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Showing posts from September, 2007


From what I've seen, rock music fans can be incredibly unforgiving when a band seems to change its tune. So unforgiving that they can forever hate a band because they put out a record on a major label, used a certain producer or heavily tinkered with their sound in the process. Maybe I'm just looking at the wrong people, but I'm just in the dark as to why people are this way. There's the angle about taking music incredibly personal and not being willing to share with others. I understand that because I've felt that way about a number of bands over the years. But I would never go so far and completely disown a band I love because they put out something I didn't like or became really popular. It's as if people don't allow bands to grow. It's like they want them to be around forever and be forever great. They don't want them to ever change. To which I wonder: is this just wishful thinking? I think about all the negativity Jawbreaker encountered when

Silent Bob Speaks

With yesterday's release of the book , My Boring-Ass Life: The Uncomfortably Candid Diary of Kevin Smith , I have a question: would you ever buy a book primarily made up of writings previously put online for free? I ask because I wonder if this could become a new trend in book publishing. Or am I seeing just another product coming out under the Kevin Smith brand name? I have yet to go through a copy of this book, but from what I've heard, most of the material can be found online here . On this site, beyond talking up his upcoming promotional appearances, Kevin often delves into his personal daily life -- from checking e-mail to taking poops to hanging out with friends to working on films to watching DVDs and having sex with his wife. All this activity hardly constitutes a "boring-ass life" (the title's a reference to a line in Chasing Amy in case you've forgotten), but it's a glimpse into his life that isn't found anywhere else. As a regular reader of


First, it was Led Zeppelin. Then it was Explosions in the Sky. Now, the music of the mighty Hum is being used in commercials for Cadillac. Here's the video for the song they're using and it's probably their best known song. I'm not knocking the band here. I'm sure they were nicely compensated and I find no fault in this. However, I'm still not a big fan of songs not originally written for commercials be used in commercials. As I've said before, as long as I remember the ad's usage of the song, my fond memories of the song now come with a sales pitch. And that's creepy. Now I wonder if Quicksand's "Dine Alone" will be used in McDonald's ad. For now, enjoy its video with no sales pitch added.

The Mechanicals

If you've been tracking the progress of Richard Kelly's long-in-development Southland Tales , you've probably heard about a certain screening it had at the Cannes Film Festival. There were walkouts throughout its near-three-hour running time and a few movie critics ripped the movie (and Kelly's talents) to shreds in their reviews. Well, as its theatrical release date looms and last week's debut of its trailer , I'm already getting ticked with how writers are writing about this movie. Why? They make walkouts and harsh reviews seem rare for a movie. Folks, this stuff happens all the time with all kinds of movies. I'm just puzzled why people are using this as a copy point. Maybe it's in hopes this builds up a underdog motif for Kelly. At this point, buzz is building by the day and I think it's working in favor of the film. In the case of Southland Tales ' screening at Cannes, Kelly has said that it wasn't the kind of film for the Cannes audience

The Popular Music

As I looked back over my Complete Idiot's Guides this week, along with reading two AV Club pieces about great albums from the late Nineties, I thought about the context in which these records originally came out. Since I remember this time very well, I figured I'd share some thoughts. Mostly, how music history seems bigger, more magical and to a degree, innocent, when looking back. 1997 was the year I graduated high school and started college. I found myself falling out with a couple of friends who were my best friends through high school and found myself hanging out with people who I still consider best friends today. Music was a topic we often discussed and we raved about the great records of the day. Records like OK Computer , Brighten the Corners and Whatever and Ever Amen were just some of the ones we talked about. The deal was, most of this stuff was not getting heavy rotation on MTV or VH1 or on our big local radio station. The Internet was mostly used for e-mailing

