What's More Unbelievable?

Monday, March 31, 2008

This One's For the Kids at The Gaming Zone

I was called out in the comments section of a recent post. I was told by Dustin to "practice up" on my Rock Band skills. Dustin is returning to Vermont in exactly one month so I've got a limited number of days to prepare myself. I'm currently obsessed with the Hard mode on Guitar Hero III and have slowly made my way to the final stage. Stage 7 nearly beat me down as it is full of terrible songs I have never heard like "Stricken" by Disturbed, songs with insane time signatures such as "3's and 7's" by Queens of the Stone Age or songs with absolutely killer runs of triplets like "Knights of Cydonia" by Muse. After numerous failures and jeers from the crowd, I entered Lou's Inferno which features extremely difficult songs by Metallica, Iron maiden and Eric Johnson. I managed to get through all of these but there is one remaining song that has broken me. It is "Raining Blood" by Slayer. Check out this video of the band playing it live:

Now I know that I'm not actually playing the song. I understand that I'm really only manipulating 5 brightly colored buttons on a plastic guitar and not actually playing the complex speed metal riffs you saw on this video but it's still incredibly difficult. I have no idea how I will ever fake my way through this song and can't even imagine what it will be like if I ever trick the game into letting me play it on Expert. Who are these people who are able to play the game at this level? Why don't they channel all that energy into something else? Why am I spending so much time practicing a fake instrument when I should be studying actual guitar music? Am I going to get my face handed to me when Dustin returns in May? I will keep you posted as the day draws near. Here's a video of some kid nearly acing a section of the song I can't even get to:

Maybe I need to start drinking Red Bull.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Joan Jett Gets Glasses

Joan Jett joins us again tonight and this time she has glasses! No longer will she stumble about in a blurry monster rage. Tonight, she hits her target first.

Radiohead - Reckoner

Hot Chip - No Fit State
Roxy Music - 2 H.B.

Dan Zanes - Washington at Valley Forge
The Who - The Kids Are Alright
Vampire Weekend - The Kids Don't Stand a Chance

R.E.M. - Bandwagon
Belle & Sebastian - If She Wants Me
Sloan - Everything You've Done Wrong

The New Pornographers - My Rights Versus Yours
Spoon - Don't Make Me a Target
The Beatles - When I'm Sixty-Four

Paul Simon - I Know What I Know
CCR - Looking Out My Back Door

The Strokes - The End Has No End
Kraftwerk - Dentaku
Stereolab - Infinity Girl

M Ward - Here Comes the Sun Again
Cat Power - Silver Stallion
The White Stripes - Hypnotize
Tom Waits - Hold On

Rooney - Blueside
Voxtrot - Firecracker
Ramones - The Return of Jackie and Judy

The Magnetic Fields - Drive On, Driver
Jonathan Richman - Affection
Sufjan Stevens - They are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From the Dead!! Ahhhh!

Sonic Youth - Pink Steam

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hulk Smash

I overheard a coworker talking about rock music today. Now I don't always agree with my coworkers' taste in music but I've come to a healthy place where I just swallow myself and allow the conversations around me to unfold as they normally would. No one wants a wet blanket always piping up saying, "You like this song?!?! Are you f-ing serious?!?! What could you possibly like about it? It is quite possibly the worst thing I have ever heard in my entire life and I grew up in a house where the Manheim Steamroller Christmas album was played on repeat!" So I keep my thoughts to myself. Actually, I quite like overhearing the conversations and though I occasionally disagree with their picks, they will often call me over saying, "They're playing your favorite song!" so I get up and run over the radio only to be pleasantly surprised that "Karma Chameleon" is getting some airtime. Yes, "Kokomo" does show up more often than I'd like but I've learned to enjoy the musical discussions of my coworkers and resist the urge to kill.

