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Showing posts from August, 2006

Consider the source

I heard that Panic! at the Disco covers Radiohead's "Karma Police" in their live sets, but until a few days ago, I had yet to hear a live recording of them doing it. Well, there are several versions available on YouTube (here's one that's pretty decent-sounding for a bootleg) and I got to thinking. Considering the fact that these guys grew up on bands like Third Eye Blind and Counting Crows, I think I understand why frontman Brendon Urie (and several other mall emo singers) sing in this frequently off-key, nasal way. I've never seen Counting Crows or Third Eye Blind live in concert. However, I did see plenty of performances of them on The Tonight Show and VH1's various concert specials back in the '90s. What was one of the most glaring aspects about these performances? The vocals were really bad. TEB's Stephen Jenkins looked like he was frequently struggling to hit most of the notes and he frequently sang off-key. As evidenced by their Across

I know this is wrong 'cause we're told this is wrong

Like their last record, Cursive 's new record, Happy Hollow , keeps growing on me and all for the better. I'll say that if you liked The Ugly Organ , you're going to enjoy this one too, but I don't mean to imply that this is a retread. Cursive has successfully managed to make great records in the last few years, but none of this happened overnight. My introduction to the band was via their third album, Domestica . Feeling like this was an angry Fugazi clone, I passed on it and sent it to the "crap box" at KTCU. Well, my friend and fellow DJ Steve retrieved it from the box, along with their Burst and Bloom EP, and just so happened to have them out when I was once over at his house. I don't know why, but I wanted to listen to Domestica again, in addition to Burst and Bloom . Even though I still think Domestica sounds like an angry Fugazi clone, I think it's great. The deal about Domestica is that the lyrics were all coming from the stance of someon

It's the color of your skin

In honor of my Complete Idiot's Guide to Catherine Wheel over on Jeff's blog, here's a little essay about the band's most-remembered tune, "Black Metallic." I don't remember who said this, but Catherine Wheel's "Black Metallic" was once described as the "Rock You Like a Hurricane" of the '90s. I don't know if that comment was made to be sincere or tongue-in-cheek, but the point is, the song rocks in a good way. Yet I find matters a little strange that this track is their best known song. At over seven minutes in length, "Black Metallic" is not a bad song at all. The shortened single version got plenty of rotation back in 1992 and 1993. Alternative/modern rock radio was really coming into its element now as an FM powerhouse to the right of the dial. "Black Metallic" was one of its popular tracks, along with "I Want to Touch You," another single from the band's debut album, Ferment . Cathe

A reality with virtual products

As much I am a fan of iTunes , something happened over the weekend that made me realize another compromise one makes with buying songs online. Here's the situation: what if the MP3 you bought has a clip/break in the middle of it? Is there a return/refund policy with purchased MP3s just like there are with CDs that are scratched? Well, I might be missing something, but I didn't see one listed on their help/support page. In my case, the song that I wanted was listed twice in the iTunes Music Store. Both versions were of the same length and from the same album, so I assumed that they were one in the same. Well, after buying the first one listed, I took a listen. Two seconds into the track, I heard a glitch, much to my chagrin. I listened to it again and again to make sure that the problem wasn't just my computer. Nope -- the problem was with the file itself. So, I opted to download the second version of the same song. This time, no glitch and no problems, but I started thinki

Is it hiding, covering or both?

Jason brought up a great observation/question a few days ago: What is up with 40-50 year old men wearing Hawaiian shirts? Seriously, everywhere I turn nowadays, a guy is decked out in one, with the top button unbuttoned just enough to expose his graying chest hair. Is this the latest fad for middle-age men? Sure, the shirt looks comfortable and loose and casual, but I can think of several other types of shirts that exhibit those qualities. Why Hawaiian? As someone who has known people that exactly fit this persona, let me share a few things. First things first: I like loose and open button-down shirts. What I'm not a huge fan is the kind of design that features really hot colors (ie, pink, yellow) with surfboards and/or classic cars lined up all over the shirt. I can tolerate plants and flowers to an extent, but the flashier the stuff is, the less I like it. I have no problem with a black bowling shirt with blue and red flames with bowling balls and pins, but that's about

"and in June reformed without me/and they got a different name"

