Saturday, December 28, 2013

Hints, Rumours and Allegations

So, my hobby is leading me into fabrication. That is- I've assembled some parts, and I'm thinking about making an effects pedal- specifically a distortion pedal- and I  already have the MXR distortion + and the OS-2, and the Fuzz pedal- so why a new one? Well, partially because I can, but partially because I want something that can fill some "in-between" spaces- I want one pedal that can go from sludgey overdrive ( as opposed to crisp overdrive) to a scooped-mid crunchy distortion- as opposed to total war fuzz. Basically, with the three I've got, I can cover 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, and 10- so I want one pedal to cover 3, 5, and 7. Since this will be a one-off I can publicly say what I'm doing- I'm taking Marshall's old Shredmaster circuits, and substituting a diode and a capcitor to make it resemble a mix between a shredmaster and a Boss SD-1, then  tweaking until I end up with a differently voiced Marshall Guv'Nor GV2.
So, Max, you say, why bother telling me about it? Well, I'm asking if there's any interest in seeing and/or hearing the results? I'm still debating if it's horribly self indulgent to post this kind of crap, or if folks actually have any interest in gear, like this...

Friday, December 27, 2013

Pat Todd & the Rank Outsiders

I've been a fan of Pat Todd since the 1980's. For your Thunderesque glammy, trashy rocknroll needs, his old band the Lazy Cowgirls have you covered. But, he likes Country, and he loves Punk, and he enjoys glamrock, so his new-ish band The Rank Outsiders occupy a space somewhere around The Supersuckers to The Replacements, and a Stones cover band . What I am saying is that this is about as traditional Rocknroll as there can be. Sure, I like lot of stuff more. But, I still have a place in my heart for the type of Rock music that fully embraces tradition- even though I know there are no surprises, here. This would've been considered hopelessly out of date even in 1985- that's a quarter century ago-But, I still have a soft spot for that honkytonk country-fried 3 chord rock. Stuff that cannot escape the shadow of the Rolling Stones. So, I'm not suggesting you rush right out and buy a copy of 14th & Nowhere, but I'm trying to catch up here- I have been listening to this on and off since about September. So, it's not earth shattering, but it is good for what it is.

At Devil Dirt Plan B

At Devil Dirt have blown my mind. Let's start with the basics- this is a band from Chile who combine Beatlesque Red Kross sElf styled harmonies with bottom heavy sludgey pools of instrumentation, and the lyrics are directly politically directed against the current state of Chilean affairs. Already, you're at a loss, right? It's only gonna get more psycho- The vocal harmonies mix Doom Metal screams with full bore 3 part harmonies of sweetly sung melodic vocal hooks, and the instruments are just as likely to feature a bass so fuzzed out is sounds like a runaway mining truck randomly throwing dynamite as they are a thirteen minute ambient keyboard soundtrack to a history lesson entirely in Spanish news reports from several decades back. Or a keys and acoustic dirge out.
But, back to the sludge- I don't say this often, but there's stuff on here that's heavier than the Melvins meeting early Torche. I know you don't believe me, but it's like a stoner rock version of Kowloon Walled City, in terms of the music- i.e  the Molasses flood of 1919 in terms of music. But, the song structures are halfway between Kyuss and Trouble, as opposed to KWC's angled avalanches.
I mentioned Torche, and that's probably as close an analogy I can generate: Sweet  pop harmonies, on a sick fudge layer of luded-out stoned blooze rock, with an unhealthy fascination with pure noise.
But, the lyrics are lucid tales from Pinochet's Chile.  Yes. My mind just fried out typing that. Ye gads.
 I heartily suggest you get this.  This is the state of underground transnational Stoner sludge psychotronic mayhem. At Devil Dirt? Yes, please!

In Which I catch up to Whores

I try to keep up. I don't always make it, but I try. So, I don't feel too bad that I blew off Whores until seeing them pop up in a few end-of-year lists. Well, I've heard the "Clean" Ep, and it's really good. A Sabbathy Noise rock record, it's got plenty of Am Rep bite, but retains enough classic rock songwriting that it could be compared to a grunge record. I don't know if I'd call it one of the year's best, but a good Ep, sure.... It's like  Helmet meets KARP or Laughing Hyenas. Good, but not something I'd wave the flag for...

Saturday, December 21, 2013

I still can't bring myself to do a "Best of" list

I really can't. It would be like saying "Bananas are the best of all fruits"- utterly insane.
What I can say is that there was some fine stuff to enjoy this year. I can say that I had some real joys this year. I know that it's unique to each of us, so what brought me joy might be a real head scratcher for you. For example, while watching Baroness play at Ram's Head in May, it was almost life-changing to see just how happy and inspired they were to play music. It was palpable that, while they were grateful to have an audience, these guys would've played every note the same if they were alone in somebody's garage- and that conviction of doing exactly what you were meant to do, following your muse no matter what- that's why any of us is a fan of anything. We enjoy Art because it has a purity of intent and purpose. From time to time, I get asked what I think the point of everything is- what is the meaning of life? I always kind of hem and haw about it, because I don't believe that life, in and of itself, has meaning. What meaning can there be to simply breathing, and eating and sleeping? However, we each find a meaning. Each of us try to write a narrative over our experiences- even if the point of that narrative is "It's all absurd". So, I think the meaning of life is in the search for meaning. So, it brought me joy to see it so starkly as it is with Baroness- these are guys who literally are validating their choices for the meaning of life right before your eyes. See, if I explain it out, even if you disagree with me, you can see why I'd call it a highlight in my year. That's why I cannot do a top ten list, or a best of 2013; all bullet points and proper nouns. It closes off the beauty in Art to reduce it to that consumer transaction of "I bought this LP, and I love it more than the last LP I bought". I prefer finding those moments of transcendence - I might hear a song a dozen times, but then, that right combination of experiences and reception clicks into place, and for just that moment, I get a glimpse of some deeper truth, some beautiful construction of shared ideas. That would be my top pick.
All that having said, if you do read the blog, I hope I can turn you on to something that does that for you. I don't write about crap ( much) so I really do think you might be able to find that, too.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Just because

Ok, so I got a little bit of positive feedback, and a deafening amount of silence on my last few "hobby" posts, I'll keep this extremely short- my ventures back into my guitar stuff has brought out the engineer in me, again. I've been feeling the itch to tweak, mod, and generally screw with stuff, again. So, I revived my Entropy Pedal ( a super tweaked out Ross stereo flanger that I've  changed around so it does an extreme  chorus detune on the edge of the sweep- we're talking a little over a full step detuning, and it also can do a less musically pleasing, more harsh and industrial version of the "Tin drum" sound that Dave Navarro explored with delay pedals and chorus) which needed some work, and I replaced some capacitors in my compression pedal so it sounds a bit less harsh on the attack, but the sustain is now a bit muddy.You get the idea. This has bred a few more ambitious ideas, which I will report if I actually do them.

Beastmilk- Climax

So, I finally caught up with Beastmilk. Let me start with this- it's some of the finest blackened Goth music I have heard. Take Leeds-based psychedelic dark music, a la Sisters of Mercy and  RLYL, then, add a touch of Ladbroke grove ( Killing Joke, Hawkwind, Michael Moorcock), now coat the whole thing in a dust of Finnish gothic Love Metal ( you know, HIM?) and you have the general sound. Now add in an incongruous visual style the owes something to Dischord style opaqueness ( Nation of Ulysses)  but has something of a Ken Russell disturbing occult twist. Sound interesting? Yeah, it is to me. Of course,  Kurt Ballou produced it.
What that means in musical terms is non-cliche reverb drenched anthemic post punk with guitars that throb, and feedback, and sweep in an epic fashion over near conveyor belt dance beats. It's really good, it's recognizable as goth, but beyond that, it's hard to pin down which intrigues me more. People have mentioned Killing Joke, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Morrisey, but I hear just as much of the stuff I mentioned before. The spirit of Joy Division also looms, here and there. Lyrically, it's like Black metal, but made more specific, and thus more real- there's a lot of despair and menace, but, unlike Black Metal, the focus is more on a particularly occult view of real life. So, if you think the dark, gothy, psychedelic post punk of early to mid 1980's industrial England is a sound that could use some more life, I've got your undead fix, right here.  Seriously, excellent stuff!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Ready in Minutes

So, Conan Neutron turned me on to a pretty good New Wave band from Kalamazoo- Minutes. Now, I'll admit, I prefer the first record to the new one, which isn't the best sign, but their overall vibe is excellent. They do that uptight, lo-fi sound of that first moment when Punk Rock turned into "New Wave" ( Claude Bessy be damned, we all know what New Wave means) . Now, people are throwing around Jawbox and Minutemen, but I wouldn't go there exactly. I think Alley Cats, Superchunk,  Suburban Lawns, maybe a little James Chance  but it's all good- I think people are hearing Minutemen due to the trebley, overdriven ( not distorted) guitars, and Jawbox from the emphasis on close harmonies, but I think you could even make a case of Sonic Youth , Pavement and Unrest- the point isn't what other band they sound like- the point is that they have punk urgency, DIY rough edges, midwestern meat and potatoes melodies, and above all a tight-wound sense of economy and the nervous energy that brings.  It's too damn bad that Night Flight, Channel 18, and most specifically New Wave Theatre is gone- because they'd have a national audience if it were still around. I bet they'd even get a Sire Records contract. As it stands, I hope they get a lot of sales on Bandcamp...