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Ash

Originally posted on Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007 Bio help from Walking Barefoot There’s a long list of bands that were huge in England and the U.K. but never gained more than a small following in the United States. You’ve heard quite a bit about bands in the Seventies and Eighties, but what about bands that gained prominence in the Nineties? The coverage is scant, leaving a number of truly intriguing bands out of the picture. I’m talking Manic Street Preachers, Therapy?, Skunk Anansie, Supergrass and plenty of others. But Ash is a special case. How could a band be so heavily influenced by American music, only to never receive widespread acclaim in the U.S.? Bassist Mark Hamilton and vocalist/guitarist Tim Wheeler were born in 1977 in the Northern Ireland town of Downpatrick. They started playing together in a band called Vietnam in 1989, but they broke up in 1992 when their drummer left. Playing with new drummer Rick McMurray, they christened the new band Ash. They were influenced by the

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Fugazi

Originally posted: Tuesday, January 9th, 2007 For a lot of people, Fugazi’s essential stuff consists of 13 Songs and Repeater . I’m not going to argue with that assessment, but I will argue with the idea that the rest of their catalog is a weird, frustrating puzzle. Originally formed as a trio in 1986 with Ian MacKaye on vocals and guitar, Joe Lally on bass and Colin Sears on drums, Fugazi was hotly anticipated before they ever played a show. Sears was from the lauded Dag Nasty and MacKaye was already a legend not just in Washington D.C., but the whole country. MacKaye helped form and run Dischord Records, the label that put D.C. on the map in the hardcore scene. Putting out releases by Minor Threat, Scream and the Faith, Dischord was a way to document a local music scene. With no interest in devaluing music for the sake of consumerism, Dischord has remained one of the most iconic independent labels in the world. For some, it’s the label. But how did it go from a hardcore punk imprint

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Catherine Wheel

Originally posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2006 Despite managing to release five proper albums, Catherine Wheel was one of those bands that always seemed to slip past the mainstream rock crowd. Yes, they got some nice airplay in their day, but people seem to have forgotten about them. You may hear “Black Metallic” or “Waydown” on a “classic alternative” show on Sirius or XM or maybe even on terrestrial radio, but that’s about it. For me, they were one of most consistent rock bands of the ’90s, meandering through shoegazer, hard rock, space rock and pop rock, all while eluding mainstream pigeonholing. Led by the smooth, warm pipes of vocalist/guitarist Rob Dickinson (cousin of Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson), Catherine Wheel featured Brian Futter on lead guitar, Dave Hawes on bass and Neil Sims on drums. They weren’t a pretty-boy guitar band, but they weren’t a scuzzy bunch of ragamuffins either. Though the band hailed from England, Catherine Wheel found itself more welcome on American air

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Elliott Smith

Originally posted June 20th, 2006 : With bio help by Sweet Adeline The music of Elliott Smith is too often overshadowed by his short life. Just like Nick Drake’s and Jeff Buckley’s lives and music, people tend to paint all of these supposed mopes into a corner of super-sad music. The deal is, there wasn’t just sadness in their songs and lives: there was beauty, happiness and hope too. The main comparison that I would make with these artists is the music they made is timeless because it was inspired by the timeless records they grew up on. Born Steven Paul Smith in 1969 in Omaha, Nebraska, Smith grew up with his mother in Duncanville, Texas (a town near Dallas), but spent most of his high school years living with his father in Portland, Oregon. Growing up on a standard diet of the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, Motown, KISS, punk rock and new wave, he started writing his own songs at a very young age. A gifted musician, he first learned piano, then clarinet, then guitar and went fro

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Ben Folds and Ben Folds Five

Originally posted on Tuesday, April 11th, 2006 : For some, Ben Folds Five was merely a one hit wonder. For others, the trio was a life-changer. Myself, I’m one of the latter. Being formally introduced with the “Battle of Who Could Care Less” video on 120 Minutes , I was very intrigued to know more about this piano-bass-drums combo. Once I heard Whatever and Ever Amen , I was hooked. As a matter of fact, out of all of my favorite bands, Ben Folds Five is one of the few that I liked right away and I have held the same kind of admiration ever since. Their three proper albums (and one b-sides collection) are staples in my record collection and they may very well be (or soon be) staples in your collection too. For a band that was once described as “punk rock for sissies,” you may realize how effortlessly these guys walked between fun, semi-goofy pop songs and some really deep and powerful stuff too. It helps that they had it right from the beginning and kept maturing. Ben Folds Five (1995)

A note about most of this week's content . . .

