Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Music is the... Moving

Hi everyone,

So, first of all: thanks to everyone who's been reading the site. It's generated WAY more interest than I expected when I, virtually on a whim, got it started a few months ago. Along the way I've found some fantastic writers and some fantastic readers as well. Which is why we're closing down.

Just kidding.

Actually, what's happening is that we're moving, in a way. I was recently asked to become the music editor for Pajiba, a site I've been working with for a while now. As such, me and the writers of TMITM shall be over there, Monday through Thursday, posting at 5:00 PM every day. Look for more album reviews, live concert write-ups, you name it. Thanks for reading, and we'll see you at Pajiba!

Later gators.


ps - click here for the official Pajiba announcement!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Rules of Hell

Here's a history lesson for you: When rock and roll first started in the 50s, it was considered "The Devil's Music." Sure, you may have heard this, but it doesn't get publicized that much. If you read up on any rock and roll history books, you'll find that in the early years of rock and roll, even up into the 60s, that white artists would cover black artists material, and usually do better on the charts. See Pat Boone for an example. That is evil in its own way.

So I present to you some of my most favorite evil bands.

Black Sabbath

The kings, in my opinion, of "evil" rock. I actually was exposed to Black Sabbath by my friend, Robert DiNardo, when I was in 8th grade in Germany. Rob was a big Ozzy fan, and he had the Speak of the Devil double-live album which had Ozzy singing all the old Sabbath tunes, except he had Brad Gillis of Night Ranger playing the guitar, and Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot playing bass. Brad was laying down the California version of those Sabbath riffs, and just like California pale ale is more awesome than British pale ale, I always enjoyed Brad's riffs more than the original.

Over the past few years, I've become more and more interested in the stuff Ronnie James Dio did while singing for Black Sabbath. Ozzy was Ozzy, for sure, but Dio's stuff, although very fantasy (Dungeons and Dragons) - oriented, seemed just so much more real to me. In fact, RJD has quite a great bunch of songs with Rainbow, Sabbath, and his own, self-titled band.

Chuck Klosterman wrote a book called Fargo Rock City. His writing is pretty great, although sometimes he delves into more personal stuff (I know, I know...pot kettle black). This book is about his personal discovery of heavy metal, and his justification of heavy metal as a legitimate culture. I actually was able to find Chuck's email and ask him what he thought about Dio. His reply: I did not find him compelling.

I never saw Dio live, but he is somewhat annoying live, what with his, "oh ohhs" and banter while the song is going on. On Live Evil he actually shills the latest Sabbath album, like he's a DJ or something. He's still one of the best metal singers, in my opinion.


I think Black Sabbath and Judas Priest were gateway bands to more heavier stuff. I've probably mentioned ad nauseum how I had the first Metallica album when it came out in 1983. I actually missed a chance to see them open for Twisted Sister when I lived in Germany. This was before TS released "Stay Hungry."

Many of my friends moved on to other bands like Venom, Merciful Fate, and Slayer. Most of these bands freaked me out with their up-front Satanic posturing. Quite honestly, I was scared that my parents would find Slayer albums and prevent me from listening to any heavy metal. Just look at the cover of Hell Awaits. Demons ripping people to pieces as they descend into hell. Pleasant.

Then, during my senior year of high school, Slayer released "Reign in Blood" which would be too much for me to resist. Every single one of these songs is incredible. Here are two of my favorites, "Postmortem" and the title track:


Venom was another of those "satanic" bands, only they weren't very convincing to me. Some of their stuff was even kind of campy. If I'm going to go campy-evil, I'm gonna have to go with the Supersuckers.