Back to the Known

(WARNING: This is a very long one . Very long)
Ok, so I know how things work. I'm a genius if I agree with you, and an idiot if I don't. I'm a great guy if I do something for you, and a jerk if I don't. I'm trustworthy if I work in your interests, and I'm a crook if I work for somebody else. Relax, I'm not judging you- and I know there are exceptions, and I know that plenty of other people know how that particular game works, so I'm not giving you a manifesto, here, just stating the ground rule that informs my reasoning. See, there's a lot of reasons for why I do what I do. I'm nothing if not a reasoning machine. I have an engineering degree, and I work in logistics, after all- this is just part of how my mind works. I'm a socialist because of it, and a libertarian because of it, and yes, I see the inherent contradiction in that. See, if we can convince enough people that their interests are mutual, then, the best method of procedure is social. If people feel the psychological need to individuate, then the best method of procedure is individual. So, just as an example- while our healthcare system is something that is pretty easy to argue as mutual, certain decisions, like how to alter or not alter consciousness usually feels pretty personal. We'd like to believe that we're alone inside our skulls. Of course, I could argue that, but it's a small enough point that I'd prefer to approach the whole thing this way- I'm totally fine with legalizing all drugs, and I'm totally fine with the notion of socialized medicine. See, while it is a bit of a contradiction, it's pretty easily justified by an application of Game Theory.
Such thinking permeates me to the degree that it even determines my blogging habits. So, rather than waste time bemoaning how often there's just plain crap to listen to, or watch, or read, I'd prefer to talk about something else, because that keeps up the equilibrium of me keeping my opinions, you keeping yours, and both of us wasting as little time as possible on the lost cause of trying to determine who has better taste ( short answer- you have better taste than me- for your tastes).
So, I took a week or so detour. Get the idea?
However I've got several other things to talk about, and I bet they're   more interesting than my rationalizations, yeah?
First is about Television- I've replaced my Roku box with- a Roku 3! Why is this worth mentioning? Because it's that much better. Seriously, the difference in interface, and it performance is such that I really think it changes the equation. See, I would say that the Roku, in general, is equivalent to Cable TV. If you do "basic tier" ( i.e. no additional paid services like Hulu plus, or Netflix) you can get roughly the same amount of content, with about the same level of quality as a basic cable TV subscription. You add in the paid tier, and the equation becomes unbalanced- while I think HBO, Cinemax, and so on have higher quality programming, the Roku Box is cheaper, and, with paid stuff ends up being the equivalent of two basic tier cable subscriptions- you get all of the content, literally, of basic cable ( same shows) as well as an equivalent amount of equal quality programming not available on basic Cable- so, while a little bit "oranges and apples" I think Roku wins, right? The Roku 3 adds in some functionality that makes it a "cable killer" in my mind- the picture clarity, and speed, and interface is actually superior to what Cox, or Comcast offer on TV, and the sheer amount of programming ( including games) more than makes up for the loss of being able to see brand new episodes of True Blood or Eastbound and Down- yes, you can still see them, but about 6 months later, on an Amazon Prime, Vudu, Target Ticket, or Redbox account. That you can watch everything from BBC programming to Kanal to Al-Jazeera to NHK programming as easily as you can watch Comedy Central programming, in higher definition than you can with a Satellite Dish further weights the end result towards the Roku 3. Seriously, I would say I've got close to 100,000 hours of available HD programming available to me, each week. It's taking real discipline to not become a total couch potato. I can watch the entire series' worth of my all-time favorite TV shows, any time I want- E.G. I literally could turn to my right, and push three buttons to commence watching all 17 episodes of The Prisoner, followed up by both seasons of the Young Ones. Two more button mashes, and I can watch the first three seasons of Boardwalk Empire, followed up by all 5 seasons of both Rescue Me and Angel. That's what?  320 Hours of Television? Assuming that I watch the National average of 34 hours of TV per week, that's 9 and a half weeks, right there. So, yes, I think going with the Roku 3, plus a handful of paid subscriptions is better than getting a premium Cable TV subscription, just in terms of sheer quality and quantity- then when you add in that it's literally USD 1000 a year cheaper, and it's a total Cable Killer- not even close. I know that there are other ways- Apple TV, Chromecast, etc- but the Roku 3 beats them all for the combination of picture clarity, content availability and ease of use with the interface- there's just no comparison. If you add in some things that I consider shady, but are commonly done- like fudging an HBO subscription, or using a torrents, or pirate satellite broadcasts, and you could render moot any negatives about the Roku 3, at all. I really don't consider that part of the equation, in that it violates some of my basic precepts in viewing the world, but I'm worldly enough to know that it's done- so, yes, you add in the "pirate" end of the equation, and the whole contest becomes absurd- Cable TV looks like a scam, Roku simply looks quaint. Bottom line, I'm pleased with the Roku 3 in all ways that matter to me.
As for what content I've been watching, apart from re-watching classics, I've been catching up on Brooklyn 99 and The Blacklist. Probably the only 2 new series that I find worth anything at all. I got invited to be on a test group panel for Sony, and I ended up declining their offer because so many TV programs just seemed utterly worthless to me.
So, on to Music, then, yes?
Two new-ish releases caught me this week- Tidal Arms and Hollow Sunshine. Both make "trippy" music, along the Stoner end of the spectrum. Both incorporate some Metal elements, but they're very different bands.
Tidal Arms straddle between Sludge/Doom and Groove/Math Metal forms. The end result reminds me of the experimental kinda heavy alt-rock that dominated Alternative Tentacles in the early 1990's- you know the Steel Pole Donut type stuff? Jazzbo bass lines amped up to saturation with solid state distortion, contrasted against punkish rock guitar put through both fuzz and distortion pedals. Lo-fi production almost by default, but sophisticated musicianship that would be recognized by the Berklee types, if it wasn't so snotty? Sophmore year philosophy class lyrics ( contrasted with the usual Freshman year lyrics) over music that references both obscuro vintage Metal and current College/Indie rock?  Then, douse the whole thing in a punk-rock urgency to fit in about 5 LP's worth of riffs because it's uncertain if/when they'll get another chance to record?  Yeah, that style of music. It's always a mixed bag for me, because when there are 12-16 motifs per song, it's a mortal lock that I'll like at least 1, and hate at least 1- so the trick, and Tidal Arms have done this, is to weigh the percentages towards "Hey, Cool" and away from "Aw, that Sucks". I think the lo-fi, slacker, relaxed vibe helps- and not just for me, personally- think about Jam bands (yuck!) would people put up with their lazy blues/folk riffs played along standard scales for waaay too long if they didn't give off the happy-go-lucky vibes of an affable stoner, like a real life Shaggy from Scooby Doo? I sincerely doubt that a band would make it very far if they played like Phish, but carried themselves like Dream Theater. See my point? I think we're all suckers for the "aw shucks" informal thing. So, the Sludgey, Stoner vibe, again, making things far more comfortable than they otherwise would be, goes a very long way towards making the sometimes awkward riffing much more palatable. I know I'm making this sound like a calculated, cynical trick- but again, I want you to remember who's reporting it, here- a guy well versed in mathematical ways of viewing sociology- so that may very well just be my take. The point that should make it through though is that there's not an uptight feel, and that definitely gives it an assist when it might have stumbled. So, my bottom line is that I like this new self-titled LP, but I can't say whether I'll like anything else...
Hollow Sunshine, on the other hand hit a sweet spot between Jesus and Mary Chain and Godflesh that absolutely works for me. No, I cannot defend that, as well, musically. Yes, that means that structurally, I know these songs are not as well-crafted as, say, an Opeth track, but certainly, on the subjective level, these hit the limbic system perfectly- sonic sugar rushes for me...
So, I've heard the music described as "Jesu.. if Torche wrote the songs", and that's somewhat accurate, but I still think the roots go back further than that- there's a pounding, industrial sense to the rhythm section that calls back to Godflesh, a lot more, but the washes of guitar literally split the differences between pop melodies and white noise/pink noise feedback. This isn't just distortion, or fuzz, like a nice, stately effect pedal- it's a sheet of noise, like an unplugged but still live cable, wrapped like a cotton candy whip made of static around classic pop melodies played at a crawling drone speed. Yes, it hits both nostalgic and idealistic notes from my subconscious, and I know that, just like a sugar rush, it'll leave me the second it's not present, but I enjoy it just the same. Hell, one of the guys in the Video looks just like I used to in the mid 1990's, and the video itself looks like a home movie from my  1993.  So, hell yes, I'm liking it. It's perfect for those of us who never got over liking that super-loud form of indie/Alternative/Post punk Rock that wasn't "grunge" but certainly informed Grunge. I know you know what I'm describing, if you're one of us. If you're not, you might still dig it, if you want something more laid back and mellow than Sludge Metal, but just as committed to loud noise. If they're fooling me, so be it, but I'm just so happy with this noise...
Haven't really made much progress in my efforts to improve my relationship with the visual Arts. When I was in the Netherlands, I enjoyed the Van Gogh museum, but mostly for technical stuff, like how he repeatedly cribbed a 60 degree angle to trees in his paintings from a Japanese print. I'll keep trying.
Food and drink wise, I've got two things, both Beer-related: One, I've been seeing the Adverts for forever, and I finally got a sixer of Third Shift Amber.  In terms of sheer taste, it's not offensive. It's basically slightly more savory Coors. But, there's the offensive problem with it- It is Coors. They repackaged it to try to appeal to the Craft community, but it's freakin' Coors, maaaan! As we used to say it, backstage in Arizona- "Kerrs"- the drink for Rodeo clowns and crypto-fascist small town Cops, everywhere. Don't be sellin' me Kerrs , an' tellin' me it's Fat Tire, Dude, 'cause I'll mess you up! ( Mostly when I vomit this stuff up....)
The other was far more of a breakthrough- I finally found a flavored Beer that doesn't taste like a granola bar- Abita Purple Haze . It's still a Pilsner, and I'm more into pilsners than IPA's ( My hierarchy is that I like ambers, then hefe-weizens , then stouts, then pilsners, then tripels, then Belgian browns, then Bock, then IPA, then porters, then red beers, them lambics, then bitters, then saisons, and below that, I'll take a white wine, please) so, yes, my palette is still more Rolling Rock than Dogfish, but I'm trying to get a little more refined. I never have been able to choke down any of the Sam Adams concoctions, and the craft variations are usually worse. I'm with Denis Leary on this one. But, I know I need to get with the times, and I keep trying- so count this as success in my grand self-improvement program. But this Abita stuff is kind of like when you put a little lime on your Corona- just a little raspberry flash on a regular beer.  I had it with a fried whitefish on yucca hash I made, and it was pretty good. I can't say I'd like it with Steak and potatoes or something, but with fish, or with greens, it's pretty good.
Finally, I still read The Big Takeover. Honestly, I disagree pretty violently with about 75% of Jack and Crews' tastes these days, and I have less than no interest in what The Black Watch, Kitchens of Distinction, or Tommy Keene is up to, this week. I don't hate Fender products, but I'm more of a Gibson guy, and I've noticed that the Fender stuff outnumbers everything else about 10 to 1, so I know that somebody, at least, on the staff is a total Fender fan-boy. I know that Jack disagrees with my tastes, as well.  As in, directly- I'm not guessing, here. However, Jack is still a better-than-decent guy. The Big Takeover still is a fanzine, coming from him- and you see the tagline from Ryan Patterson, up top? I still believe in that ethos.  Jack is valid and sincere. So, I pick up the magazine, even if I no longer read over half of it. The part that I've read included an editorial from Jack about the closing of Maxwell's in New Jersey, and the larger issue of venues closing, and I'd like to speak about that-
On the one hand, live shows are extremely important to me. I go to a fair number, and it reflects a pretty deep commitment, if you think about it: I live about 60 miles from the 930 club and the Black Cat, 62 miles from the Ottobar,  65 miles from Rams Head in Baltimore, and 66 miles from the Sidebar. These are all places I've gone to see shows, within the past 6 months. That means a minimum of 3 hours in the car, plus parking ( usually about 20 bucks) before we even talk about the show. So, let's say it's a mid-priced gig, at 20 bucks. Let's say my time is worth 10 bucks an hour ( I get paid more than that, but I'm trying to be as fair as possible) and gas is 3 bucks a gallon, and I get 30 miles to the gallon ( again, I'm low-balling everything) . So, I'm investing at least 82 bucks to see a show.Add in a beer and a T shirt ( both of which I usually do, in a small effort to support both band and venue) and we're over 100 bucks for a night, no problem. Do that just 10 nights a year- less than a show a month, and we're at over a grand a year. So, I really don't want to hear that people aren't going to live shows, even if that's true.
However, he gets into demographics, and I'm perfect for that- see, I used to be pretty damn urban. I have lived in Los Angeles ( not a suburb, Los Angeles!) and New York ( well, Brooklyn, but...) as well as smaller cities, like Tucson, Phoenix, and Washington DC. Yes, I earned more per annum in each place, than now, but still- let me do the math- I'd say I averaged about 70K a year, adjusted for inflation, in those urban environments. My housing generally cost me between 1700 and 2000 a month, again, adjusted. Other bills followed suit. Currently, I'm pulling in about 45K a year. My housing costs me 750 a month. Likewise, my grocery bills, and utilities are less, as well. So, in the city, my bills would total about 65K a year. Yes, seriously- housing was about 1/3 of my income, and most of the rest went to everything from  electricity to groceries. My current bills ( not counting my unusual medical expenses, this year) total about 29K. So, that means  my actual disposable income is up about 300% to live out in the boonies. I'd be a fool to pass that up, right? I think the same thinking happens for a lot of people as they get past their youth, and into middle age. That's why Jack is seeing less and less of his peers in the city, and at shows. I also think he underestimates how many of those creative types he laments are no longer there had secretly larger sources of income than what it may have appeared. I know of a lot of musicians who had a day job that was completely off the books- dealing drugs, black market sales, theft, and prostitution. That's not even getting into how many trust-fund babies were around. The myth of the starving Artist is mostly a myth. I love that Jack is a romantic, and it is very charming, but I don't think he understands just how much crime and deception supports that myth. Don't get me wrong- I know a lot of musicians are really pretty poor, and loads of them are working soul-crushing legitimate day jobs- hell, ask me about hiring Punk rock stars as construction workers, I can verify it, no problem, but let's be very honest, here- Jack is talking about the lower East side, the Punk Rock world of Max's Kansas City, CBGB's, etc. Now think about those people. Yes, they made some great Art, but if you subtract that ( I know it's a lot) how many of them would you classify as petty criminals? I'm not saying they were all on the level of Ian Watkins, or even GG Allin, but a guy like Stiv Bators definitely wasn't exactly reporting his income. Start to see my point? These weren't "beautiful losers' in the Jack Kerouac/Rimbaud romantic sense- they were just the usual cast of broken neighborhoods operating in a system d economy. This is part of the reason, by the way, that I've always been much more admiring of the American Midwestern underground scene- it was filled with a lot more blue collar types who rose up from their day jobs working HVAC or maintenance at the local elementary school to make art. Think about Chicago- whether you're talking about Naked Raygun, or Screeching Weasel, or even a good percentage of the Waxtrax crew- the only real career criminal I can think of, off the top of my head, is Al Jourgensen. Most of them either were Blue collar, or middle class college students- and think about what they'd do for a show? Much like me, they'd drive 50, 75 even 100 miles one way for a good show- So, I'm saying that part of what Jack is lamenting simply boils down to self-delusion. Poverty, like misery, disease, and deprivation doesn't create creativity. I don't believe in the notion that you have to be tortured to be an Artist. Even Van Gogh was 90% hard work, and his illness, and poverty mostly took away opportunities to be creative. There are plenty of Creative types who suffer, yes. But I'm arguing that the suffering doesn't create anything- even the suffering of living in a bad neighborhood. So, CBGB's closed because Hilly Kristal got into a rent dispute, not because he was broke. The notion of starving artists kind of dies when you consider that his daughter ended up a millionaire after Hilly died- and that's after the legal bills, and unpaid rents, and false starts in Las Vegas. Patti Smith is 40 years away from working in the Piss Factory. Lou Reed died in the Hamptons, not the Lower East side. Even Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon were fighting over a substantial estate in Upper middle income Northampton, Ma.
However, I do know that he's right- the "club tour" is mostly a thing of the past. When I saw Agent Orange a few years back, and I was talking with Mike Palm, he was saying, not complaining, but just saying that he couldn't justify the tour he was on- gas at 3 bucks a gallon, driving a Van that gets maybe 10 miles to the gallon meant that if the shows were 200 miles apart, that 60 bucks came directly out of the evening's take- so if the evening made them 600 bucks ( a really good evening) that was 10 % of the take- which with a 5 person band/crew entourage meant they'd walk away with about 100 bucks a head- for a 12-14 hour day- his actual words were- it works out to a little over minimum wage. So, when a real road dog like Mike Palm ( Agent Orange used to do over 100 shows a year) says he can't justify touring anymore, you know change is underfoot.
So, I'm not saying "Give up and move to the Exurbs"- I'm arguing, just as always, that you use your head. Sit down with the wife and kids, and really try to work out where the best standard of living really is. Then, if that means you go to 10 shows instead of 50, a year, you can be content with your decision. I'm also not trying to make a straw man out of Jack. He isn't telling people to move to squats in the city.  My rejoinder to Jack, and others who are lauding this dreamscape of the exciting, impoverished Arts capitol is that if you really think about it- between the opportunities for communication, and edification that the Internet allows, and some shrewd maneuvers, you can actually live that exciting, Arts-filled life, regardless of whether you're in New York, Madison, Helena, or even Brunswick, MD.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Ok, just one more.

