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Showing posts from March, 2007

I Can't Stand Up for Falling Down

In 2000, I was introduced to the notion of what I call the "don't care" audience. While interning at a pop radio station, Mary J. Blige was to be interviewed via phone one morning. Before the interview began, I politely asked if I could ask a question about working with Elton John. Blige's new CD featured Sir Elton playing a hook from "Bennie and the Jets" and I wanted to ask what it was like to work with him. The deal is, the question was never asked because when I ran it by the hosts, one of them responded, "Eric, nobody cares about that stuff! " Thus it began. I know the mindset I have with music is not in a majority, but I know I'm not in a minority. I am somebody somewhere that cares, so I've never bought the line about how "nobody cares" or "people don't care about that stuff." Recently viewing the excellent documentary, Before the Music Dies , I have a better understanding of how I'm not alone here. Film

Burn away

Not too long ago, there was a yearly alumni conference at my alma mater. They haven't done one in years due to various reasons, so I've never had the chance to share my experiences with various students. If there's one important topic I'd like to clear up with college students about the "real world," it's burning bridges. I don't know where the phrase comes from, but my original thought about burning bridges was this: don't burn them and if you accidentally burn one, feel bad about it and beg for forgiveness. Now I realize it's more like this: don't be a total jerk to everyone you work with. Of course you're not going to get along with every person you work with, but don't go out of your way to please everyone. There's a huge difference. I've worked with very difficult people and have had flare-ups with them. Would I go so far to urinate on their desks while they are on conference calls? Nope. Would I slash their tires and

Clap your hands if you want some more

Whenever I heard the description "Sixties girl-group," I thought of the songs you hear all the time on oldies radio stations. I've heard songs like "Be My Baby," "My Boyfriend's Back," and "Leader of the Pack" plenty of times in my life. But I never ventured much further than that. I never realized that what I love about Northern Soul is similar to what so many of these girl groups embodied. I'm talking layers of snappy melodies, upbeat rhythms and simple-but-dense lyrics. And I never thought a modern band cut from this cloth could make me go ga-ga for them. Hearing just a little sample of the Pipettes on this week's Sound Opinions podcast made curious. Upon watching their videos (start with the one for "Pull Shapes" first), I can't help but want to share this music with as many people as possible. I don't care if the group has already received a lot of blog love. I haven't felt this moved by bouncy pop mu

No sex or violence/No morbid silence

How is ballroom dancing a step down in television programming? You'd think this would be catnip for my parents' generation. Aren't they always talking about sex and violence being the signs of the media apocalypse? I don't get it. So asks fellow blogger Donna about a criticism of Dancing With the Stars . She has an excellent point. I don't get it either. I'm not a regular watcher of Dancing With the Stars , but I've seen enough episodes to understand its main draw. No, it's not just seeing faded stars try to dance; it's all that physical sexual innuendo. Whether the dancing is like choreographed foreplay or not, this is definitely not the kind of formal dancing you learned in cotillion. Since this dancing has been considered a "forbidden" activity in public, it can ruffle some feathers. Remember the Lambada, The Forbidden Dance , in the early Nineties? So couple sex with violence and you have some of the most-targeted matters by media

Everyone needs a Sunday some days

Spending my Sunday night with KTCU's the Good Show rendered the following: Being there on the same night as Glen Reynolds from Chomsky was the musical guest was totally unplanned. I was introduced to Chomsky at KTCU in '99 and proceeded to see the band play 40-50 times over the next few years. The playing of Ted Leo's "La Costa Brava" after a Bill Maher rant was unintentional. But it could have been serendipity. Seeing only a few old CDs in the Modern Rock rotation shelf was nice. There was a time a few years ago where half of the CDs were released well before '99. Random on-air conversations about music are still a lot of fun. Criticizing Chely Wright's "The Bumper of My SUV" as we heard it was even more fun. Asking a doctor which TV shows set in a hospital are more like real life in a hospital, the immediate answer was Scrubs . Recognizing a song from an episode of The Cosby Show but didn't know who performed it. It was the one and