I actually got to interview and these guys, and my band opened for them once. I still love these guys. They're really out there doing their own thing, including the release of a country album, that is more "spaghetti-country" than anything. I leave you with the Supersuckers with a bleak message about rock and roll records:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Live Show Love: Jolie Holland

We arrived a bit late, stood in the back of our local dive-ish club, and soaked in the great set by Jolie Holland and her supporting bandmates. Holland is this surprising (and exciting, for me at least) combination of country/alt-country, soul,rock, and jazz singer. It's like she's playing country music with a jazz voice, but rocking it out into a soul/blues feel. It is incredibly easy to get wrapped up in her compositions and melodys--especially for a musician, singer, or songwriter--and seeing her live really cemented, for me, how incredibly talented this woman is.

Jolie Holland is one of the founding members of The Be Good Tanyas and currently labelmates with Tom Waits (who also happens to be a huge fan of hers). She is this kind of musician that I find equal parts inspiring and intimidating. Her voice is freakin' flawless; not only did she sound as good as her extremely well-produced albums--she sounded better. In fact, she blew her own pants off. The girl can SANG.

Jolie Holland, Mexico City

She is also extremely laid back and down to Earth; but most importantly, she is hot and has this cute way of talking out of the side of her mouth. And she loves Bonnie 'Prince' Billie. Le sigh!

Short interview w/ Holland:

Monday, November 10, 2008

Turn on the Radio!

When's the last time you listened to the radio?

I used to listen to it all the time. I made a throwaway comment in my last post about not having heard of Altan Urag on the radio, and it got me to thinking; I realized I hadn't turned one on in quite a long time.

It's not that I don't listen to music all the time. I do, everyday. Between my iPod on the subway and iTunes while I am at work (both in the office, quietly, and blaring over the crappy speakers in my workbox when I am on site), most of my day is spent with music on. But the radio is something I have gotten out of the habit of listening to.

So, I started listening, streaming a bunch of radio stations from all over (looking for one I liked that didn't sound like my music collection on random). My current favorite is RadioIO's Alt Country station. It's pretty great- contemporary alt-country and folk, stuff you are not likely to hear on pop country stations. You know, music that is made for the sake of making music and not for the sake of selling CDs. Not surprisingly, I heard some bands on that station that I liked so much that I ended up buying their albums. One of them was Kane Welch Kaplin, comprised of Kieran Kane, Kevin Welch, and Fats Kaplin.

Each member of this trio (sometimes quartet- Lucan Kane, Keirnan's son, joins them as percussionist with increasing regularity) is a successful solo artist in their own right, and the tracks I checked out of each of them on their own were great. This is definitely, to me at least, a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, however.

Together, they manage to sound both raw and polished, complex and simple all at the same time, without coming across as formulaic or sacrificing a wide range of style and nuance. The album I bought, titled Kane Welch Kaplin, is their third, and definitely one of the best musical purchases I made this year.

Kane Welch Kaplin :: Ain't Gonna Do It

Kane Welch Kaplin :: Dark Boogie #7

Kane Welch Kaplin :: Postcard from Mexico

Friday, November 7, 2008

Soundtrack Friday :: The Ursine Calamity

I don't actually have too many soundtracks; but I realized, as I was looking at the ones in my music collection in preparation for this, that they betray me as a geek. Conan the Barbarian, Six String Samurai, Bladerunner, Crouching Tiger / Hidden Dragon, Akira... these are the things that I tend to own. The music of films much loved and watched many times, so well known that just listening to the soundtrack is enough to let me watch the story play out on the inside of my head.

There are two exceptions to this in my collection. One, A Slipping Down Life, is from a film by the same name that I have never seen, and never will. I have my own ideas, now, about the story that the music on this album frames, and I have no desire to watch the film and find it tells a story I don't like as much. Narrow and closed-minded? Maybe. But I'm okay with that.

I can't recall, now, how I stumbled across it, but it is a fantastic, soulful, mournful bit of genius. The songs are written by, in no particular order, Ron Sexsmith, Robyn Hitchcock, Joe Henry, and Vic Chesnutt; they are performed by Guy Pearce (yes, the weaselly, mostly bad actor), and let me tell you, they have achieved a rare thing with this album; this music cuts.