Until now, that is. Now, I grew up listening to rock but over the years I learned to appreciate most any genre of music and have a rabid obsession with music in general. But rock is my true love and I've re-realised that this past year as jazz and blues and more fall away and I watch rock rise to the top of my musical pile. I'm completely enamored with it in a way I haven't been in years. There was a fantastic Random Rules in the Onion A.V. Club a while back where they interviewed the drummer for Nada Surf about what was on his iPod. He describes himself as a "rock 'n' roll defender" and that's how I've felt lately. Maybe it's the countless hours spent playing the Guitar Hero collection and Rock Band but even cheesy classic rock sounds great to me now. Boston? Yes sir! ZZ Top? Gimme some more! Aerosmith? Mountain? Well, I didn't say I've lost all objectivity. Anyhow, I'm in love with rock and don't want anyone besmirching its good name.

So I overhear my coworker dismissing rock music as worthless. "There have been so many great essay written about the utter dreck that is rock." "It's just 2 chords over and over and appeals to the lowest common denominator." "The only reason it's written is for commercial purposes and therefore it's another example of the sad decline of humans." I was ready to kill. I spent the next 20 minutes stewing in my seat, creating arguments in my head about the various intelligent people who have fought for the respect of rock music, the numerous nerdy, math rocky, proggy bands that know 3, possibly 4, chords or the musicians who turn complex short stories into song lyrics and concept albums. How dare this person say such hurtful things? Then I realised that rock music doesn't care and these stupid statements weren't aimed at me or my record collection so I should just let it go. It was just another example about how the things that stress me out in life are typically the silly issues like this and the real problems of the world barely enter my consciousness. While the world frets about genocides and viral epidemics, I wage war against people who badmouth reality tv and anyone who even considers seeing "Be Kind Rewind." It was a good chance to check myself before I wrecked myself and accidentally fired someone. I've since calmed down a little bit about it but writing this entry has me all fired up again. I mean, seriously, who in their right mind would say something so hurtful like that?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Battle for the Earth Pt. 2 - Joan Jett's Revenge

Joan Jett returns for the third battle in a row. The year is 2632 and the battle rages on...

The Beatles - I'm Only Sleeping

Radiohead - Sail to the Moon
They Might be Giants - We Want a Rock
T Rex - Teenage Dream

Vampire Weekend - A-Punk
The Darkness - I Believe in a Thing Called Love

The Shivvers - Teen Line
Shout Out Louds - Tonight I Have to Leave it

The White Stripes - Hotel Yorba
The Gants - I Wonder

Zumpano - The Party Rages On
Crystal Castles vs. Goodbooks - Leni

Fountains of Wayne - Valley Winter Song
Tullycraft - 8 Great Ways

Wolf Parade - Fancy Claps
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! - Emily Jean Stock

The Shins - Phantom Limb
Kleenexgirlwonder - Amelia

Ratatat - Bustelo
Pinback - Manchuria
Belle & Sebastian - Step Into My Office, Baby

Polvo - Old Lystra
Andrew Bird - A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left

Olivia Tremor Control - Jumping Fences
The Minders - Yeah Yeah Yeah
Pavement Debris Slide

Swirlies - Wait Forever
Nothing Painted Blue - Another Child Bride

The Police - So Lonely

Friday, March 21, 2008

Blow Your Harmonica, Son

Years ago, I lived in Baltimore and while there I saw many, many concerts. These days, I'm lucky if I see 3 or 4 a year, but back when I was fresh out of school and had not yet reproduced, I had a lot more time to visit cramped clubs just so I could further ruin my hearing and end up stinking like cigarette smoke and stale beer. As I said, I saw lots of shows during that time, many of them great, but none stand out in my memory as much as the one I saw on the night of June 5, 2000.

Why so memorable? So many reasons. First, it was at Pier 6 in Baltimore, an outdoor venue right on the water of the Inner Harbor so it was a lovely place to be on a Summer evening. Second, it was free. Somehow, my friend Dylan had scored 2 free tickets to the show through a friend of a friend so we didn't have to pay $30 like the rest of the suckers. Last and most importantly, the lineup was stellar: Blaque, Eiffel 65, Sonique, Vitamin C, Hanson and Jessica Simpson. I know! Superawesome, right?