Here was an odd sight last night at the Cavern: the Mag Seven played with its chief songwriter/co-founder in the audience. I know each band has its own reasons to carry on after a member leaves, but is there a general line where bands should just hang up the name and go by something else? In the case of the Mag Seven, the band started out as a side project featuring Dan Phillips and Scott Brayfield from Slowride and Doni Blair from Hagfish . Releasing two albums ( Eighth Round Knockout and Use Your Powers for Good, Not Evil ), Dan and Scott would eventually leave the band, leaving Doni the sole original member. When I heard that Doni was keeping the band going, I had one of those "I'll believe this when I see this" attitudes. Dan wrote all the songs -- which are a distinct blend of rockabilly, punk rock and surf rock -- and his style was very unique. Well, a third album, The Future is Ours, If You Can Count , dropped this past June and the band has been playing aroun

London Bridge is falling down

Fellow blogging friend Jeff posted a live performance of Fergie's "London Bridge" and wonders about the song's appeal. He asked: "How does anyone manage listening to the radio anymore?" My question is: how can anyone listen to this song, period? I can understand if this song was played in a dance club or a strip club, but what about on regular radio or MTV? I've attempted to watch this video a few times, but it's difficult to watch it the whole way through. These are loud, moronic beats under a bland, monotone melody and ultra-skanky lyrics. The song's main hook sticks with you, but not in a pleasant way. How can you convince me this is a good song? Who is actually listening to this and liking this? Am I missing something in what I perceive as being Blender -like content set to a beat? I have no problem with female singers being sexy, but I'm turned off when they act ultra-skanky. There's something very un-sexy about a sleazy tease an

To the woods

As I watched Division Day and Birdmonster rip it up at the Double Wide last night, I couldn't help but think about the most recent Tapes 'n Tapes show in Dallas. Though these bands sound nothing alike, I thought about why I like them and why critics of music blogs don't understand. None of these bands have a style that can described in two to three words, but I choose the safe, vague and non-offensive term, indie rock. And by indie rock, I mean stuff that is actually made independently of what the passive mainstream wants right now. If the opinions of bloggers are often made light of by certain writers and editors in the traditional media, then why are they caring to search for blog posts about bands through search engines like Technorati ? Is there a true desire to get what the word is on the (virtual) street or is this just pure curiosity? Or is this just more ammo for when they review a show? I don't know, but if you're looking for flimsy hype from me about B

Sentimental gentle wind/Blowing through my life again

A thread on '70s soft rock found on the Sound Opinions Message Board inspires today's post. I don't hide behind my love for the music of America, Jim Croce, Fleetwood Mac, James Taylor, John Denver, Gordon Lightfoot, Carole King and so on. This was the first kind of recorded music I ever heard when I was only a few years old. I've never shied away from the music and I still like it. But in the last few years, I realized that this music was hated in its day by hipsters, punks and the like. Now, this style of rock music is a non-ironic hipster favorite. Anyone else seeing the irony here? Just like hipsters/indie rock folks dressing up like they were in Journey's "Separate Ways" video, what was once considered un-hip is considered hip in the modern sense. Of course this is ironic, but to me, this is a continuation of the cyclical nature of fashion trends and music tastes. In the case of '70s styled pop rock found in modern bands like Midlake and the Fo

Manchild

A little over a month ago, I heard about the comics of Brian Walsby . To be honest, I wish I had heard about this guy sooner because I now have a lot of catching up to do with his work. Bifocal Media recently put out Manchild 2: The Second Coming , a collection of Walsby's comics from the last few years. Yes, he crams a lot of dialogue and exposition into every page. That can be rather daunting at times, but it's not like he's trying to fill up the page with filler. He just has plenty to say. If you're a fan of punk rock and know a few things about its most well-known bands and labels, you're in for a treat with Manchild 2 . As someone who's read a lot of stories about '80s punk rock, I get the sense that Walsby has too. Certain pages discuss and reminisce about SST Records, Black Flag and the Descendents in humorous ways. But that's not all that Walsby covers. Telling stories of old roommates and friends, there is genuine heart behind his work. Even

Here to Stay

As I was finishing up my latest round of reviews for Punk Planet last night, I took a listen to the latest Sound Opinions podcast. In lieu of the usual music news they do at the top of the show, Jim and Greg reviewed the new Outkast and Christina Aguilera records. While I cannot say I really care for either act, a sense of puzzlement came over me as they talked about Aguilera's new double-disc release, Back to Basics . When was the last time you heard of a mainstream pop artist releasing a double album? I'm not talking a rock band like Smashing Pumpkins or the Foo Fighters who have a pop appeal. I'm talking those seemingly disposable pop tarts that sell sex sex sex and also serve as role models for pre-teens and teens alike. I cannot remember a single one, but there could be a few. Double albums often test the attention span of a listener and are more often than not found in the album rock genre. With so many songs on them, double albums usually fly over the head of the