I know this is boring as hell for everyone else, but it's fun for me. One more post about my musical instruments: I know rig rundowns serve a purpose entirely counter to what I do here, but I promise I'll make this worth just a little of your time.
I've got a few guitars, and two amps, and several pedals- I've had an electric guitar since I was about 14, so, of course I've got some gear. I've also got a couple of keyboards, a bass, and recording equipment- nothing really all that pro- just enough that I have a hobby kit.
So, I do expect anyone to care about my main rig, but I'm going to explain it to get to my point. My main rig is a modded out 1995 lefty Epiphone G-310 into a 1978 Script logo Distortion plus, into a 1980 Crate CR65 with a Celestion speaker.  The mods to the guitar are as follows- I put a Dimarzio super distortion on the neck, and split the coils on the bridge, with a push-pull on the volume knob, and Gotoh tuners. The Script logo pedal was a gift, and is pretty much the same model used on several classic LPs, because it was bought as a replacement for that same MXR used on those LPs. I keep the out dialed on max, and the distortion level dialed at 2 PM. The Crate is a pretty transparent solid state, so almost all my distortion comes from pick up and pedal- I never use the built in reverb, and I keep the brightness switch dialed on. I slightly scoop the mids on the amp's EQ, but it's mostly flat.  Pretty basic small rig, and cheap, too, right?
The edifying part is why- I'm a lefty. There aren't very many sub-$1000 lefty guitars in the 1990's, and only one with a mahogany neck- and that mattered to me- see, I like the feel of rosewood, sure, but if you play a lot of arpeggiated chords a mahogany neck is as comfortable as it gets. So, the Epiphone was actually a step up for me, going from a Mexican made right handed Strat flipped over. I don't think I need to explain the pick up mods, though, right? Stock Epiphone pick ups are just hot enough to be muddy. Why the neck, and not the bridge? Because I'm not much of a lead guitar player. So, I wanted to play rhythm with gusto, and for those rare times I play a lead line, I wanted to be able to get noisey and brittle, like a garage strat. Get the idea? The Script Logo MXR is, in my opinion, the perfect mix between overdrive and fuzz, leaving "distortion" in the classic Metal sense out, entirely. Yes, Mr. Rhoads used it for metal, but it's much more suited for fuzzing up some notes, but leaving enough articulation that I can do the same stunt as Greg Sage and Bob Mould- bass strings play chords, while treble strings play melodies.  If you're a hobby guitar player, playing by yourself, it's really the best way to go. Finally, the CR 65 allows just enough volume that I can move a little air, clean but it never gets to stage volume.
See, the point is this- the tools get done what I want to do, and nothing else. They surmount my challenges, but do not dictate my direction. My favorite rig less about the rig, and much more about me. I don't think I would have this rig, if not for my being a lefty, who didn't want to take it to the stage, any more. That's the kind of thing that I look for in other people's Art, too- how have they turned their limitations into idiosyncrasies, and how far have they gone with following their own muse? It's why I think some bunch of Metalheads from Romania are far more likely to come up with Art than a bunch of Brooklyn Hipstars - In Romania, you have much less opportunity to duplicate James Hetfield's rig than our Brooklyn heroes have to duplicate Bryce Dessner's- So, even though I prefer the National to Metallica, I'll be more inclined to give Kultika a shot. I know that their limitations virtually promise that they'll end up sounding entirely different, and new, and idiosyncratic. So, yes, I really would suggest that all these American bands playing a PRS into a Mesa Boogie, or a Les Paul Custom into a Marshall JCM 800 just dump their equipment. I really do think it holds you back to be able to track down the exact same specs as your heroes.
But, that's just me. I'm a freak who plays a rig that sounds good only to me, because I'm the only audience I care about.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

As long as I'm talking about my hobby

You know that uber-stupid interview question: "Who are your influences?" I can see how that's stupid, if you're creative, and want to make something new. But, for a guy like me? Just a hobby, never going to be outside my house type player? Well, that's a whole different ballgame. If I tell you my influences, I'll bet you can guess exactly what I sound like on a guitar.
So here they are:
Billy Zoom  Mick Jones and Joe Strummer Greg Sage  Mike Palm Bob Mould  Guy Kyser and above all others- Geordie!
I might like other musicians for other reasons, but I listen to these with a little bit of  " Gee, I want to make that sound..."
 I know some musicians, both professional and not read this. I'd like to hear what you folks consider your influences? I mean this purely on a hobby/ amateur level- I know that when you play professionally, you make compromises, and you play for what the band needs, and what the song demands. I mean, when you're sitting at home, noodling around, who/what is your "go to" sound inspiration? 