Not sure if we could stomach a full evening of slick radio pop, we showed up fashionably late. As we walked toward the harbor, the sweet sounds of Vitamin C's megahit "Graduation Song" filled the air. Wordlessly, we turned to each other with horrified looks on our faces. There was no way we were going to miss "Graduation Song." Dylan and I sprinted toward the gate, fumbling for our tickets, hoping to catch at least the last few seconds of this masterpiece but no luck. We hadn't even entered the venue and already the night was marred by tragedy. The roar of the crowd let us know that what we feared most was actually happening - Vitamin C had finished her set and was leaving the stage. We didn't even get a glimpse of her Kool-Aid Orange hair.

Finally, we were allowed to enter the pavilion and the sight nearly turned us right around. The place was swarming with preteen girls. It was like sticking your head into a hornet's nest full of TRL fans. Strange, candy scented perfumes filled the air and seemingly each and every girl had a glow stick in hand. Were they given out at the door and if so, why didn't I get one? We felt extremely awkward immediately and tried not to make eye contact with any of them for fear of being misconstrued as some sort of weird perverts hanging out at the Hanson show hoping to find a date. I spotted a few parents trying to fade into the background and that just made me feel weirder as I made my way to my seat. "Who are these two goons and why are they here to corrupt our daughters," I imagined them thinking. Dylan and I took our places and stood perfectly still, staring straight ahead and wishing that the next band would start already for Chrissakes!

Hanson erupted onto the stage and blew my mind. This was some sort of pop attack showcase so each artist was only allowed a very short set. The Hanson boys made the most of their sliver of time and knocked the crowd out with a tight, near-perfect lineup of "MMM Bop" madness and hot harmonica action. Isaac or Taylor or whichever one is the pretty lead singer wailed on that thing to the delight of myself and the rest of the crowd. My knees nearly buckled as they absolutely killed a nasty blues workout and educated those kids on what real music is like. For a brief shining moment, the dirty south broke through the plastic sheen of the evening only to be quickly whisked away as Hanson's time was up. Inside I screamed for more as the brothers left the stage. Only the sight of 10,000 glow sticks shaking in the night brought me back to reality so I kept my mouth shut for fear of drawing attention to Dylan and me, the weird Narcs in row 38.

The closing set of the night was provided by Jessica Simpson. At the time, I had no idea who she was. This was before her renaissance as a reality tv queen and Chicken of the Sea aficionado. To me, she was just another interchangeable female pop star but the 12 year olds surrounding me would have had no trouble picking her from a lineup. After the glow of Hanson, there was really no reason to stick around but Dylan and I decided to give the girl a chance. Jessica came out in some bizarre school girlish outfit which did nothing to help me feel more comfortable in this setting. She had a white shirt tied in a knot at her stomach and a black leather skirt. As the crowd squealed, she paraded around the stage smiling stupidly and nodding at the sea of fans writhing before her. I was starting to sweat. We didn't belong here. We probably never should have come in the first place but how could I say no to such a spectacle? The programmed beats started up and Jessica began to sing a song that was so completely bland and forgettable that I couldn't remember it even while it was playing. There was absolutely nothing keeping us here at this point yet we still couldn't bring ourselves to leave since I didn't really want to wade through a sea of dancing kids, bobbing and weaving around the bouncing glowsticks and flopping ponytails, desperately trying to find the exit. But then she started spanking her own ass and we had to get the hell out of there.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Suffering From Mothra Mouth