Cool Confusion

As I'm finally nearing the final page of Pat Gilbert's Passion is a Fashion: The Real Story of the Clash , I'm more and more interested in hearing the band's post- London Calling material. For years I've heard this material should be avoided, but the curiosity just grows and grows. My time with the Clash has been a really weird matter. "Rock the Casbah " was my introduction to them, as it was one of the many pop hits I heard in the Eighties. But by the mid-Nineties, the Clash's legacy was a confusing thing to me. An excellent feature in Guitar World by J.D. Considine featured an album-by-album review which convinced me to at least check out London Calling . At the time, my idea of punk rock was fast, semi-tuneful music. I didn't understand punk as a mindset just yet. So that's why I was befuddled about how this album was considered a punk classic. I really liked a number of songs on the album (especially the title track), but this had rock

New Eyes Open

Judd Apatow, writer/director of The 40-Year-Old Virgin , Freaks and Geeks , and The Cable Guy , has a great take on dealing with bad reviews and good reviews. As someone who has received praise and scorn for his various works, Apatow speaks from a lot of experience. If anything, the lesson learned is that you shouldn't take bad or good reviews to heart. This is a concept I've been working on, especially with the part about not taking good reviews to heart. I won't lie: I like getting compliments. Getting complimented on my writing, work ethic, drumming and so on is a nice pat on the back. In some ways it feels like vindication for what I'm doing. But I've learned to not place final judgment in the hands of others. Plus, as a critic myself, I understand the other end of the spectrum. The job of the critic is to give an informed opinion. Just because a critic liked one thing from you doesn't mean he/she will like the next thing from you. Sounds basic right? Wel

I still buy music

Inspired by Late Night Wallflower's excellent write-up on a recent RIAA editorial, I wanted to chip in some thoughts. Although I've bought fewer CDs this year compared to years before, the point is, I still buy CDs. Am I a criminal because I download and burn CD-Rs with music I got from MP3 blogs and SendSpace? I don't think so; I still view the activity just like I viewed it as a youngster. Was my uncle a criminal for dubbing a cassette copy of The Joshua Tree and sending it to me? No. He wanted to share something I might like. (By the way, I bought The Joshua Tree on CD ten years ago and still have it.) These days, I test-drive a lot of music on MP3s. Simply put: I want to know if this album is worth owning on CD. Chalk it up to being very frugal and picky, but the phrase "spending your hard-earned cash" definitely applies with me. The idea of buying a record before ever hearing a note has almost completely faded from my view. I can't help but be curiou

Seasons in the Abyss

In honor of the Complete Idiot's Guide to Slayer on Jeff's blog, I have some things to share. I've never been a big fan of Slayer, but it's great to see them get a nice thorough album-by-album review. It inspires me to get to work on a certain other metal band that's mentioned throughout the Guide. But before I get to that, I should say this: there was a time when even muttering Slayer's name came with a lot of caution. I didn't grow up in a fire-and-brimstone household, but there was a slight cautionary eye towards metal. Metal bands (especially Ozzy and Judas Priest) were highly criticized (and sued) in the Eighties for warping teenagers' minds into doing horrific acts. So for a concerned parent, there's a reason to be concerned, but in reality, metal was not (and is not) the culprit here. However, that wasn't what was printed when a teenager in my neighborhood shot and killed his mother. Featuring a picture of a police officer being aghast a

The Kids Will Grow Up to Be . . .

Mr. Garrison: "Eric, did you just say the F-word?" Cartman: "Jew?" -- from South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut A couple of documentaries I've seen in the last few weeks, Kirby Dick's This Film is Not Yet Rated and Steve Anderson's Fuck , deal with society's taboo subjects in pretty tactful ways. Dealing with the depiction of sex, violence and vulgar language in the media, plenty of rhetorical questions get brought up. A quote that really struck me was something Newsweek critic David Ansen mentions in Dick's film about the MPAA: "Even though it's supposed to protect children, it's turning us all into children." How true that is. I find it odd that we live in a society where the chances are much greater to see an ad using sexuality to sell beer, a clothing line or lingerie than to see people having a mature conversation about sex and sexuality. I don't think it's appropriate to tell a kid going through puberty to