I'm not creative

 I'm not saying this with false modesty: I'm not particularly creative.  I don't have an 'artistic" temperament. I'm more of a "problem solving" type.  So, I got an Engineering degree, and, I got an English Lit degree, followed up by a library science degree, and an Education  certification ( yes, I've taught High School, but it was more a "Walter White" type scenario than a Jaime Escalante type deal). I played in a band or three, but I never seriously considered myself as falling into the "talent" side of the equation. No, my place has always been on the technical side.
Still, that doesn't mean that I haven't played some instruments, or made a few duct-tape wallets, or designed a few T shirts. I'm not totally devoid of the the "maker" impulse.  I'm just saying I usually prefer helping the creative types to realize their vision than to try to come up with a vision of my own.
So, this past week is somewhat anomalous in that I've spent more time playing music than listening to other peoples' music. The reason? Well, I got a new, cheap toy- a Behringer Super Fuzz pedal.  Why? Because I wanted something my venerable Script logo MXR Distortion plus, nor my Boss OS-2 could provide. The Behringer provided that- simple problem solved. But, there is this thing called "GAS"- gear acquisition syndrome"- the more gear you have, the more gear you want. I've been pretty good at keeping it in check, but the desire is getting pretty overwhelming. Mostly, I want three things- one of these, one of these, and one of these. Yup, champagne tastes, I know.  But, I actually have a chance to get the micro terror- a hundred and fiddy bucks is do-able. The others? Well, maybe if I come into a vast windfall. But, can you imagine the three together? Well, now you're in my head...
So, I'll get back on mission, soon. I'm just indulging in my hobby, right now...

Sunday, December 1, 2013

March Violets- Made Glorious

I never really got into the "Goth" mindset. I liked a fair number of bands who got called "Goth"- Mostly Joy Division, Bauhaus, and Killing Joke- but also the Sisters of Mercy ( more precisely Andrew Eldritch.) and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, and, the band currently being discussed- the March Violets. I'll be dead honest, here, and say that I liked them for 3 reasons- "Walk into the Sun", the guitars sounded a bit like Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, and ( this is key) how Cleo looked in those pleather pants. Seriously, she was smokin'.
That's not enough to garner interest now, though- and apart for my 12 inch single of Walk into the Sun, I had no need for the March Violets. So, I wasn't part of the pledge to create a new LP. I just found a copy of it at my local used emporium, and listened to it this week. Not bad, not bad at all.
The kind of "goth" they play owes a pretty big debt to 1960's music. As Andrew Eldritch put it " We come from 1969" and that seems to fit the whole Leeds scene- Whether you're talking about The Sisters of Mercy, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry or, yes, the March Violets- the guitar, the beats, and the general attitude are a slightly darker version of Byrds meet Stones late 1960's garage rock. So, within that pretty narrow spectrum, March Violets seem to go with the most dance-able variations. They also are more based on other post-punk than the Sisters, but less so than the Lorries. Where the Sisters went from Rickenbacker rock to Stooges, to Meat Loaf, and the Lorries went from Wire to Magazine to UK Decay to Killing Joke, all with a heavy Joy Division beat- March Violets seem to occupy a Byrds to Magazine axis. I prefer to think of it as post-punk that mixes psychedelic folk with dour robo-punk like early Joy Division, and late period Chumbawamba .
The good news is that the songs are catchy, and the guitars are mind-melting enough. The bad news is there's no Cleo for the visuals, but their bass player does seem to rock the pleather, and I'm good with that.  Looks like the main dude- Si, I think, has put on a lot of weight, and lost a fair amount of hair, but still is that kind of British eccentric I have a lot of sympathy for- the kind of guy who apparently wishes he could be in a Dickens book.  He ends up reminding me of Nicol Williamson in Boorman's Excaliber. That's a good thing.
So a pleasant bit of psychedelic postpunk....

Capsula- Solar Secrets

So, yes, I've been waiting for the new Capsula and, I'm not disappointed - This is some great Psychedelic Punk. They're the next Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, who were the next Jesus and Mary Chain, who, in turn, were the next Velvet Underground- all of them played what I think of as the ultimate expression of Psychedelic Punk- as opposed to what, say, the Butthole Surfers, or early Flaming Lips did- You've got your 1-2-3-4, all on the beat pop structure, your "I've only got a minute to tell you everything I ever wanted to say" urgency, and mind-altering guitars. The total package.  So, what's the message, this album? What are the Solar Secrets? Simple- that we trap ourselves in the modern world, and then, trap ourselves trying to escape that modern world, by following well-worn paths to "rebellion". But, let's back up and take it in-
Capsula have the advantage from being from Argentina. Argentina is a modern, somewhat middle class country, with a well-educated urban population, but because of both their history ( Colonialism, Juntas, and dirty, secret wars) and geography ( other side of the world from Europe) they're off the map, in terms of culture. Apart from an outsiders' perspective (Evita) I bet most folks couldn't tell you much about Argentinian culture. So, Capsula have the advantage of operating in a Vacuum. They're like us, on the Internet- they can see everything, but few can see them. That leaves them room to really concentrate on what they want their music to be- so, despite my line-drawing, they really are a fairly unique beast, in terms of Rock- garage-y, yet referencing very little, musically, from the 1960's. Psychedelic, yet eschewing your usual Flange and chorus effects on the guitars- vocals are another matter. Punk, in all the best ways, without having to overtly spell out either their politics or their anger.
On top of that, one look at them, and you can tell their Rock diehards. One listen, and you can confirm it. The new record sounds, repeatedly, to me, like another group of Rocknroll diehards-turned-pioneers- Lords of the New Church. It's got that same punk/garage fire of all downstrokes, all instruments, all the time. The bass is mixed loud, and carries the riffs, while the guitars are treble-boosted, surfy and grouchy, and Martin Guevera has more than a few snotty similarities to Saint Stiv. ( Not to muddy the waters, but that brings up the Damned tangent- Punk, Garage, and Psychedelic music belong together- Brian James and Captain Sensible are proof, enough)
So, here's my bottom line- If you like a Fender guitar cranked very loud, with a Gibson bass played like a rhythm guitar- with some echo, reverb and fuzz for flavour- what are you waiting for- this might really be your cup of fur.

Coming to terms

So, I realize just how pretentious it might seem for me to dictate terms, but please understand that I most want to get it straight and out of the way before I get back to what I much prefer doing- talking about Art that edifies.
So, some terms have been over-used to the point of being meaningless . Like "Punk", for example. For me, "Punk' refers to a structural formalism in music, mixed with an attitude of urgency.  As in, the "anyone can do it' element basically is saying "Look, follow these rules, and you'll get these results"- hence "Loud Fast Rules"- get the idea? But that urgency that can be confused with aggression- that's equally important. If you don't have a burning reason for the loud fast rules, you'll soon be playing rockabilly or show tunes.
"Psychedelic" is another term that I'd like to set down. Usually, it is taken to mean "trying to simulate a drug experience" which seems foolish to me, since experience is subjective and individual. I prefer to think of the term as referring to a rapid shift in perception that alters thinking. So, those whooshing guitars are meant to evoke, say,  jet fighters or a bullet train so that you'll think something different about both the guitar, and the jet fighter- get the idea?
Then, there's "Stoner". Again, usually meant to talk about drugs- Pot, to be specific. I look at the function of drugs, with this term- being Stoned is being chemically altered to be more comfortable with a situation than you would be otherwise.  There are lots of drugs out there that do that- Beer to Cocaine to Xanax. Likewise, add a lot of distortion and a steady beat, and some simple guitar line can seem awfully comfortable, and if you remove all that, the actual notes might seem awfully sing-songy or discordant.
So, if I refer to something as "Stoner Rock" I mean something very, very different from "Psychedelic Rock"- get the idea?
Let me get pretty concrete and real, here- I think Red Fang play Stoner Rock, and Baroness play Psychedelic Rock.  I think neither is punk, even though they apply a formalist structure to their songs. They don't have the urgency of, say, Kylesa, who do have a kind of punk approach to both stoner and psychedelic rock- starting to make sense? Furthermore, please note that none of these are value judgements- simply judgements - I like all three bands, and consider them all valuable.
So, if you disagree on terms, fair enough- but this is how I mean them, so bear it in mind as I do the next few discussions...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Overdue- Victory and Associates Better Luck, Next Life