Aiming for a target

Yesterday's post on Snakes on a Plane spawned a good discussion in the comments section. Well, something that captain groovy said got me to thinking about something else worthy of a blog entry. With trying understand the appeal of the film, the groovy one said, "you're not the target audience." This gets me to wondering about general advertising and marketing. Even though I minored in advertisting/public relations in college, I've always wondered: if something is meant for a specific audience, then why is it advertised so prominently in areas that have a large and diverse audience? In other words, if Snakes on a Plane is not meant for me, then why can't I escape it? Before I go any further, I must address why I care. If I'm trying to find stuff that is of interest for me, how come I have to wade through all sorts of puff pieces about Paris Hilton, Panic! At the Disco and Tom Cruise? I guess that's a part of the hunt, but why is there such a large

Explain Yourself (SoaP edition)

Ever been around a group of people and feel like you're missing something because you're not in on a joke? For some, that can be an everyday part of life, but for others there are certain times when you just don't understand what the hell is going on. Well, I've been feeling the latter in the last few weeks mainly because of Snakes on a Plane . From what I gather, people my age are attracted to the ludicrous nature of a film about snakes getting loose on a plane. There's something really funny about this concept, but they won't admit to why they think this is so funny. New Line Cinema has been led into thinking that people actually really want to enjoy this movie while people my age want something to laugh at. In other words, the same mindset that goes for "reality" shows wants to see Snakes on a Plane . There is an odd sense of enjoyment in watching failure and embarrassment as long as it's not us looking at our own failures and embarrassing mom

"A lovely cheese pizza, just for me."

It's difficult for me to remember a time when I didn't eat pizza on a regular basis. On almost every Sunday, my family had either Godfather's Pizza, Pizza Hut or Papa John's when I was growing up. Yes, we tend to eat the same stuff every week and are loyal to the places we never get tired of. When it came to toppings, pepperoni was usually the one one we had, while sometimes we would have meat or "supreme" flavors instead. Yet in the last couple of years, I've gravitated more towards no toppings at all. Yup, I'm a cheese pizza fan. However, the idea of a pizza with no proper toppings flies over the head of people. I wonder why. I find irony with the cheese pizza critics I've known over the years as they are all overweight. These are people who always complain about being overweight and wish to shed some pounds. Yet they always want a few toppings (especially in the meat department) when they order a pizza. Now I haven't sworn off all toppings

Indefinite hiatus

I've been thinking about how bands these days announce their break-ups. The phrase "indefinite hiatus" is most frequently used, but what does that really mean? In the case of Sleater-Kinney , some doors sound like they are open for possible reunions in the future. In regards to other bands that have used that phrase, some mudslinging has come out, implying that the doors are shut. Ex-members of At the Drive-In and blink-182 have made some rather choice words about certain other bandmates, but even with that, time only tells about these sorts of matters. With blink-182, bassist/vocalist Mark Hoppus recently did a long-ass interview about the unraveling of the band. Pointing at choices and decisions dictated by guitarist/vocalist Tom DeLonge as a big reason, what was once a democratic band was now rotating around one person. This of course doesn't paint DeLonge in a very positive light, but then again, the guy dug his own grave with his words a few months ago. Making

I'll have a Tall Vanilla Bean Frappuccino, a blueberry muffin and . . . a CD?

Something that caught my eye while I was at a nearby Starbucks last week was their ever-growing selection of CDs for sale. The coffee chain has been selling CDs for a few years now with their Hear Music catalog, but it wasn't until last week that I thought that the pairing was really odd. I can understand the bags of coffee beans and kitchen stuff also for sale, but why music too? I'm still in the dark as to why the selling of lifestyles is more frequent than just individual products. This isn't just with Starbucks -- this is everywhere. Starbucks makes great coffee, tea and desserts, so what more can they accomplish by also selling music? Are they trying to up the ante with impulse buys? Sorry, but if I want to buy a CD, it's not going to be at a Starbucks. I will admit it flat-out: I'm not a regular Starbucks customer. I've been to Starbucks three times this year and two of these times were for meet-ups. The atmosphere is great for meet-ups with friends, s

My Aim is True

As incredible as Elvis Costello 's early material is, I am very miffed at the news that his first eleven albums are going to be reissued on CD again . I wonder now: can you reissue something too many times? Whatever happened to reissuing something once until vastly superior technology is available? Do the record companies think we're that stupid with re-releasing stuff after only a few years? I thought I hit pay dirt when I got Rykodisc's versions of Costello's first four albums. Bonus tracks were on every CD and even a rip-roaring live concert CD came with a box set. Well, then Rhino got the rights to the records and did a kick-ass job of remastering and reissuing all of his albums up to All This Useless Beauty . Each album came with pristine sound, a bonus disc of material and fantastic liner notes from Mr. Costello himself. What more could us Costello fans want? Apparently more, according to the powers that be at Universal. I don't know if Rhino's versions