But A Slipping Down Life, as fantastic as it is, is not what I wanted to talk about when I started writing. I want to talk about the other soundtrack that defies my pattern of buying the music of best loved films.

I saw the film Mongol just once, and I had to have the soundtrack. If you haven't seen the film, it's worth a look. Basically, it is a sensationalized, semi-historical, almost mythological look at the early life and rise to power of Ghengis Kahn by Russian filmmaker Sergei Bodrov. It's full of action, beautiful to look at, and lots of fun.

The soundtrack, by Altan Urag, is all those things, and on top of that possesses a weight and complexity that the film, for all its enjoyableness, lacks. These guys are really serious about their music. From their MySpace page:
Centuries ago our great ancestors had conquered half the globe and amazed the world with our tradition thus we the young generation gave the blessed name “ALTAN URAG” to our band. ALTAN URAG means next generation of the king’s (Khan’s) throne. We play folk rock music and our band was formed in May, 2002. That same year we performed our first time gig at the “Roaring Hooves” international ethnic, contemporary music festival in Mongolia. Our music is collaboration between traditional based modern influenced. The goal and future of band and music is to promote our Mongolian culture and introduce traditional music to youngsters all over the nation.

Of course, I didn't know any of that at the time; I just knew that it was like nothing I have ever heard. I mean, it's not like they are playing Mongolian Folk Rock bands on the radio. At least, not the stations that I have been listening to. Maybe I am just listening to the wrong stations...

In any case, the album is excellent, and Altan Urag make the blending of traditional Mongolian music and contemporary rock seem effortless. The selections below are all from the soundtrack, and I think give a good sense of what I am talking about. You should definitely take the time to give them a listen.

Altan Urag :: Ijii Mongol

Altan Urag :: Requiem

Altan Urag :: Davalgaa

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Felicia's fall concert series: A boy and his computer

There should be an age limit on Girl Talk concerts due to amount of partying that takes place. I would say judging by the bruises on my right thigh and my thrown out back, anyone over the age of 25 should probably just stay at home. I planned accordingly by taking the following day off work, because I need a full day to recover from partying now whereas when I was younger I could party all night and show up for work the next day fresh as a daisy.

Girl Talk is the stage name of Gregg Gillis, a DJ from Pennsylvania who mashes up songs of all different genres. Unfortunately I had to sit through the two worst opening bands I have ever seen in my entire fucking life before I could start my dance party. If you like misogynistic screamy rap check out CX Kidtronik, and if you like little white boys who are trying to recreate The Beastie Boys check out The Death Set. I didn’t know anything about these bands before the show, and now wish I had never heard of them. Ever. The shittiness of these two bands led me to drink in order to drown it out. Heavily.

Part of me thinks Girl Talk is kind of a fraud, but the other part of me just wants to dance my ass off when I hear his mixes. He allegedly does not have permission to use any of the songs he releases on his albums and all he really does is play around on his computer when he performs. But he must be on to something since he was able to sell out First Ave on a Monday night.

This boy and his computer headed up the stage along with a line of bodyguards on the edge. For a second I thought the line up of bodyguards was to keep people off the stage. But oh no, they were there to bring loads of people up on stage and to keep them contained. They provided a back drop to the would-be boring stage show. Here is video from Lollapalooza 2008, which I was at but couldn't see jack shit at the time.

You can definitely argue that Girl Talk is just a techie nerd who does what a lot of other people can do, but I dare you to not dance like a fool when you hear these mixes. My local friends at How Was the Show wrote up their own review and some excellent photos here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

They Call It Rebel Music

For the most part, this is not a political blog. It's a musical blog. But it's foolish to think that the two shall never meet. Music has always been an important part of history, of politics and of the national and international landscape. Music has been both revolutionary and a tool of revolution.

To think that the election of Barack Hussein Obama last night was not a revolution of some sort is to misunderstand the scope and importance of it. So I figured I'd do a little post today on music about the revolution, about change and politics and all of the great things that music can show us about the world around us.