Why "Overdue"- because head V&A guy Conan Neutron has been on my radar since, umm, I think, August. So, given my parameters, you'd be forgiven for thinking that I didn't care for this- which isn't the case- but the truth is that it got a bit lost in the shuffle, so this is an overdue discussion.
So, Victory and Associates play what could best be described as "post punk", but it's more unique than what that might seem to describe. See, the thing is, if you date Punk Rock to 1977, it's "classic rock", right? Because, if Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Who and Led  Zeppelin are "classic rock"- how many years different is that? Likewise, the secret to what became "post punk" is that it was just when Punk Rockers started to inject Punk with whatever pre-punk music they were into. The usual suspects were David Bowie, Dub Reggae, and Chic, but could include everything from Jazz to Country to Rockabilly. My personal stance is that's what made Post punk great- the cross-pollination of various music types. So, Victory and Associates mix some punk rock aesthetics with a whole lot of early 1970's pop hard rock- FM radio circa 1974 mixed with the rawness of mid 1980's bedroom raw lo-fi punk rock ( as opposed to hardcore). This is a formula that can be applied to everyone from Tom Petty to Guided By Voices, so why do I say they are unique? Because while the sound design is a lot closer to Bob Pollard & company, the actual core song-writing is a lot closer to Tom Petty. Which is- this is traditional rock songwriting, classic rock songwriting, almost entirely, but given a garage punk outfit. I don't hear a lot of that, these days. Also, as per the FM radio songwriting, this doesn't sound as good over headphones as it does on a small, cranked stereo. I bet it sounds best on somewhat worn vinyl, but that's a theory I cannot test, just yet. Which, again, brings us back to that early 1970's thing- you really don't want a CD of Bad Company, or Foghat, or Bachman Turner Overdrive, you want that Vinyl copy you got when you were 9, and played 800 times on your radio shack turntable, until your poorly maintained needle wrecked your record.
But, let's get a little closer- tracks like album closer "Taste the Danger" demonstrate just how right I am- at first, you might think it sounds like early Fugazi, but it's too relaxed, and too "in the pocket" for DC postpunk, and then, you realize how poppy the structure is, so you start thinking of Sloan, but then Sloan and Fugazi have very little in common, right? Well, except a secret affinity for Blue Oyster Cult- and then, it all falls into place. Album opener "We'll Have to be Our Own Heroes" might sound like Quicksand, until you realize how big of a Who fan Walter Schreifels is, making this into a mod power pop song. Even the most "punk" sounding track 'The End of Memory" shares DNA with both TSOL and Ted Nugent.
That a Melvins producer (Toshi Kasai) recorded it makes total sense, now, doesn't it?
However, the earnestness, and the sincerity lyrically espoused keeps this from Grunge/Alternative Nation/ Generation X irony, so Conan Neutron's vocal similarity to David Byrne should not be taken for distance from the music made- he's got a singer-songwriter's heart, but a cock rocker's golden god guitar, and, in the end, that's the best way to view this- an LP from a group of Rocknroll true believers- fanatics, even- of a type that most of us can't muster up the courage to be much after the age of 20.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

New To Me

So, I've been, shall we say, a bit underwhelmed with the music that's been coming to me.  No big secret there, right? ( Although the new Capsula came in the post yesterday, and I've not yet listened to it- I'm psyched, to coin a bad pun)  So, I did what I always do when the situation declares it- I've been rooting around on Bandcamp.  Seriously, for a music fiend like me, there is no better resource. Yes, I know Record store day, Vinyl vs Mp3, and la di da. I stand by that. There is no way that a noise rock band from Yucaipa can get their 7 inch record to my local indie retailer. But, I can find them in a few clicks on Bandcamp. Then, when I purchase the MP3's it's about as direct as is possible- I know that both paypal and Bandcamp will take their cut, but I am pretty sure its not as bad as distribution costs are for selling vinyl. So, I'm still really into Bandcamp.
What have I found? Well, music that while maybe not entirely new, is new to me.
First, I found Stella. They're from Columbus Ohio, and I had to triple check that. They really are from 1984,  somewhere in the south bay near Pedro in the greater Los Angeles area. What I mean is I have rarely heard a band that sounds more like they belong on the SST label, back when that was a good thing. I'm hearing Black Flag, the Minutemen, a lot of Saccharine Trust, some Slovenly, maybe even some DC3 or Das Damen. Which means, for people who aren't total music geeks like me, they sound like raw mathy noisey post hardcore punk rock. Really excellent stuff, and if they ever read this, might I suggest they move to Chicago, as they'd fit right into the current noise/math/post hardcore scene there. Even my cats think so.
Next I found "From Indian Lakes" who must be from northern California, but I really don't know. All I know is they do a really intriguing sound. It's very pretty in a New Zealand kind of way- I mean the Dunedin sound, like they belong on the Flying Nun label. Ok, I know that's pretty obscure- how's this- They play  swirling, gentle psyche rock like a lo-fi and prettier version of what The Church used to do. But, they add some of the drone and dynamic of Deftones post-shoegazer metallic post hardcore- just a little mind you- enough that they might qualify on the "post metal" genre, but only if you really stretch the definition. What I mean is that they end up somewhere in the Echo and the Bunnymen territory, only with pretty falsetto vocals that sometime scream, but they're approaching that from a totally different direction. Folksiness, yes, but almost zero hippie neo-1960's . I realize that this might not seem like my cup of fur, but I've really enjoyed their stuff from the "Able Bodies" release.
Finally,  I found Ma Jolie from just up the road from me. Now, I'm not a big fan of Pop punk, but this is done right. Very "Americana" styled, in the New Jersey kind of way. By that I mean Gaslight Anthem, Titus Andronicus, you know, that Springsteenian, without sounding like Bruce Springsteen sound? But with a lot of midwestern energy- like Dillinger Four, Bear Vs Shark, Lawrence Arms- that sort of thing. The end result is like a less southern Hot Water Music. I hope they do well in Gainesville, though. I think they belong at that fest, and whatever the case might actually be, I definitely want to see them live, because, unless studio trickery is involved, they have that tightness and interplay that makes a band sound like friends in a club, or a gang. I will admit I prefer the new one, but get both LPs if this description has you interested at all. Calling pop punk, while accurate, does them a disservice. This is intricate, melodic,  passionate music, that clearly is coming from an honest place that, unlike the pop music on Vevo or MTV, isn't about to insult either your intelligence or your humbleness. It's real music made by real musicians, and if the only round hole to fit their square peg is "PopPunk" then, I guess I'll use it, but don't expect either Green Day or NoFX- this is oceans away, and mountains more elevated than that.
That, by the way, is why I still hunt for new music- to be taken by surprise by people I've never met,  and expanding my appreciation of life by doing so.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Slow week

So, yes, I've still been listening to a lot of music, and watching a lot of TV, and reading books, magazines and websites. But, nothing has truly stood out in a huge way for me- except a few things that have been better discussed elsewhere. Still, just for the record- I like Lily Allen's new single. Yes, she's a racist, but no more so than me- which is to say, as a white male, I don't hate black people, brown people, tan people, or whatever else you can to mention. No, I don't think of anyone as less than me- even the most stupid probably have a value to society that equals mine- but I cannot help but be a little bit racist in that I am still white, and as much as I oppose the culture I was raised in, I was still raised in it. So, yes, Lily Allen, too, is a racist, but I think racist in the cultural sense, not in the personal sense. That she lampoons stuff in hip hop culture says less about her beliefs than it does about the industry she's in- I am willing to bet that her production company wouldn't have touched the project if she didn't include twerking, gold chains, bling and rims. ( Do you really think Miley freakin' Cyrus discovered hip hop on her own? Madonna? Lily Allen? Don't you realize these people have a mountain of handlers, advisers, choreographers, managers, and assorted people around them who pretty much keep them in a total bubble?  We're far away from Elvis Costello making drunken racist remarks about Ray Charles, here. ) My only problem is Lily's unwillingness to really bite the hand that feeds- tell her fans to go to hell, and record a record of songs she both wrote, and performed on her own, without any concern over what will resonate with anyone else, and then we can talk about how hard it is.
I also will admit I like Chris Hardwick's new show @Midnight. I really have no defense for it. I know Hardwick is clearly an industry mole sent to exploit internet geekery, and that the pseudo game show is just a ruse to get us to watch yet another formatted clip show, complete with formulaic "outrage"- but you know what? It makes me laugh. Out loud, and embarrassingly so. So I'm not going to lie and say i hate it, because I really do enjoy it.
But, that's what happens, sometimes. Some weeks you end up just being a bit boring.  I'm not yet up to the task of making my trip to NL seem interesting, but know that I'm still on it...

Sunday, November 10, 2013

And if Passion ends in Fashion...

Yes, I have been away, and I bet you didn't notice. That's good. See, I write this stuff more for me than for you. I guess the best way to describe it is that I have a certain kind of arrogance. I truly believe that I have the best handle on my tastes of anyone in the world. I believe that I know what I like. So, following this conceit, I am writing, in blog form, the reviews and views I wish I was seeing everywhere, as if the world shared my excellent tastes. I know that the world, however, is slow to catch up to me, and is not yet ready to cater to my every whim. So, it's a sign of how very far advanced I have become that I can stop writing for a week or two, and no one is the wiser, because no one has caught up to me, yet.
Ok, ok, Archness  filters off- truthfully, I write this blog as a real "web- Log"- this is still more journal than journalism, so I'm amusing myself. However, if anyone is keeping track,  I have been away, off to the Netherlands. Not that I'm in the business of travel reviews, but while the country is still light years ahead of this dingy little backwater where I make my home, The Netherlands has nothing on Scandinavia. I'm dutch by birth, and so, dutch I will remain, but, if I could have my wishes, I'd be Scandinavian- Finn, Swede, Norwegian, or Dane, I think they've got the best overall culture on the planet, right now. That's not to say that we lowlanders have nothing to offer- I picked up a Triggerfinger T shirt and CD, replaced a dEUS CD, drank some great beer, saw the Van Gogh museum, and marvelled at the Dutch ingenuity with the turbines, windmills, dykes, et al- but really, when it comes down to where I'd rather live, give me Porvoo over Lisse, give me Copenhagen over Amsterdam, give me Gothenburg over Groningen, and give me Stavenger over Utrecht. If anyone is really interested, let me know, and I'll do a full travelogue on my trip, but honestly, I think there are few things more boring than "Let me show you my vacation photos"
Anyway, what's prompting this entry is a combination of a few factors- amoung the other things I've been hearing, reading and watching in the past ten or so days, has been the new Eminem "Marshall Mathers 2" release, the new Zeromancer "best of" compilation, and MIA's new one "Matangi" and the pitchfork review of Matangi, as well as the Youtube music video awards. My reaction to all of the above is a reflection upon Adam Ant's great song "Press Darlings" ( no irony, there, I think it's a great song and I've covered it in two separate bands I've been in) - I wonder why people write about music, in the first place. To get it out of the way- I think "Matangi" is a triumph, and, if the world were honest, she'd be getting Kanye West's press. I think Eminem has a couple of good tracks, here, mostly when he apes the Beastie Boys. Zeromancer are cheesy industrial goth dance music, but I like that stuff from time to time.
So, I'm reading this review in Pitchfork, and I'm struck by how much of the review of the Album ( you know, an album of music, like an album of jpegs?) is spent basically reviewing Maya as an interview subject, and media figure. There's not much spent on what the music actually sounds like- and when they do, they throw out references to archetypes of songs, rather than actual discussions of the music ( not one actual reference to a musical instrument, not one mention of a note, not one discussion of a production technique, not a reference to tempo, or even an allusion to key) . Now, I know that I don't get as technical as I could on here, because I reckon it's boring for non-musicians, and condescending to musicians, but I do reckon that I write about music more than I write about books or TV because I actually like music. Probably much more than you do. So, for example, I can state that part of the appeal of "Bad Girls' is taking the off-key, high pitched whine of gangsta rap, and turning it into a mode . I can see the rest, too, of course, and know the political undertones to what MIA is doing, and can appreciate how she's doing a dance with western media not unlike the contempt a prostitute has for a john, but music is what brought me here- not trend, not image, and certainly not ego- I don't care what you think of me, and would be unimpressed if you thought of me as a music business insider- but I'm willing to bet that's exactly what brings in most of the writers for high profile industry crap like Pitchfork. Because, if they were honest, they'd see how what MIA is doing has more to do with the Zeromancers of the world than the Eminems.
Then, I saw the Youtube music Awards, and I nearly despaired- it was such a mess of pseudo hipster, fake indie industry bullshit that I reckoned that western culture was doomed. Then, I saw Eminem's performance of "Rap God"- a throwback to mid 1990's utterly corporate unapologetic fake music- and slowly, the  camera allows us to see the musicians, playing in darkness in comparison to the washout white light on the celebrity- and that's my one hope- there are still people toiling in darkness, maybe, but still following their muse, still playing real instruments, still trying to actually create, not just look cool, and it brought  back to mind the Adam Ant song- " If Passion ends in Fashion, Nick Kent is the best dressed man in Town"- which was a sarcastic dig at a truly great music journalist getting a song wrong ( Kent thought that an early Ants song " Deutscher Girls" was evidence of Nazi sympathies- the song is actually a reminder of what happened to people who went along with something awful, simply because it was liked by the majority- the line is " remember the curls of the deutscher  girls?" which calls up the image of  Nazi prostitutes who were shaved bald and paraded  through the French streets after the war ) So, my point is that I still need this, for me- I need to carry my little light for what I think is valuable because Passion doesn't end in fashion- all this will be forgotten and lost, even by me, unless I keep it, if only for me.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Melvins Tres Cabrones

