Post : The definitive work on the music thus far is a book called Nothing Feels Good by Spin magazine contributing writer Andy Greenwald, an admitted outsider in the scene. While it's not his only reason--or even his main one--for writing Post , Grubbs thinks Greenwald has it all wrong. I've said before that Nothing Feels Good was the final straw of many final straws. As the article accurately state

sXe

There was a time in college when I agreed with the idea of being Straight Edge (sXe for short). As someone who wasn't interested in drinking (hated the smell/taste of alcohol), smoking/doing drugs (didn't see any long-term benefits in using them) or fooling around (ditto in the long run), I thought straight edge was right for me. Boy, was I wrong. I probably saw more straight edge extremists than normal straight edge folks back in the day, but the extremists showed me how out of line they could get. Hearing of people getting beaten down because they disagreed with their views, people slapping drinks out of people's hands and so on, I felt like this was the blind leading the blind. In my eyes, straight edge had become a religious cult with violence. This was not cool to me and I soon distanced myself from it. In this case in particular, I saw the dangers in having strong beliefs versus having ideas. For the textbook definition: straight edge as a belief came from lyrics i