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!