Vacation (all I ever wanted)

With school starting today for many area schools, the most frequently question asked is "What did you do on your summer vacation?" I'm sure there will be at least a mention of a trip out of town in addition to other things. For me, five years post-college, what constitutes a summer vacation is more a matter of a few hours or a couple of days than anything else. I don't mean this is a pity party way; I'm just realizing some stuff with my life now versus my life before. Over the weekend, I made a quick day trip down to Round Rock , a suburb that is 25 miles north of Austin. The reason was to see a writer friend of mine and interview him for the book. At one point in our talk, I realized, "This is my summer vacation." Five hours out of town, in addition to a weekend trip down to Houston for a birthday party in June, and this is it for a summer vacation. Then I started thinking about what summer vacation is for and whom it is best suited for. Make no mista

Wrath of Sanity

In the documentary Dirty Old Town , which profiles Ted Leo & the Pharmacists while on tour for Hearts of Oak , Leo mentions that he is a vegan. When I heard him say that the first time, a lot of odd memories came back to me. When Davey Havok from AFI told Rolling Stone and AP about his favorite vegan desserts, those memories came back again. To me, hearing about that stuff now is purely from a personal stance, but I remember when talking about that stuff was more of a banner than anything else. When I was getting into pop-punk and hardcore, openly discussing your personal stances was a huge deal. There was a sense of "I'm better than you" with decisions like choosing not to drink alcohol, supporting animal rights and how involved you were with "the scene." I could be totally off here, but from what I've seen, this younger generation of punk and hardcore fans isn't all wrapped up in that stuff. In 1997, as I was discovering bands like Snapcase,

Introduction

For a few years, whenever I would hear about a blockbuster-selling band from the '70s, I wondered how big they were in the general listener's mind in those days. I could look at Billboard chart positions and they could tell me something, but nothing more than rankings. Asking someone who views music as background stuff and someone who views music as an active thing are going to generate vastly different responses. In the case of the latter, asking someone who was really taken with punk rock during this time, chances were very good that I would hear grumbles and moans about a band like Chicago, Fleetwod Mac or Journey. Well, thanks to my blogging friend Jeff , I'm finally getting some explanations that aren't masked by sighs and eye-rolling. This week, Jeff posted The Complete Idiot's Guide to Chicago Part 1 . A few weeks ago, he posted The Complete Idiot's Guide to Journey . Both guides were written by readers of his site and both did great jobs in describing

Choosing Death

Last year, copies of Albert Mudrian's Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal & Grindcore often caught my eye at the various Borders I frequent here in town. Thinking that this was going to be an analysis of the doomy side of the music, I passed on even taking a peek at it. Well, after reading an interview with Mudrian in Punk Planet , I thought I should at least skim through some pages. With Borders sending out their 20-30% coupons out to me every other week, I thought what the hell and bought the book after liking what I skimmed through. With the two large stacks of unread books I have on my shelf, I decided to pull out Choosing Death and finally read it. While people may scoff at the idea of reading about extreme music, this is not a book about trying to convert people to the music. Rather, this is about the process behind the music. To me, that's the meatier side and usually way more compelling than talking all about the music. Whether located in Calif

Cross Me Off Your List

Let me get something out of the way right away: I still do not care for Hawthorne Heights ' music. It is still the epitome of the cheeseball mall emo that today's "kids" who "don't know any better" buy. That said, I'm totally behind them on their decision to leave the label that brought them to the masses: Victory Records . Airing dirty laundry in public never really looks good, but in this case, there is some stuff that the public should know about. To be honest, a part of me is relieved that this dam has burst and the flooding has begun. A few months back, on the eve of the release of HH's "highly-anticipated" new record, If Only You Were Lonely , there were some rather questionable acts suggested on trying to make the album debut at number one on the Billboard Top 200 album charts. A written manifesto circulated supposedly from the band about how important this placement was for rock music in general. Plus, there were some tactic