Mothra recently lamented on this very blog about how he was using the word fantastic too much on our radio program. Loyal readers came to his rescue and he expanded his word power thanks to you all. Maybe you could rally together and help out our pal John Darnielle, too. Pitchfork featured an interview with him last week and in it he uses the word great 15 times and throws in a bunch of goods and awesomes too. It's pretty astounding to read because in his music, he seems to have a great grasp of the language and the possibilities it offers. I know casual conversation about ringtones is nothing like sitting down and working on song lyrics but I found his limited vocabulary rather shocking. I was also floored to find out that he loves Law & Order so much, regardless of whether it's Original Flavor or one of those Extra Crispy spinoffs. He even goes out of way to praise Sam Waterson. Seriously? Him? At least he didn't say anything kind about Jerry Orbach because if he did, I would have to immediately rid my collection of all Mountain Goats albums and renew my vow to never see Dirty Dancing ever even though I was just given the Ultimate Edition recently as a gift. But then Mr. Darnielle reinstilled my love for him by praising Paper Mario and Super Mario Galaxy which are both superawesome and he's right to speak of them so highly. But Law & Order? That dreck is the antithesis of great.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Actual Battle of the Earth Itself

Joan Jett is back for more battling action, and this time she's brought a secret weapon: the Thundertube!

Vampire Weekend - One (Blake's Got a New Face)
Talking Heads - Stay Up Late

Wolf Parade - This Heart's on Fire
The Smithereens - In a Lonely Place

Camera Obscura - Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken
Saturday Looks Good to Me - Meet Me By the Water

Belle & Sebastian - The Blues are Still Blue
Michael Jackson - Human Nature

The Monkees - Let's Dance On
The Go-Gos - Tonite

Voxtrot - Long Haul
Bruce Springsteen - Sherry Darling

John McCutcheon - John Henry
CCR - It Came Out of the Sky

Dolly Parton - I Will Always Love You
Animal Collective - Did You See the World?

Cyndi Lauper - When You Were Mine
Liars - We Live NE of Compton

The Shins - Fighting in a Sack
The New Pornographers - Use It

Death Cab for Cutie - 405
Cat Stevens - The Wind

The Rentals - The Love I'm Searching For
Modest Mouse - Sleepwalking

Ben Folds Five - Mess

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Taking One For the (Street) Team

I subscribe to Magnet magazine. It's subtitle is "real music alternatives." See that clever use of alternative? They're not coming right out and saying it's a magazine solely devoted to Alternative Music because that's so 1994 but it's there and you and I both get the hint. It's a pretty lame magazine in a lot of ways. The cover photos are always, ALWAYS, horrendous and ugly. They are often super close ups of people who are already a bit odd looking and they use terrible lighting and show off every pockmark and pore and we often have to flip them over so as not to scare the children. The non-feature articles are rarely more than one page advertisements for bands with no real journalism or insight, simply positive platitudes that are guaranteed to offend no one. They do have a nice sense of rock history, especially the dusty corners of college rock and post punk ,and oftentimes have interesting essays on various genre chronologies or overviews of a specific band's entire career. You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have Magnet magazine. But hands down the worst thing about it is the sampler cd that accompanies each issue. Unlike Q or Mojo or any of those other overpriced journals that come packaged with a cd, the Magnet sampler's ties to the current magazine are tenuous at best. Most of the bands on the thing aren't even mentioned in the entire issue and 90% of them you've never heard of in your life. Nor should you have because they almost always suck royal eggs. Who are these people and why is anybody allowing them to make music? It's truly a shockingly bad listen every single time. I haven't made it through one from start to finish in years but tonight I will, no skipping, no fast forwarding. I submit myself to this torture to test my own fortitude and to document each step of the journey as I investigate the utter worthlessness of the Magnet sampler cd.

Volume 48 - Before I even start it I peruse the song list to see who may look even the slightest bit familiar to me. Of the 19 bands featured on this masterpiece, I have only heard of one. One of the groups is named after a Cure song and the rest are no more promising.