Yes, it's a "new" Melvins LP- about 1/3 comedy, about 1/3 heavy rock, and about 1/3 Punk attitude. As per the past few LPs, it's a collection of odds and sods, hence not entirely new, even if the songs are newly composed. It's on Ipecac, which, if you're paying attention, tells you volumes.. . If you can handle really experimental rock- that splits the difference between the Butthole Surfers at their most psychotronic and grunge at its most droning- you're ready for the Melvins, but more than most, the Melvins are just the Melvins- I don't think anyone else has ever done what they have made their stock-in-trade, music that is simultaneously Punk and retro-proto Metal in ways that allow them to sound goofy and tough in equal measure.
But, jeez, look  at me, trying to explain the Melvins...
Just a side note, BTW- I'm not sure if I have faithful readers or not- I suspect Not- and that's actually a huge relief- but, just in case, I'm going to be gone for a little bit. Going off to the Netherlands on Saturday, and I'm not taking computerized devices- I'm taking a watch, camera and an MP3 player. No phone, no tablet, no laptop- so, hopefully something good in a few weeks...

Friday, October 18, 2013

Like Like The The The Death- Cave Jenny

So, I have this theory- bad band names result in better bands. I'm really sorry to start off with this, but "Like Like The The The Death" has got to be one of the worst band names I have ever heard. Heck, it's hard to even read that thing- and go ahead, try to say it. Out loud. Yeah, you see what I mean? ( Yes, as a matter of fact I have heard of the Silver Jews, what of it?)
However, the theory holds up- This is some good music. For me.  Your mileage may vary. See, the basic framework is this- take the spastic energy of one of the New Wave of New Wave bands from the early 2000's- say the Futureheads, or the Briefs, now apply that to grungy Noise rock, but don't let up on the punk-pop emphasis on simple melodies. Got that? Now have Rick Sims sing. ( I don't know if it's Kyle or Anthony, but one of them reminds me of Rick when the Didjits were new. And I would really like to hear them do a cover of either "Skull Baby" or "Plate in my Head" ) .For seasoning, play some math-y time signatures.  Then, slowly stew the whole thing so that more and more chaos creeps in, so that by the 9th or 11th track the audience will accept more dissonance and abstract, irregular, angular music than they thought they could. I think the wry, geeky humour helps, too. If you like just about anything on the noisy, speedy side, I think you'll like the ride. If you don't , you must be one of those Laughing Hyenas fans, or something.
Per my understanding, there's even a tie-in to the Almighty Die Kreuzen here.  Mark me as sold.
Now, I've seen the name before, but this is my first go-round with them, and I gotta say- between this, War Brides, Nonagon , Tyranny is Tyranny, etc- I really need to make a trip up to either Chicago or Wisconsin a priority. Something is going on there in terms of noisy rock.

Luder Adelphophagia

I was going to damn Luder with faint praise, and talk about how I liked them, but knew it was mushy, sugary ear candy, but then, I found myself listening again and again, and I started to realize they're really good.
 So, on the first listen, you'll hear a band that sounds exactly like Medicine meets Lacuna Coil. Yes, it's a hybrid thing, and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't ( For example, I've seen several blogs going all runny over Watertank. Watertank are a great idea on paper- post-hardcore, a la Quicksand and Helmet meets Stoner  Rock a la QOTSA. In practice, the result is Nu Metal. Seriously, several tracks end up sounding like Taproot. I still think they have some talent, but, ultimately, they're not for me) . But, upon a repeat listen or two, I started to realize it was a bit more progressive than all that- more like Medicine ( Singer Sue Lott is a sonic dead ringer for Beth Thompson)  meets Isis, or maybe Pelican.  Yes, it gets a bit drone-y, and yes, they can beat a riff into the ground, but mostly, it's pretty engaging stuff. It takes some patience, but ultimately, I think what they could put up on the website would be " Luder is not Stoner Rock. Luder is rock that will make you stoned" .
So, despite the death metal title ( something to do with baby death in the womb) this isn't obscuro progressive, either-but, well, I can say this by way of a negative- one problem I have with psychedelic music is that most of the time, the band sounds like they're about to break into either "Tomorrow Never Knows" or "Sweet Emotion"- there's none of that here. More like they sound like they're going to beat up A Perfect Circle. If you're a hard sell, try starting with the crushing twisted metal cover of "I'm Afraid of Americans" then, try "Ask the Sky" then go back and listen to the whole LP- this is truly progressive rock, if that term is supposed to mean rock music that's going somewhere,  not just guys showing off how many scales they can play. I'm thinking , for example, of the difference between Jane's Addiction, and Phish. Both could be said to play "progressive rock" yet which one pushed things further? Luder are pushing things forward. I don't want to put down Small Stone, but give this band the kind of budget and push that Relapse and above can afford? They'd eclipse bands like Royal Thunder and Blood Ceremony.
So, despite my initial doubts, I'm really glad I gave this hybrid a chance to grow on me. What I'd really like now is to see them on tour...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Red Fang- Whales and Leeches

I'm sure you've read a review or two of this already. I'm not so full of myself that I think I'll have some big new revelation for you, or that I understand Red Fang somehow more. I just want to point out a couple of things about what they're doing that I like.
First, they have tightened up to an unreal degree- several songs on here have near prog-rock time signatures but you'd have to be a freak like me to notice because they're such an efficient machine. For guys noted mostly for beer and laughs,  this is like technical death metal. Even then, one thing I never liked about Metal is how often the song gets "broken" so that somebody can solo. Awkward key changes, sudden tempo shifts, and so on that just take me right out of enjoying the song as a listener, and suddenly I'm back at school learning scales. Well, there's none of that here- all the changes seem organic, and logical for the song.
Second, topics include vampires, despair, cannibalism, and family vacations- what, exactly could be heavier?
Third, and last- I'm blown away by just how solid this record is- I find myself listening to it straight through, sitting in my car for the two bonus songs, late for work, but trying to hear the whole thing, again.
So, yes, if you like tight, solid, heavy rock, you need this record. As for any more review, hell, the band do it best....

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Paul McCartney - New

I cannot begin to pretend to review the new Paul Mccartney. It's good, and it reminds me of Muse and Death Cab for Cutie, at the same time.
But, there's plenty of places to get a review of it. I just have a thought about it- can you imagine the weight Paul McCartney lives with? He really does carry the weight of the Beatles- probably the biggest name in pop music since World War 2. Possibly, this biggest name in pop music, period. If he wants to release new music, that's the weight he has to carry. Alone. John and George are dead, and Ringo hasn't done anything new in years. But still, Paul soldiers on. How does one write a song that anyone can relate to, if that's the weight you carry? Then, yet more difficult, how does one please multiple generations- again, with that weight? So, my hat is off to the guy for even attempting a new record. That I find some value in it should say something- I'm pretty far afield from his target demographic, so that's some pretty broad appeal, there. All done with with this giant mountain of expectations and desires that the Beatles culturally represent. I'm impressed...