Bob Marley - Rebel Music:

Public Enemy - Brothers Gonna Work it Out:

The Beatles - Revolution:

Flipsyde - Someday:

Living Colour - Fight the Fight:

Tracy Chapman - Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution:

Take care everyone.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Burst and Bloom into beauty

First of all: GO FUCKING VOTE!

Do they still teach kids to write in cursive? If so, why? Teaching a kid to write in cursive is basically the educational system saying, "here's a good tool to ensure that you'll have fucked up writing later in life." Because eventually you're going to start printing, and then you're gonna end up with some screwed up amalgamation of cursive and print that's going to just be a goddamn mess and no one's going to be able to read it. Next thing you know, your signature looks like a coked-up apoplectic tried to draw a straight line, and people are making jokes about you not being able to read your own writing. Fucking bastards.

(deep breath)

Anyway. That started out as a simple build-up that was going to end in a nice, easy segue, but clearly I have some shit to work out.

Cursive is a four/now five-piece rock outfit from Omaha, Nebraska of all places. I'm always amazed at the number of quality musical acts that come out of Omaha, and Cursive is another notch on the big O's musical belt. Formed in 1995, Cursive frequently finds themselves the victim of the dreaded "Emo" label, which to be honest, isn't entirely accurate (not to dump too hard on emo music - there's some decent stuff out there. You just have to dig. A lot. Really deeply. Like, China-deep). Truth be told, they're a little too smart, a little too self aware, and frankly, a little long in the tooth to be labeled Emo. See?

In reality, Cursive is a sumptuous blend of sounds, as if Fugazi and Built to Spill mated and threw in some piercing, jangly guitars... yet they are distinctly their own band. They've clearly got some punk rock in their roots, but also a flair for creative instrumentation and clever, ascerbic lyricism. Similar to another favorite of mine, Murder By Death (sans the awesome gothic/country flavor), they also incorporated a cello that was featured featured in their stellar album Burst and Bloom. Between torturing their guitars into a beautiful sound, they are fronted by the versatile Tim Kasher, equally at home with gentle murmers and cacaphonous caterwauls. With six albums over the last 13 years, they've gone through a series of break-ups and reformations, always keeping most of their core croup together, and always coming back strong with new and innovative material, including adding a brass section to the engaging concept album, 2006's Happy Hollow (the last album they've released). Very true to their indie roots, they consistently put out strong, interesting music and are deserving of more attention. Here's a few tracks:

One of my faves, here's "The Recluse" from The Ugly Organ (2003):

Rocking out a little more, here's the brilliant titled "Art is Hard" from the same album (read the lyrics here.... they're brilliant and wickedly funny):

"A Little Red Handed Sleight of Hand" again from The Ugly Organ:

"Dorothy at Forty" from Happy Hollow:

The wonderful "The Martyr" from Domestica:

Enjoy (and don't forget to vote!).

Now playing: Cursive - The Great Decay
via FoxyTunes

Monday, November 3, 2008

what about innovation, man? what about art and sex?

back when i was young and impressionable (as opposed to not-so-young but still quite impressionable) i was introduced to a whole cadre of what might be described as art-rudeboys. most of them aren't self-described as such, (and really, many of them are now dead or otherwise incapable of self-description,) but that's beside the point. ween, karleinz stockhausen, the boredoms and momus more or less define my awareness of the dawn of the 21st century.

the best of the best of these, to my taste, was momus' 2001 release, folktronic.

popmatters reviewed this album saying "for the smarty-pants listeners who gobble up high-concept art pieces, folktronic is a 'fake folk' masterpiece."

i disagree. it's not for smarty-pants listeners. i mean, sure, smarty-pants listeners included. but i kind of believe that this album is for everyone who understands that making fun of something doesn't mean you hate it.