1. Fiskum "Tom Waits' Bar and Grill" - Oh what misery this title foretells. Dan Fogelberg meets the Crash Test Dummies while digging through James Taylor's trashbin. Thanks Melodypig Records for kicking it off with a strangled whimper of a song. Next!
2. Racetrack Babies "The Messenger" - Like American Analog Set's "The Postman" but without anything even remotely approaching a melody line or a beating heart. Soulless rock written by the corpses of beer ad session musicians.
3. The Alphabetical Order "Constant State" - 4th generation Sunny Day Real Estate ripoffs who seem equally influenced by the last Matchbox 20 album. Who let them in the studio?
4. Jeremy Larson "A Neutral Conclusion" - Heavy synth action gives way to programmed beats and pounded piano chords. It's not my cup of tea but it's the first song on this sampler that doesn't make me want to weep for the future of music.
5. When Thunder Comes "Calm Before the Storm" - I hope you like the wah-wah pedal because When Thunder Comes loves it. A lot. Seriously, it's like the second coming of Swervedriver.
6. Rooney "I Should've Been After You" - Hey, I know this band! They have some great pop songs on their first album and some great haircuts. This somehow reminds me of Journey, which isn't a terrible thing, but it is a bit unexpected. There's some serious Styx influence here as well. Handclaps, harmonies and 70s keyboards will always put a smile on my face.
7. Crack the Sky featuring John Palumbo "Safety in Numbers" - I was going to skip this one but then I saw it features John Palumbo and didn't dare. All the John Palumbo fans in the audience say "Aye!"
8. The Trolleyvox "I Call on You" - Are we really out of good band name options? Because this band was obviously forced to scrape the bottom of the barrel for this one. Boy that guitarist likes to wank around whether the vocalist is singing or not. Someone reign him in for the love of Pete.
9. One for Jude "Et Moi" - I'm surprised this is actually in French. I'm not surprised that it's pretty dreadful since it is a song on the Magnet sampler and all.
10. Vulture Whale "Baby in the Oven" - OK, we may be officially out of band names at this point. The song title is super-awesome however and I'm going to give this one an actual listen. Too bad the tune is back-breakingly awful although pleasantly short.
11. Mist and Mast "Turn Into the Turn" - It seems everyone has a record label these days, even the Oakland Petting Zoo who today bring us this strangely non-sucky Pinback-lite piece. These guys must be the ones who make sure the goats don't eat anyone's pants or mount any of the smaller children.
12. John Parkes "Second Golden Age of Protest" - Hard hitting political righteousness. Turn off your CNN and turn on some John Parkes. (That phrase is yours if you want it, Mr. Parkes, for a small fee).
13. Anton Sword "Maybe It's Begun" - I've stopped paying attention by this point. It's one giant melting marshmallow of bland. The kind of sampler you'd expect to find packaged in a loaf of Wonder Bread or box of Velveeta.
14. Hoax Funeral "Melting (Into Corners)" - Don't let the faux-poetic title fool you. These goofs have nothing to say. Kristen Hersh with less crazy and more embarrassing lyrics. I don't mean to keep comparing everyone to other, better bands but it's easy shorthand to describe songs you will never hear in your lifetime and it's probably more interesting than simply writing "another slab of crap" for each track.
15. Racoon (sic) "Laugh About It" - How many singer-songwriters with an acoustic guitar and a heart full of song are there in this country? And how many people actually seek out this sort of music? At this point, it seems like we must be at a 1:1 musician-to-fan ratio. Can't someone put a cap on this outpouring of emotion and stop the madness before the coffee shops are supersaturated with these jokers?
16. Charlotte Sometimes "How I Could Just Kill a Man" - I assure you, this sounds absolutely nothing like you'd predict from the band name/song title combo. It's basically MOR dancepop that you'd hear on your local mix station and not at all the Cure-influenced mope rock or hardcore hip hop I was expecting. This band is on Geffen. How is that possible?
17. Giancarlo Vulcano "3x3, No. 2" - Madagascarish guitar instrumental? Why not? The Magnet sampler likes to keep it fresh.
18. Palumbo "Hey, Mr. President" - No shit, this song is sung by a child and contains brilliant lines like "Hey, Mr. President/Where are you eating tonight?/Are you hungry like us?/Little people on the outside" and "Jesus and Mary are watching you/From their window in the big sky?Wondering what you're gonna do" and my favorite, "We're the dogs of Dog City."
19. Konrad "Shapeshifting Marathons" - It's always nice to end a cd with out of tune singing.