Monster Magnet-The Last Patrol

I think we all owe Dave Wyndorf. Before Kyuss, and alongside the Melvins, Monster Magnet basically invented the "Stoner Rock" thing.  Sure, you had your early 1970's influences- Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and The Stooges on the one side, with Hawkwind, Iron Butterfly and Blue Cheer on the other, but I really think it was Monster Magnet who first thought to filter all that through the lens of late 1980's "Alternative"- what made it something new is that Dave Wyndorf filtered all his early 1970's childhood through his punk rock experiences of his teens- so Monster Magnet was heavy psychedelic rock, with a Ramones/Misfits attitude. Everybody from Clutch to Kyuss to Rob Zombie took little bits from it.
So all hail- but do we need a new LP? I think we do. I think it's not enough to leave it with Mastermind, which was good, but not the end cap to a career as brilliant as Monster Magnet.  I don't really foresee an End Cap ... I don't think Dave is out of ideas, yet, either. I mean, I love Lemmy, and I own too many Motorhead LPs, and T shirts, but Lemmy hasn't really had a good, new idea since 1995. Dave is like Lemmy on Orgasmatron: still coming up with new ways of doing a garage proto-Metal take on Space Rock. What does that mean? Pure riffs, met with drones, and sound effects, played with enthusiasm, to support psychedelic/Science Fiction/ surreal lyrics. It's a bit more introspective, but this is still the psychotronic  Space Lord.  It's dynamic, and thrilling, and it'll make you think in small doses, and will switch your brain off, if you listen to the whole thing.  So get your mind blown.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A preliminary jab at Red Fang's Whales and Leeches

I expect the critics will like the new Red Fang LP. It's got airtight songwriting, with marvelous production and is even a step up in all ways from the great last LP, which was reviewed well. However, I expect a backlash from a certain contingent of fan. There will be certain boys- and yes, I mean boys, males aged 16 to 25, who will claim that Red Fang have gone soft, that these are pop songs, that it's not heavy enough; essentially "they sold out". At the risk of  constructing and attacking a straw man, I'd like to talk about that- and to make it transparent, my point in that is to explain my reaction to the LP.
See, first of all- I wouldn't think it's a bad thing for Red Fang to adopt a pop element to their music. Pop song structure is economical, and efficient. It's effective, and aesthetically pleasing. It's just not the only game in town. But Red Fang haven't adopted pop songcraft- it's Rock, and more specifically, it's Heavy Metal.
As such, I don't think it's lacking in heaviness- I think that such a perspective is lacking in understanding as to what they're going for. The music is no less heavy than Kiss, than Dio, than The Melvins, than Ted Nugent, and certainly no less heavy than contemporaries like Torche, Valiant Thorr, Tilts, or Turbonegro. Expecting them to be as heavy as Kowloon Walled City, Neurosis, or even Kylesa would be expecting them to be a different band than what they are. At the heart of it, that's what cries of "Sell Out" tend to be- an expectation of an Artist to be something other than what they are. ( there's certain rare exceptions- but usually I don't mind them. What I mind is when an Artist tries to sell me, as a fan, out. People like Trent Reznor, or Liz Phair trying to get me to accept a crappy, half assed attempt at what they think I want to hear, in an effort to get me to buy said lame attempt, because that's all the more they value their creative expression. ) I see Red Fang as being much more in the vein of always wanting to be something like the Melvins than something like Slayer, and yes, I hear them hit some "Slayer riffs" on this- but the overall feel of their thing is still Beer Metal,

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Two CDs in the post today

Got two compact Discs in the post- after listening to the download for awhile, I've finally got the Tyranny is Tyranny CD, and I was surprised to see my pre-order of the groovy 3-D cover version of the new Red Fang. I'll talk more about both, but this is good!

Sunday, October 6, 2013


Crust,  as a musical genre, is good soil. Yes that works as both a metaphor and a joke.  I was a big fan of certain Crust bands, and that has borne fruit, whether it is Disfear making the most creative D-beat based metal LP in a decade ( Live the Storm. If you haven't heard it, it is to D-Beat and Crust what Ride the Lightning was to eighties Thrash Metal) or whether is is Damad turning into Kylesa and creating a whole new genre in Southern Stoner/Sludge .
So, I keep in touch with the Crust scene, but mostly to scan the periphery- the bands and Artist pushing out from the confines of what is, after all, a pretty limiting genre. Germany's Ruins are not limited. That said, I just caught up with Ruins, who I believe have the raw material to become another great heavy rock band. The crust basis is still there, but they're reaching around, and skipping ahead to incorporate the "post sludge" melodic elements of Tragedy, Baroness and  Kylesa.  Yes, it shares characteristics of doom, but it really deviates from that in the lack of claustrophobia- they have a great sense of space, and are prone to go off on nearly math-rock angular grooves, before bringing in swaying hypnotic melodies- it's that denial of traditionalism that brings them into their own musical turf. Good stuff- and I can even give you a "RIYL"- If you like Tyranny is Tyranny, Tragedy, and early Kylesa, you'll like some of this.

My Limitations: Future of the Left- How to Stop your Brain in an Accident

I'm pretty good at "reading"- getting an understanding of what someone is trying to communicate. But I fall short pretty often as well. Such is the case with Future of the Left. This new LP is the first by them that I can get any kind of handle on. But even that is limited. I know that musically, they're wedding Gang of Four type nervous dance beats with Birthday Party styled explosiveness but I know there's more there that I'm not getting. Lyrically, it seems like the notebook diary scratchings of a hyper-intelligent sophmore at University, half-informed, and half hormonal. But, I think there must more there, as well.
So, I'm throwing this over to you. Can someone please get me up to speed on them? I like it, and I'm going to keep listening, and trying to decipher them, but it'd be nice to feel like I'm not posing by liking them...

Ghosts of Mars....

So, have you heard the new GVSB ep, yet? You should, it's good. Better than the new Soulfly and Sleigh Bells put together (since I won't be talking about either, elsewhere, I'll just say that Max, you're a good man, better than what you've done. I know that the fans just want Chaos AD over and over again, but I liked Soulfly for being something very different-and I bet you did too. Your heart isn't in this. Sleigh Bells, on the other hand have collapsed into exactly what I thought. Complete self-parody. Like an advertiser's idea of Punk Rock, doing covers of "Hey Mickey" over and over.) and better than You Can't Fight What You Can't See. Sure, it's just an EP, and, it could be argued, much the same as the Super Fire EP- but it's exactly what I like about Girls against Boys- grooves so cutting they cross over from dancing to danger, matched with lyrics that cross over from cheesy to sinister. I know most self-loving indie nerds hated Freak-on-ica but I'm not that kind of nerd- I saw it as a logical progression. What GVSB  do is take a certain type of male psyche, and expose it- debride it- until you can see the disgusting muscle and infection under the scab.
That type of male would sign a major label deal while trying to keep credibility, while getting more and more psychotic. That LP reflected that. That GVSB do this musically, rather than just lyrically makes it ring all more true. That I, like many others, have a bit of that psyche within me makes it sting a bit. Most of us have never done the evil in a Slayer song, or even been in a relationship as dysfunctional as an Afghan Whigs song, but we have pursued our base desires with an unhealthy disregard for the morality of it, and sometimes we revel in it. That point, when we want to possess that car, that gadget, or that girl, and we don't really care if we have to steal or take it by force ( and yes, emotional force counts) Girls Against Boys is all about that avarice that we rationalize and disguise. They go inside it and expose it. So, on this one, it's been 11 years, and that's explored- what happens to the hound when it gets a bit too old to hunt? What happens when you are still following the most trivial of pursuits well after the time to get serious?
Keep in mind this is done musically, as well- references to "Ghost Rider" by Suicide  on "Fade Out", and the slow electronic grind of "60 is greater than 15", not mention the burning pulsebeat of "Kick" ( like a gangsta war drum from 1995) don't really speak to an audience under the age of 40. But what they say? Well, think about the lyrics to the aforementioned Kick- "You say things have changed/ they only seem the same/to me. The 1990's? The Double Zeros? The Cleopatras?  The Neros.  There ain't no crazy ride. There ain't no war inside. And I still feel the same. I still feel the same." - I bet that you don't know all the references there if you weren't involved with Punk Rock in the early 1980s- admissions of defeat coupled with defiance abound- they seem to be saying that nearly sociopathic desire for conquest is wrong only because it's for the wrong things, and because of that, we're going to keep on trying, even though we're doomed to failure.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Now that Breaking Bad is done

Just wanted to say that I haven't changed my tune. Decent. Probably good. Parts were great. Not the best TV show, ever.
For them that are analyzing it over- here's a thought- who's story is it? That is, who is telling the story? By which perception is it told? Because I think it makes a difference if this is Walter White's story, or Jesse's story, or God's... See what I'm getting at? Then, if it is, let's say, Skyler's story- is she a reliable narrator?
My personal take- it's Walter's story, and no, he's not reliable.
 One last thought- I think the strongest part of the show was the acting. The story could get hack, and the camera work was gimmicky and overly reliant upon Nature as opposed to Art.  The costuming, and set design was a massive step back to the early 1990's, and ruined several scenes for me. The staging and physical direction was fair to poor, and the pacing was better than average. Overall-about at X files levels of skill.

Nonagon- The Last Hydronaut

I like Nonagon. Let me start with that.
I'm pretty old. As in, I'm past the age where anyone is confusing me with a young man. So, I know I'm going to lose a few folks with the next paragraph, but bear with me, we're getting to the good part.
See, I wonder whatever happened to Nomeansno? Or Alice Donut? Phantom Tollbooth? Bitch Magnet? The point is that there used to be all these strange bands playing jazzy posthardcore without being self conscious about it. They thought they were just playing punk rock, and seemingly had no idea that they were doing it "wrong", but kept following whatever strange muse led them there, anyway. Nonagon reminds me of them.
Yes, this is math-y punk, but with a lot more melody than that might imply. Pop mathcore? Yeah, that doesn't roll off the tongue, and besides, having melody isn't the same thing as playing pop. It's like a mainline to the early to mid 1980's in Minneapolis and Chicago, combined with late 1990's math rock. Like Rifle Sport mixed with both Drive like Jehu and Polvo. So, yes, noisy, yes complex time signatures, but no, not exactly atonal. The closest analogy would be to Jawbox, where yes, the melodies are abstract, and angular, but they are definitely there. Now, if they had an instrument like J Robbins' voice, they would have enough melody that we wouldn't be having this confusing talk. You'd say- ok, I geddit, melodic punk, but minus all the cliches- and that's what they are doing, but since there's no clear, traditionally melodic feature, like J Robbins' voice, it's a bit more removed. You have to work for it, a little bit. I don't mind that part because, well, did I mention that I'm old? In my day, sonny, we had to walk 11 miles to the gig, in the snow, with our gear, and no roadies, and then, if we worked really hard, we might find one riff that carried a tune! What I'm really saying is that there wasn't a spoon fed genre so that you could distinguish whether or not it was "cool" to like something, without giving it a full try, first- and that's what Nonagon demands- a full try because you're not going to just hear the hook in the first 10 seconds.
So, again, I like Nonagon- they play their punk rock the old fashioned way- you have to earn it. At the same time, they do what might be considered accessible music as compared to their peers in the Noise/math midwestern scene. To give you an idea- certain band members post on the Electrical Audio forums. Get the idea?
As I've said beforeThe songs go zoom, thud, strum and smack in a most satisfying way, and the overall sense of angst, and wry humour with just a bit of nervous anxiety is a great formula.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Ha Ha Tonka- Lessons