SxSW

Eight hours of South By Southwest yesterday rendered the following: Parking in a garage a few blocks away from Emo's. Cost of parking was only $7 and went all day. Quesadillas for lunch and dinner. A tan that thankfully didn't turn into a burn. Meeting a number of people who I had only spoken with over the phone or e-mail in the past three years. Realizing that in-person conversations still trump phone and e-mail conversations. Getting a song dedicated to you is still awesome. Standing next to Chris Wollard and hearing him sing along while Chuck Ragan finishes a solo set is really awesome. Despite my minor grumbles about Guitar Hero II , I didn't turn down an offer to get a free copy of it. No regrets about driving six hours for eight hours of fun.

Living for Today

After missing South by Southwest last year, I have short window to go this year. I'm talking one whole day and that day is tomorrow. A number of friends and colleagues who live out of state (and hundreds of miles away from Texas) will be only three hours from me this week. Since I didn't bother looking into getting a place to stay or a wristband, I'm taking the cheapest route possible: pay for a tank of gas, hope to find a decent parking space and just wing it for a few hours. Why I'm going tomorrow is because of two parties: one runs between noon and 6 and the other runs from 4-7. I'd be stupid not to go, so I'm just going down there. On paper, driving six hours total for eight hours of fun seems weird, but I've done this trip before for even fewer hours of fun. In 2002, Nick and I drove from Fort Worth to Austin and back in one day/late night. The reason? To see Belle & Sebastian on their Storytelling tour. It was one of the best shows I've eve

We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank

There is no discrimination between books on a shelf in a bookstore. In the music section especially, there are completely unauthorized ones and completely authorized ones filed side-by-side. Whether or not any of them are good is in the eye of the beholder, but nothing aggravates me more than speculative, unauthorized books getting published. I've written a lot about my disdain for Andy Greenwald's Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers, and Emo and my feelings haven't changed. His views have merits and he did conduct interviews with some legitimate sources, but his book as a whole is still an insult to those that bought a Christie Front Drive 7" at a warehouse show, booked At the Drive-In for a house show or let Braid sleep on their floors. When I started writing my book, I didn't think I would interview all the people I interviewed. Every day was just a few baby steps here and there. After three years, I lost count after the fifty or so people I talked with

Adventures in book shopping

I usually hit up my local Borders and Barnes & Noble bookstores every few weeks. More often than not, I usually go directly to my favorite section: the music section. There's always something new worth checking out along with older books I've been meaning to check out. I didn't know there was a new 656-page bio on Nirvana by Everett True until I saw it on a shelf over the weekend. However, my quests to find books about culture (be it pop culture, sociology, et al) have yielded some rather odd results. A couple years ago, I heard about Alissa Quart's Branded: the Buying and Selling of Teenagers . Described as a No Logo -like look at how Generation Y is marketed to, I thought it would be filed in the same location that No Logo is filed under: culture studies. I looked around one Borders in particular to find it and had to go to the last resort: I asked a clerk to look it up in the store's database. To my surprise, Branded was filed in the Parenting/General Edu

Thanks I Get

I got a chance to hear Wilco's new record, Sky Blue Sky , last night. I can't say much about how I feel about the album after one listen, but I will say this: the omission of "Thanks I Get" from the album is understandable. Like the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot outtakes "Not for the Season" and "Cars Can't Escape," here's another case of a great song that's the odd man out. "Thanks I Get" is purely sublime, but it's just too poppy compared to the twelve songs that made the final cut. Its omission is a little surprising since the song has been played live quite a bit in the last year (here are videos of it performed with a full band and solo ). Knowing Wilco, I have a good feeling we will get to download the song with the purchase of the CD. For Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost is Born , the CD unlocked bonus MP3 content available online when placed in the CD-Rom drive. Still a very smart move to get people to buy their materi