One of the best things about these compilations is their total disregard to listenability. Songs are put in a random order so that wildly disparate tunes rub up against each other and awkward juxtapositions are the norm. They don't flow at all nor do they have a strong leadoff track or appropriate last track. They throw all the shit in a blender, pour it out and send it to their subscribers every other month. If they so obviously don't give a damn about the sampler, why should I? I guess the money they get from the labels to feature these songs keeps the subscription price down but it hardly seems worth it to end up clogging landfills with such terrible sounds. This may have been the worst one yet. I would say worst ever but I have confidence that they'll one up themselves next time around but I can assure you, I won't make this same mistake again. It has been a truly painful evening leaving me with the same hateful feeling towards music that I get when searching through the $3 cd bin at a used record store. Who are these people and why are they compelled to make music? Congratulations, Magnet sampler. You've done it again.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What is That Sound?

For Christmas, I received The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators from my brother and I've been listening to it a lot lately. It features their insanely wonderful hit "You're Gonna Miss Me" which is the only song I really knew by them. It's a killer and aside from the lovely screeching by Roky Erikson, it also blows my mind because of that bizarre noise in the background of the song. It's hard to describe but it's kind of like a "wooka-wooka-wooka" sound but really really fast. Imagine a hummingbird outside your window with plastic wings. Or maybe someone pulling their zipper up and down very quickly and amplifying the sound. It's kind of like that.

I cannot imagine what could possibly make that noise. Some kind of bass string manipulation? A toy harmonica of some sort? Possibly a broken down hurdy gurdy? So I went on You Tube to check out the video and found this:

What the hell is that guy playing? A lampshade? He's obviously holding something near a microphone and it must be the mystery instrument making that mystery sound.

I continued on to allmusic where I finally found the answer - It's Tommy Hall and his electric jug! Of course. But what, you ask, is an electric jug? Next stop - Wikipedia: "The jug, a crock-jug with a microphone held up to it while it was being blown, sounded somewhat like a cross between a minimoog and cuica drum." So they were just a jug band who plugged in and loaded up on psychedelics and reverb. Fascinating. Thank you internet for once again coming to the rescue!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Battle of the Earth Part 1 - Gamera vs. Joan Jett

Lucky Me! Joan Jett has joined me in the studio and I couldn't be happier. Are you amplified to rock?

Yo La Tengo - Beanbag Chair
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Details of the War
The Modern Lovers - Hospital

Gamera Theme
Joan Jett Theme

Modest Mouse - Float On
The White Stripes - There's No Home For You Here

Vampire Weekend - Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
Neko Case - Hex

The Monkees - Cuddly Toy
The New Pornographers - From Blown Speakers

The Ramones - I Need Your Love
Belle and Sebastian - Asleep on a Sunbeam

The Beatles - Help!
Rooney - Daisy Duke

They Might be Giants - Four of Two
My Morning Jacket - Golden
Pavement - Spit on a Stranger

Men Without Hats - The Safety Dance
The Kinks - Come Dancing

The Flaming Lips - Race For the Prize
Cat Power - Empty Shell

Dan Zanes - Wonder Wheel
Pixies - Gigantic

Ratatat - Gettysburg
The Minders - Comfortably Tucked Up Inside

My Morning Jacket - Anytime

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Revisiting the Classix: Five-Eight