momus, for those who aren't familiar, is a performance artist, a journalist, a social critic and a japan-obsessed post-modernist. that's all well and good. but above all that, he's fun. after all, he named himself after the greek god of mockery - he has a sense of the ridiculous.

in earlier albums, such as ping pong, he explored personal identity and a whole lot of sex. ("my pervert doppelganger," "professor shaftenberg," "hairstyle of the devil.") but in folktronic, he took on america. inspired by predecessors who visited appalachia and recorded their folk songs for posterity, momus twisted that information through his usual filters and created plastic folk. plastic folk is described thus:

hideously pompous baroque keyboard licks of 80s synthpop climb into bed with fakely traditional ballads, jigs and sea shanties; mock prog epics full of tempo and key changes collide with neo-vaudeville numbers on the subject of the penis; eulogies to decadent roman emperors rub shoulders with passages of bach played by cartoon fiddle yokels through massive ring modulation. it's those prolific medieval songwriters trad. and anon. finding the missing link between unicorns and unix.

this is an america you may have never noticed, and that's what makes it so fascinating. this is america as viewed by a postmodernist scot with identity issues. when he sings "smooth folk singer," it's disturbingly familiar, for all its strangeness:

more heavy than leadbelly, more hooky than hooker
(smooth folk singer)
not sleepy like estes, a rambler and a looker
(smooth folk singer)
not a rocker like richard, baby I'm a folker
(smooth folk singer)
and around my neck I wear a velvet choker
(one time, two times)

and "folk me, amadeus" offers us yet another view of our america, the one that we forget to consider:

my children were fair and wore stars in their hair
now they're bald, watch tv, and buy new age cds
the unicorn's a horse on whom some sad bastard
has superglued a horn of plastic
in this post-everything world it still pains me, girl, to spell it out for you
the celtic skirl of alan stivell might as well be 'cotton eye joe'
put it flat on the floor with a 4/4 beat, add monsieur oiseau

i accept that momus is not for everyone. my sister listened to two cuts from folktronic, made a face and turned it off.

but if you listen to music with a wink, and are aware that the world is a thoroughly ridiculous place, and you're fond of such wacky things as art, angels, devils, history and sex, momus might be for you. and folktronic might be the place to start.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Soundtrack Friday and Happy Halloween!!

How can one blog about great soundtracks without mentioning Labyrinth? Not only do we have David Bowie in junk squeezing spandex, but we also have talking blue caterpillars, Ludo, the bog of eternal stench and a young Jennifer Connelly pre-Rocketeer days. I love this movie and the soundtrack so much that some mornings I literally wake up with "Dance Magic Dance" stuck in my head.

I also use this movie as a tool to tell me how well I would get along with a person. Do you hate Labyrinth? Then I hate you. Moving on, I don't think I've ever seen Boogie Nights in its entirety from beginning to end, but I sure do love this soundtrack. From The Beach Boys to The Emotions, it creates a perfect mental image of the time periods referenced in the movie. And then there's this heartwarming clip featuring "Sister Christian" by Night Ranger. I'll never be able to hear that song again and not think of this scene. Ever.

And how about that Madonna lady? Before she was a baseball player stealing beast with roid rage she was busy being in horrible movies. I am not ashamed to say I like the movie Dick Tracy and I love the song "Sooner Or Later" from that soundtrack. Hey, I'm not even ashamed to say that I paid actual money to buy this soundtrack, not only on cassette tape way back in the day but on CD a few years ago.

Can't Hardly Wait came out the summer before my senior year in high school. This soundtrack is one of my favorites for pure nostalgic reasons. It pretty much mirrors my high school experience, unrequited love and parties. I forgive the fact that the horrendous Smash Mouth is on this soundtrack too. This clip featuring Guns N' Roses "Paradise City" makes up for it.