Pick up my guitar and play

A few weeks ago, I finally got around to playing the one and only Guitar Hero . Thinking this would be just like playing a guitar, I was surprised during my trial run. Playing the incredibly easy Ramones classic, "I Wanna Be Sedated," I played it note for note just like I've played it on guitar. Yet the song stopped, the crowd booed and I was at a loss for words. Ryan politely explained to me how to actually play the game (you hit the buttons right as they come at you). Once I got a grip on this, I was able to get through a lot of songs. But still, this game is more like Space Invaders instead of a guitar lesson. I've been playing guitar since 1995 and have always enjoyed the guitar itself. I understand the Guitar Hero games are not meant to be guitar tutorials, but they are meant for the non-guitar player as well as the seasoned player. I could chalk this up to playing for twelve years, but I've found playing a number of songs on Guitar Hero much easier to

Last Goodbye

When I got word about the death of Motown pianist Joe Hunter over the weekend, I really wanted to pull out my copy of Standing in the Shadows of Motown and watch the film again. If you've seen the film, Hunter is one of the most prominently displayed musicians and he shares plenty of great stories. But I got to wondering about something I've wondered about for years: why do we feel compelled to immediately buy (or dust off) something by an artist when he/she passes away? I distinctly remember wanting to pick up whatever Nirvana records I didn't already own when I heard about Kurt Cobain's death. When people like Jerry Garcia and John Denver died, copies of their CDs (which were collecting dust on the shelf) flew out of record stores. It's like death is great publicity. Still, why the sudden urge? When it comes to grieving about friends and family passing away, I usually think about the memories I have of them. I don't feel really compelled to look at documen

What's My Age Again?

I think around the completion of the second Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets , director Chris Columbus hinted that the three main actors, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, would not appear in all of the remaining films in the series. He didn't specify why, but he did say age was a major reason. Seeing as how the actors would be out of their teens by the time of filming the seventh and final film, there's always been speculation that the lead roles would be recast. Well, now with a couple of reviews online for the fifth film, along with a story confirming Radcliffe will be in the final two films, I'm starting to really question the validity of rumors about Watson and Grint not being in the final two films. And I definitely don't buy the age issue. The buying audience for these films has come to know these actors as the characters they've played in the films. This audience is not stupid and can tell if a recasting has happe

With your feet in the air and your head on the ground

loudQUIETloud was a documentary that quickly came out last year theatrically and quickly arrived on DVD shortly thereafter. Any documentary about the Pixies piques my interest, but a certain story ran in the NME right around its theatrical release that made me hold off on seeing it. Charles Thompson criticized certain editing of the film, but the story made it seem like he was very displeased with the film. Coupled with some rather opinion-as-fact comments made by one of its filmmakers in Fool the World , I had a bad feeling about the film. I watched the film over the weekend and found it pretty worthwhile. This is a fly-on-the-wall film about the band's reunion tour, starting in a small bar in Minneapolis. Following their tour of the states and Europe, there's plenty of intimate access that no puffy EPK would ever show. That's the perk, but the actual film feels less like the dynamic of a Pixies song and more like the dynamic of a Pixies show. Meaning, the music is inc

Following Through

Punknews.org and Pitchfork have the scoop, but in case you hadn't heard, the mighty Dismemberment Plan will play a one-off reunion show in D.C. on April 28th. The reason? It's a benefit for Callum Robbins. Here are the details: Saturday, April 28th at the Black Cat Tickets are $15 and they are on sale today at 5pm After two benefit shows in New York and one in Chicago, a previously announced second show in Chicago is happening at the end of April. With this D.C. show and the aforementioned Minneapolis show, these benefit shows don't seem to stop popping up. And that's good.

Three Years Later

I've told bits of this story before, but I thought I'd lay the whole story out today. On March 1st, 2004, I woke up to the sound of roofers working on my building. I knew all of the buildings in my apartment complex would be worked on because of a notice posted a few weeks prior. They were finally working on my building and were working at a brisk pace that morning. Being the first day of the month, I had to turn in my rent check. I planned to stop by the leasing office before I went to my afternoon gig at KLUV. As I'm walking down the steps, I see pile after pile of torn up shingles and old nails. New piles were falling fast and all over the place. I decided I should walk slowly and watch my steps. When I reached a point where I thought all was clear, BAM! A small pile of shingles hit me on the right side of my head and bounced off my right hand. The hit didn't feel like a punch, but it felt like a hard slap. I dropped my keys and looked up to see if any of the roof