I was thinking the other day about my cd collection and how there are so many cds hiding in there that my eyes pass over daily without even stopping. It's automatic at this point. I've conditioned myself to jump over them, taking no notice, and it's gotten to the point where sometimes I'm not even sure if I own a certain album or not even though my eyes glance at it several times a week as I pass by it on the way to the shiny new soundz. Five-Eight's I Learned Shut Up is one of these forgotten cds. It's actually one of the first cds I ever purchased but it's probably been about 10 years or so since I last listened to it.
The album came out in 1992 and I remember being introduced to them around the same time as I became obsessed with Barenaked Ladies. It was a year where I was first starting to make headway into forging my own musical tastes and choosing some bands who weren't part of the Lollapalooza set. Five-Eight were from Athens, GA (just like R.E.M. so they were already cool) and I loved them immediately. Over the years, I soured on both them and Barenaked Ladies but couldn't bring myself to ever get rid of this album. The Barenaked Ladies' Gordon is another story. I have tried selling it several times and nobody wants that piece of shit. It's currently selling for $0.75 on half.com, which is the lowest price you can possibly list a cd for, so you can see what a hot commodity this thing is. If they still had cut out bins, Gordon would fill about 20% of the available space. It's the Whipped Cream and Other Delights of the modern era.
The other day I needed some music to keep me company while I did the dishes and for some unknown reason, my eyes stopped on poor, forgotten Five-Eight. After years of neglect, I was horribly excited to listen to this artifact from the past. I often wonder when listening to albums how many other people in the world are currently listening the same cd. When I put I Learned Shut Up on the other night, I had a pretty fair shot at being the only person listening to it in the entire universe at that point. Now I don't know if it was the years of absence making my heart grow fonder or what but it did not disappoint.
Right away, I was soaping up silverware and doing the head bop to the furious rocking of lead off track "Looking Up." As with all albums that burrow their way into your brain during the influential high school years, I still knew every guitar lick, drum fill and lyric. I wasn't even enjoying it purely nostalgically. The 15 year old Gamera loved it as an escape from the drudgery of teenage life and the 30 year old Gamera can think of nothing better to assist in the cleaning of greasy pans. It's a stone rocker, even the ballads.
And oh, what ballads. "Desperate Tonight" and "Destroy this World" are absolute killers but even they pale in comparison to the masterpiece that is "She's Dropping the Bomb." I may be wrong, but it appears that this song is about two young guys attempting to save a stripper from her dreary life through poetry and utter sincerity. Their plan fails beautifully and culminates with these crushing lines: "I was the poet in the bar/Do you remember me/She said no." Oh! It's torturous and brilliant and it blows my mind to see someone write such a painful song about themselves where they don't look cool for a single second. Singer/Guitarist/Songwriter Mike Mantione is nothing if not a heart on sleeve type. Brutally honest lyrics paired with at-times shrill singing let you know HE IS NOT JOKING. I saw him once at JMU standing at the edge of the stage sans band, singing the song "Weirdo" without aid of a microphone to open the set, laying his soul out there for everyone to witness and wince at. The picture of him singing naked inside the Angriest Man ep basically sums it up. This man is not afraid to overshare.
So it was a pleasant revisitation and I don't see going another 10 years before another listen. If you are one of the others out there who still own this cd, give a chance this week, you just may be surprised how awesome it still is.
And now for the requisite viddeo post. This time it's Five-Eight plus members of R.E.M. playing at the 40 Watt in 2006. Athens superpowers, activate! Form of "Sitting Still!"

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Get Out Your 20-Sided Hankies For This One

I don't know if you saw the headline but we lost one of the great ones today when Gary Gygax died. He was the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, hero to geeks everywhere and an inspiration to countless proggy musicians. Pitchblende even named their final album after him. For a perfect example of D&D put to music, listen to Rush's 12-minute epic, "The Necromancer." Since I can't find a video I like for that song, put on your chain mail and check out this madness from Fantasy-Rock masters DragonForce.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Best Bedhead You Ever Saw

This past Friday night I took Sebastian to what may have been his first rock concert. I guess technically his first rock show was when we saw Die Like a Champion at the local skate park in Manchester, VT. He was still a baby but we spiked his hair and dressed him in black so he would fit in with the other dark-clad teenagers in the audience. It was my second time feeling like a Narc at a concert. I'll write an entry about the other time in the near future. Anyhow, this time he had a choice about the concert we attended and decided on his own outfit and hairdo so I'm counting this as his first.