Kudos go to Idolator for this link pertaining to our friend Jeff Giles' currently offline blog , Jefitoblog. Basically, his hosting company boarded up shop and didn't tell anyone. So, no blog for him and a lot of other people. It royally stinks to see such a fine blog get zapped, especially a blog that went beyond covering what hipsters were royally praising for six months and then royally making light of in another. Jeff's writing can still be found in a couple of places, most notably Bullz-Eye and Rotten Tomatoes . He recently did a preview of the fall's movies and a mix of comeback songs for Bullz-Eye. Since I contributed a few pieces to the site -- most notably a handful of Complete Idiot's Guides -- I figured it would be worthwhile to repost my stuff on here. Not to turn this into A Star is Born , but I mean this in tribute to a blog I loved writing for. The next few days will see all of the text reposted, but without the MP3s. Enjoy!

The Castanets

Sometimes I have dreams that are just so out there they are hard to forget. They puzzle me, so I try to piece together where certain elements came from. In this particular case, this dream sounds like the makings of a question for the AV Club in their weekly "Ask the AV Club" section. Meaning, those questions that begin with something along the lines of, "I remember seeing a movie when I was a kid that was from the late-'70s, early-'80s . . ." About two months ago, shortly after viewing Lost Highway for the first time, I dreamt I watched a movie from the Seventies called The Castanets . With a visual style akin to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre with its dark blues and light browns, its story followed a pair of murderers who went across the South on a killing spree. The murderers' faces are never shown and most of the murders are seen from their perspective, similar to Black Christmas and Halloween . A young Tommy Lee Jones plays a sheriff who's on t

. . . And the band plays on

With this week's publication of The Onion 's spot-on spoof of Pitchfork's reviews, I bring up an issue that's been on my mind as late. No, it's not the hilarious sting found in the last sentence ( Maher termed Schreiber's assessment of music "overwrought, masturbatory posturing intended to make insecure hipsters feel as if they're part of some imagined elite beau monde." ). And it goes beyond looking like you just rolled out of bed, haven't shaved in ten days, put on some dirty clothes and claim you seriously like mind-numbing hip-hop more than tuneful rock music. Without trying to get too broad, I think about what is remembered more: the art or the criticism of the art? More often than not, it's the art. Sure, you may still hear about how a riot occurred when Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" debuted, but do you ever hear about how Beethoven's Ninth Symphony was received by the main newspaper in Germany? You may see some

You See Everything

I hear all the time about how something from someone's childhood isn't around anymore. Be it a musical genre, a channel that played music videos, a venue, a restaurant, etc., it's just not the proverbial same. Well, I think there are some things I'm glad aren't around anymore. High up on that list is watching movies in pan-and-scan . Before I was in college, I never noticed the difference between seeing a movie in widescreen in a theater and seeing it in pan-and-scan on a TV. I thought Tim Burton's Batman looked the same on TV as it did on the big screen. Well, with the advent of DVD (and seeing The Matrix on DVD), I've never wanted to see a movie in pan-and-scan again. I can't go back . . . and that's fine with me. Depending on how you view it, rewatching movies in widescreen can be a royal pain in the ass. However, seeing movies from The Muppet Movie to Kentucky Fried Movie on DVD and in widescreen, there's no contest. The more that's o


It may sound too simple or flowery (and maybe a direct effect of reading a certain book by David Lynch), but I think it often takes a lot of hard work to be happy. Especially when you've been angry for many years, being happy feels like a long, arduous climb. Why? Because it's easy to be ho-hum and annoyed with life when that feels the most familiar. Somehow the happiness you knew when you were younger slowly evaporated as you grew up. Happiness seems fake while sadness and pain feel real. And it can be very difficult to change this. In my own experience, getting fussed at/dumped upon and feeling abandoned by others all felt real and stable. Happiness seemed to be a fleeting thing and I thought it would always be. The innocence of my childhood had long passed and being an adult somehow meant dealing with a lot of pain and grief. Now all these years later, I find that attitude to be a big illusion. In a lot of instances, whether we know it or not, we can choose to be happy or n