I've mentioned that I like Ha Ha Tonka before.  I still like them for the same reason- they play southern country influenced Indie Rock, but with a depth that's missing from some of the better-known purveyors of the genre.
For one, they're better than your Mumford and Lumineer crowd by virtue that they're not trying to recreate a past style. No faux-authentic Folksiness. They're a lot closer to the Arcade Fire, Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie end of the pop-rock Indie spectrum, but also unafraid of a mandolin, or pedal steel. There are few things that turn me off as much as "Hey everybody, come listen to this authentic-sounding folk song I just wrote in the old-timey style". Likewise, ignoring the gospel, bluegrass, Appalachian background to American rocknroll is a major mis-step of many Indie rock bands. Trying to rediscover musical lessons that were learned 30 to 50 years ago seems a bit of a cul de sac to me, so it's a tough road to toe- you can just as easily end up like My Morning Jacket, accidentally re-creating the Grateful Dead, or like the Kings of Leon who sound like what happens when a Georgia Satellites cover band discovers U2.
I both understand and am mystified why Ha Ha Tonka aren't huge- they really do sound like Arcade Fire meets Mumford and Sons, but walk the narrow path that takes the few good elements of each ( the Springsteen styled Anthemic fistpumpers of Arcade Fire, and the Bluegrass complexity of Mumford) . I think they're too authentically themselves to be as big as a band chasing the  mental gymnastics required to sound "authentic".
So, anyway, the new one is called "Lessons"and it's a good rock and roll record.

Breaking Bad

I watch TV with my wife. She's a big fan of binge watching TV shows. So, the past few weeks we caught completely up with Breaking Bad from never having seen a full episode to we'll be watching the series finale on Sunday.  My main thought is "Ehhhh, it's OK, and some of the acting is particularly good, but I still prefer Rescue Me, Boardwalk Empire, the first 3 seasons of Lost, the first 5 seasons of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, the first two seasons of both Northern Exposure and Newsradio, and season 4 of Angel". (There are more, but you get the point, right?- this is "middle of the pack" type stuff, not "Best of" ) .
So, my prediction of the finale? It's called "Felina" right? Well, fairly basic chemistry tells me that we're talking about a lithium battery (FE- Iron, LI-Lithium, NA-Sodium) so the only question is if we mean a cell phone battery or a Molten salt battery, like a rocket charge. From there, it's a no-brainer that there will be an explosive end. I don't want to spoil anything for people who haven't seen the show but want to, so I won't go into detail but I will say two things- 1. I've noticed that the people most "into" the show haven't lived in the American Southwest, nor been around the drug trade. The show relies very heavily upon that.  2. A lot of the rest of the show's impact is based upon shock- everything from the shock of people like Bryan Cranston and Bob Odenkirk playing serious characters to the shock of murder being committed by someone respectable. In both cases- relying upon the supposed exotic nature of the southwest and drugs, and relying upon shocks- I think the show would be better served by showing the sheer banality of evil. Of course, most folks will think the reverse- but that's why a show like "Rescue Me" worked so well for me- it showed the banality of heroism, and Jim Thompson books show the banality of evil in ways that are far more exciting than "Mr Chips becomes Scarface". Hell, Robin Williams can do that.
So, it's decent- and has some points going for it- but I still think it's only that. Besides which, do we really need to put Hollywood glitter on the Meth trade?

Manic Street Preachers- Rewind The Flim

Ok, yes, I like the Manics. I preferred them full of spit a bile, and my favorite LP by them was the Holy Bible, but I still haven't lost my taste for them, after they became standard brit pop with semi-socialist lyrics.
This new one is very quiet and acoustic but it still speaks to me. I still like 'em.

Pelican- Forever Becoming

Ah, yes, Pelican. a very, very hard band to categorize, or even describe. Instrumental rock would be accurate, but not very descriptive. People call it "Post metal" but that's mostly to differentiate it from the "post rock" of Tortoise, which is simply instrumental music. So, yes, Pelican use loud guitars and recognizable riffs. So what?
Here's the only thing that works for me- if you like Godflesh, Neurosis, Isis, Baroness, Kylesa or the Melvins, give Pelican a serious listen. I happen to love their music, but I'll be damned if I can really tell you you what it is.

On the other hand some things (UK) Decay

I also have been listening to the new Uk Decay cd "New Hope for the Dead". Sorry- they're still a better prospect on paper than reality. Thought so in the eighties, still do. Even more so. It's laughably crap.

BL'AST- Blood

Ok, since, unless you're Dave Grohl, or me, chances are you won't know, I'm doing my best to be fair, here. Bl'ast were a southern California mid to late eighties post-hardcore band heavily indebted to Black Flag. They have gone on to have ties with the Stoner/Doom community, hence this "new" record coming out on Southern Lord. Fair? Ok, well then here's my thought: Damn, but you kids have it rough. Bl'ast, at best, were a 2nd tier band in the 1980's. They were what you listened to when you were bored with your Black Flag records and Battalion of Saints EPs, and so forth. Hearing them again now? They blow so much hardcore out of the water, it makes me realize how low my standards have become. When Bl'ast sound good, you know you've been listening to too much 3rd rate stuff. At the same time, give them their due- sounding like Black Flag with little bits of Die Kreuzen and Poison Idea thrown in is a very, very high standard, indeed. In a world without Black Flag, Die Kreuzen, or Poison Idea, yes, Bl'ast would be headliners, and the world we live in could use a new Bl'ast record. So, damn you kids have had it rough. Here's hoping you can hear some Bl'ast....

First of a few short ones

Ok, for those who don't know- my main "day job" is as a fixer. Technically, I'm called an "International Concierge and Reservations Specialist" , but I think most folks would just call me a fixer. I get business bigwigs and Government fatcats from point A to point B. Occasionally, I do the same thing for a celebrity or two, but really my main business comes from folks who make enough money to make your average TV star look like Joe Six Pack. To balance against this, I also work towards getting small businesses 8(a) certified, and, for some friends, I sometimes work as a Sound Engineer, and when that doesn't eat up too much of my time, I will do other odd jobs- everything from helping to wire up houses for Habitat to helping friends do their taxes. The point isn't for you to know all this much more about me- the point is that I make my living in anything but a traditional 9 to 5. So, sometimes I've got time, sometimes I've got money, sometimes I've got both, sometimes I have neither. For the past two to three weeks, I've had neither. So I haven't had a chance to post a whole lot. Rather than let that continue, I'm going to post some short things. Please know that I know I'm giving short shrift, but what can I do? A Man's gotta feed his cats!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

There will be more...

Just a busy week. I've got thoughts on stuff, just no time to think, and even less time to express those thoughts. Welcome to the modern world

Monday, September 16, 2013

De Staat- I_Con

Ok, so I was missing out,and didn't know it. Just picked up on this Dutch band, as I kept on seeing their name associated with dEUS, so I kinda figured they'd be good. On this one, wow,  are they ever good?
Now, seeing as chances are better than average that I'm one of the very few non-Dutchmen talking about them (Well, ok, I'm technically Dutch, but I don't live in the Netherlands. Not permanently, and not right now. Technically, I'm an American, which is my point) I'm going to have to back up a bit so you'll understand.
See, Europe has had something pretty exciting happening with actual new rock music. As in, take a band like Cage the Elephant out of Kentucky. Good band, and they're pretty young, so, in that way, they're a new rock band, but in terms of adding something to the rock lexicon, not so much. Bands like dEUS, Silence is Sexy, Pandora.s Box, Kashmir, Ghinzu, and yes, De Staat are actually adding something new to the accepted term of Rock music. In De Staat's case, they're mixing pseudo African and tribal rhythms with krautrock styled keyboards and guitars, with 1980's styled RnB and soul, with more than a little Captain Beefheart styled freak-blues, and  hard rock, nearly pop-metal guitar tones. Sounds like a lot, right? That's what I mean by adding to the lexicon of the Rock idiom- unlike, say, Vampire Weekend, where it's not really new, it's just a slightly different angle on the same play- adding non- whitepeople beats to whitepeople conventions, this is a far more idiosyncratic exercise. It's like  early 1980's Killing Joke, meets late 1980's Oingo Boingo, meets Captain Beefheart, meets dEUS, meets QOTSA, all while playing Thompson Twins covers. Can you picture that? Because without hearing them, I couldn't. Definite innovation at work. Another way of saying it- whereas dEUS has worked out that they'd like to be more Roxy Music than Captain Beefheart's magic band, they still have elements sticking out that tell you, they're not done becoming whatever it is they want to become- De Staat have figured out what they are, but haven't yet found a way to translate that into something we can digest easily.
Another way of looking at it- remember when Talking Heads were on the cusp of becoming a pop band, but weren't, yet? That's where De Staat are.
So, I haven't heard their earlier stuff. Maybe it's even better, but here's what I know by way of Biography: We start with Singer/guitarist/songwriter Torre Florim. He starts this as a one man project, then assembles the band around him. They play live, a lot, and release a couple of EPS and LPS. Along the way, they catch the eye of dEUS, and Chris Goss ( the same guy who could be argued to have discovered Kyuss) . Along the way, they added a lot more synths to pair with their guitar rock. That's really about all I know- but can you see how that puts them on my radar?
So, I don't know if the name is a reference to Louis Andriesson, or Michael Ian Black.  In a way, it could be both. I don't know if they're meant to be light hearted or serious Art- maybe both?
You can get it where I got it. You could get it from Amazon  but it's now worldwide.  So, why would you get it? Well, maybe because you like the songs- Try out Devil's Blood  and Witch Doctor and Down Town  and Make Way for the Passenger . I would suggest that you get the full LP though- each song is good, but this is definitely a case where the whole is more than the sum of the parts.  I know that most likely you won't get it simply based upon my say so, because I'm just some guy on the Internet, but I'm hoping I have at least got you interested enough to check it out.