He had been feeling jealous lately about concerts we had gone to without him so I scoured the local listings for something early enough for him to attend and found out that Dan Zanes and Friends would be blowing into town on Leap Day so I bought two tickets and we were off. It was a fantastic show. For those unfamiliar with Dan Zanes, he used to be in the Del Fuegos back in the 80s and 90s and has since become the pied piper of music for kids although I truly enjoy his music as well. Unlike Raffi or Sharon, Lois and Bram or any of the countless other cloying kids music performers, he is unpolished and ragged and all the better for it. He plays folk songs, sea shanties, Broadway tunes, protest songs and a myriad of other genres. His voice is not perfect and the recordings are pretty relaxed, at least compared to the other nonsense out there. I always avoided the entire genre. When I used to teach, I was horrified by the music the teachers used to introduce the students to the Blues. The whitest chorus of tuneless children all warbling about how they "got the blues" - absolute torture. That cd never saw the light of day when I as allowed to lead the class. I see no reason kids shouldn't just listen to the real stuff like Howlin' Wolf or Muddy Waters. It's insulting to give them grade Z representations of music and expect them to be excited about Music class. Dan Zanes gives it to 'em raw just like Ol' Dirty Bastard likes it.

So the show was not a pandering kids concert it was simply a rock show where half the audience was children. It was amazing to see this symphony hall filled with kids going absolutely berserk, jumping all around, dancing like maniacs, ready to tear the place down would Dan Zanes have commanded them to do so. The parents were barely more civilised. There was dancing in the seats, in the aisles and all around the room. At one point, we were all moving like trains around the place and when the song ended Sebastian and I were nowhere near our seats so we just stayed where we were and danced for the rest of the night. Sebastian doesn't always dance or sing along at home but with Dan Zanes there, pounding away on his guitar and mandolin, he was on his feet at the first note and didn't sit until long after the show ended. It was pure joy to see him so excited and it was incredibly infectious. I also rarely dance in public but it was nearly impossible not to in such an insane setting so there I was, floppping about for an hour and a half and it was completely exhilarating. I do love to sit but it's even more wonderful to be part of a large sea of gyrating people, especially when you're not in danger of being hit in the head by an errant glowstick.

After the show, which featured beautiful pro-immigration and anti-war propaganda interludes from Dan, the ushers handed out free autograph cards for the kids. Several members of the band hung around in the lobby for an hour after the show talking to the kids and signing their cds, shirts, etc. We got to meet Colin the drummer who told Sebastian he dug his pajamas, Sonia the guitarist/multilingual vocalist and Dan Zanes himself. Up close, Dan's head seems nearly too large for his skinny, skinny body and when he smiles it's all creases and wrinkles - he's like a human Sharpei. Sebastian told him about the family band he had started called the Robots and Dan Zanes wished him the best of luck in his musical ventures. It's pretty rare to be able to meet one of your musical heroes at your very first concert. I saw 'Weird Al' Yankovic and the Monkees at the same bizarre July 4th show when I was 10 and the closest I got to them was the nose bleed section of a giant sports stadium. If I had been able to shake Al's hand after that show, I most likely would have exploded.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Welcome to the Occupation

Take these songs about jobs and shove it!

Elvis Costello - Welcome to the Working Week
The Beatles - Paperback Writer
Bruce Springsteen - Working on the Highway
Van Halen - Ice Cream Man

Rockpile - Teacher Teacher
The Monkees - Salesman
Of Montreal - My Favorite Boxer
They Might be Giants - Hey Mr DJ, I Thought You Said We Had a Deal

Wilco - Theologians
The Who - Fortune Teller
The Fall - Mr Pharmacist
Jonathan Richman - Government Centre

Pernice Brothers - Working Girls
The Faint - Worked Up So Sexual
The Clash - Career Opportunities
Barry Black - Fisherman Thugs

Billy Joel - Piano Man
The American Analog - The Postman
Sonic Youth - Dude Ranch Nurse

Monty Python - The Lumberjack Song
The Coctails - Jobless
Diane Ray - Please Don't Talk to the Lifeguard
The Housemartins - Me and the Farmer

The Avalanches - Frontier Psychiatrist
Beck - Soul Sucking Jerk
Van Morrison - Cleaning Windows

M Ward - Undertaker
Cat Power - Moonshiner
Gillian Welch - Miner's Refrain