As much as I dislike comment sections on various websites I check out, it's at least worth taking a glimpse in hopes there isn't immature back-talking or nitpicking. These hopes are often dashed, but not every time. When there is a good back-and-forth between readers, it's a pretty thoughtful, cool read. Yet something I still can't wrap my head around is the desire to be the first to post a response. In other words, those comments that simply say, "First!" What gives with this? Steve Hyden over at the AV Club touched on this in a recent post about "grade grubbin'" nitpickers. I get the sense he and I aren't the only ones annoyed by this. How about you? For me, I'm well aware of how sites like the AV Club, Ain't It Cool News and MySpace are highly trafficked because of the immediate responses in their comments sections. A post can be only a few minutes old and already there's a response or two. But what exactly does a first post s


If I haven't said it already: despite spending a lot of time and effort with writing about post-hardcore/emo bands, I don't listen to them as much as I used to. I doubt I'll ever give up listening to this music entirely, but there's so much other stuff that I listen to. Still, a big reason why I wrote Post the way I wrote it was: talk about the people behind the music more than the music itself. You may never care to hear an At the Drive-In song, but probably can relate to their story of struggle. The same goes for every other band mentioned. Well, there are times that I'll flash back to a story a band member told me in these last four years and really relate to what was said. As of late, the following quotes from No Idea's Var Thelin sum up a lot of feelings I've been having: Another aspect to the backlash was that the band left No Idea. Their friends at the label felt the same way. “We were absolutely not cool with that,” Thelin says. For Thelin, the exit


As I patiently await some word back on Post , I figured I'd pass along some information about some forthcoming books covering some of the same topics and bands. In hopes this doesn't read like a sticker on a Victory CD ("If you like X, Y and Z, you'll love Q!"), let me just say these are books worth looking out for if Post 's subject matter interests you. Norman Brannon (ne, Arenas) is probably best known as the guitarist for Texas is the Reason. Well, the guy has been writing for a long time and did a zine called Anti-Matter back in Nineties. Covering bands like Quicksand, Sunny Day Real Estate, and Sick of It All, Anti-Matter was an influential voice in the zine world and the writing still holds up. Revelation will be releasing The Anti-Matter Anthology in November of this year and it looks really great. Aaron wrote the book's forward, so that in itself is a main reason for me to read it. Fellow former Punk Planet writer Brian Peterson has spent th

Stop! Take some time to think, figure out what's important to you

I often think about what kind of advice I'd give to college students who are just about to graduate. I hope to visit my alma mater sometime in the near future and give them some, but for the time being, it's given in conversations and blog posts. If there's one recurring thread I hear about in all fields, it's you don't make a lot of money right out of the gate. I don't know why suburban kids expect to make almost as much as their parents do in the first few years out of college, but they do. Money is necessary to live off of, but it doesn't equate happiness. Having a surplus of money can make life seem easier (i.e., car repairs, medical attention, clothing, entertainment, etc), yet it's not the only thing worth working hard for in this world. Be it a doctor, lawyer, writer, computer programmer, salesman and so on, nobody starts with the top job with the highest salary. You start at the bottom, but the bottom is rarely as bad as people think it is. Yes

"We're completely irrelevant on LP and compact disc"

Listening to this week's Sound Opinions podcast about great lead-off tracks on albums, there are a couple of mentions about the state of the album in the iPod era. Like many people (myself included), Jim and Greg have a valid concern about people still caring about albums when you can have thousands of songs set on Shuffle on an MP3 player. So one can ask, does the idea of 30-50 minute, 10-12 song album still matter to a general, mass audience? Well, instead of trying to answer that, let me say this. What we do during on our personal time is really our say. Be it vinyl, CD, MP3, terrestrial or Internet radio, I don't think there's one right or wrong way to listen to music. Just as long as people are listening to music, we can go from there. Since there's no shortage of music buffs who want to listen to an album from start to finish, there will be no shortage of those who just want to hear the familiar hits. And there's nothing wrong with this because it's alwa