Hotter than a match head

Plenty of reviews of this past weekend's Lollapalooza are online. Blogs like Chrome Waves , Can You See the Sunset from the Southside? and Muzzle of Bees share their experiences while Chicago Sun-Times critic Jim DeRogatis gives his full wrap-up today. That's just a sampling, but in this sampling I notice something that would drive me bonkers with seeing these kinds of festivals: too many bands playing all at once in very hot conditions. Let me upfront about this: I've never been to an open-air concert festival in my life. I saw a few all-day Buzzfests in the late-'90s and those were marathons under the hot sun while bad bands outnumbered the good ones. The one and only time I went to the Warped Tour, rain was in the forecast, so instead of playing in the parking lot, all of the bands played inside Astro Arena. I'm saying all this because what I'm reading about with these open-air festivals makes me stay away from them -- very far away. I've lived in T

Pay attention

One of the really cool things about Lost is this: if you're paying close attention to matters like quotes, character arcs and familiar faces, you'll be rewarded. Well, what if the same close eye to detail was applied to shows like Jose Luis: Sin Censura or Secretos Houston ? A few weeks ago, while watching Jose Luis , I noticed a familiar face as a guest. Months before, there was an episode where the same reaction shot was inserted over and over again. The shot included a light-skinned, young Hispanic woman in the audience looking rather startled. This shot was used about five times in the same show and I found this to be rather hilarious. Fast forward to a few weeks ago and here comes out this scantily-clad guest walking around like she's in Dolemite 's entourage. Looking a little closer, I realized that this guest was the same person that was in the audience in the other episode. Nevermind all the staged hidden camera shots, I wonder how often they recycle people

I'm Not a Loser

A few weeks back, the Onion posted some of their archival stories on their front page. One of them hit really close to home in addition to making me laugh: History of Rock Written By The Losers September 17, 2003 BOSTON—Fifty years after its inception, rock 'n' roll music remains popular due to the ardor of its fans and the hard work of musicians, producers, and concert promoters. But in the vast universe of popular music, there exists an oft-overlooked group of dedicated individuals who devote their ample free time to collecting, debating, and publishing the minutiae of the rock genre. They are the losers who write rock's rich and storied history. Read the rest here . Yes, plenty of people who have written some of the most comprehensive books on the on-going story of rock 'n' roll have earmarks of loserdom. However, seeing what I've seen with some writers I've talked to and read about, we're not the losers. Like how we were in high school and colle

The Element of One

Unless it was a band like Pantera, Metallica or Corrosion of Conformity, metal was prime for spoofing in the mainstream during most of the '90s. Just watch any Beavis and Butt-head episode and you'll probably understand the gist of such ridicule. "Liquid fingers" guitar solos, double-kick drums, operatic vocals, long, permed hair, Dungeons & Dragons -like imagery; you name it, it was looked down upon. These are really silly things, so it's nice to hear and a see a band that is nothing of the sort that is considered metal. Also, it's nice to see a band that isn't in the "this is the heaviest record of all time!" sweepstakes or trying to be tougher than tough. I'm talking about Killswitch Engage . After hearing nice mentions about the band for a couple of years, I finally got around to listening to their stuff thanks to a post on Eric's blog. Featuring a new original that (hopefully) will be on the band's next record and a cover

After the Eulogy

In the last few days, Punknews.org has reported on two break-ups of bands that were once considered poised for major stardom, but they never achieved such. Today, Acceptance announced they are calling it quits while Boy Sets Fire announced they are breaking up on Monday. I could not call myself a big fan of either band, but they've been on my mind since the news broke for a few reasons. I may be totally off here, but if I recall correctly, Boy Sets Fire was one of the first few bands that had songs that either used guttural singing over abrasive metal/hardcore or whiny/emo-ish singing over poppy stuff. Sometimes the two extremes would mix, but more often than not, they were showcased in completely separate songs. Sometimes this would be cool, but other times this would make me laugh in a non-congratulatory way. Boy Sets Fire was a very politically-driven band. They wanted to spread their outspoken ideas to the most amount of people as possible, so the lineage of labels they we

Love goes out the door when money comes innuendo

I can be so clueless about song lyrics. As I've said before on this blog, Radiohead's Thom Yorke could sing his grocery list and I wouldn't realize it until I read the lyrics. I'm always listening for the melodies and not trying to see if the lyrics make any sense. Well, it's recently come to attention that an AM gold hit that I grew up on is about one thing and one thing only. "This song is about daytime lovemaking," as legendary broadcaster Ron Burgundy says in his version , " the naughty type ." The song I'm referring to is "Afternoon Delight" by the Starland Vocal Band, a pop rock staple of the '70s. You still hear this song all the time, but here's the rather "Huh?" factor: parents complain all the time that there are so many sexual overtones in the modern music their children listen to while they make light of all the sexual references in the music they grew up on. Well, sorry, I ain't buying the "