And how can I not mention a movie with a drag queen named Felicia in it? I fell in love with Priscilla Queen of the Desert and its soundtrack in high school and thus proved the fact that there is a tiny gay man inside of me just waiting to burst out. And I just can't watch Guy Pearce in any movie without picturing him in full on drag. This soundtrack is full cheese and I love it.

And finally, Singles. All I have to say about Singles is that Matt Dillon is hot and so is "Drown" by Smashing Pumpkins. I was lucky enough to see them, well part of the original band, perform it live last year. Here is the audio, no video available.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Countrypolitan Favorites

So, if you asked me what was my favorite part about a recent trip to L.A., you might (or might not, depending on how well you know me) be surprised by hearing a NC born and bred, metropolitan hearted, big titty jazz singer girl like me saying that my favorite part was seeing a NC band play in a Malibu beach bar.

I've seen Southern Culture on the Skids, oh, maybe 20 times in the last 8 to 10 years; one reason being that they are from Chapel Hill, NC, where I went to college, and another being that I just fucking love their sound. It is self-described "toe sucking geek rock," that in layman's terms sounds like hillbilly surfer swamp rock. But one thing is for sure: It fucking ROCKS. There is no way--NO WAY--that you can go to a SCOTS show and NOT dance. I'm serious! This last show I saw in Malibu would have been the place for it. Shoved to the gills with chicks and dicks that looked like they came straight out of a casting call for Laguna Beach, or the Hills, or whatever that poser crap it, and the whole room was bouncing through the entire show.

My man and I were fortunate enough to know a few of the band members, so when they asked the "North Carolina couple to come on stage" for Eight Piece Bucket, there was no saying No. And so my hubs and I--me, a self-described assertive outgoing cunt, and he, a quiet, tattooed, heavy metal-loving furniture maker--jumped on stage and ate pieces of cold, greasy, fried chicken while we danced like maniacs. It was pure heaven. True story.

There is no introducing this band, so I just pulled some random vids. Please, please, do yourself and favor and check them out. ESPECIALLY if you've never heard of them. And if you happen to be in the Asheville, NC area a week from Friday, meet me at the bar of the Grey Eagle for some beers. I'm the girl with the purple hair and a potty mouth.

You and Your Sister

If an album or CD is going to stay with me a while, it usually is because it reminds me of a time in my life, or the music is timeless.

As far as the Vulgar Boatmen's "You and Your Sister" goes, it's probably the timelessness of the music. You could have heard this music in the 70s or the 80s and it would have fit well. I discovered this CD in a friend's collection in the early 90s.

It was probably around this time of year in Iowa. It was more than likely cold than cool, and I was going through Kevin's CDs. I remember him having a lot of Skinny Puppy and Ministry. Then I saw this CD.

The Vulgar Boatmen. Heh. A funny play on the song "The Volga Boatmen." You and Your Sister. Heh. Dirty thoughts. I thought that it might be one of those jokey-gross metal bands like The Mentors. Those were always good for one listen, and then you'd give it to someone else like the way you shared a joke.

Once I put on the CD, though, I was surprised for a couple of reasons. First, that Kevin in all his industrial rock front owned such a jangly CD was interesting. Second, having liked the Jayhawks and Uncle Tupelo, how could I have missed such a great rock and roll record? The opening chords of "Mary Jane" (apparently, it's NOT about marijuana, but instead about, uh, a girl named Mary Jane) start the call to arms, letting you know, "Young man, we don't need a Marshall stack to kick your ass, this Stratocaster through a the clean channel of this Fender tube amp will do just fine."

The vocals at times are remniscent of the Everly Brothers, in a good way. At first, I expected that the CD would have a few good tunes and then have a bunch of crap on it. While I will say that I have my favorites, each of these tunes have come back into my head at one time or another because of their catchiness. Each song stands alone.

My hands down favorite is "Margaret Says". The imagery in the vocals is great, and the tune has a nice groove that picks up and moves you down the road. In fact, the entire album is a must have for a long road trip, and not just because "Drive Somewhere" is the perfect song for driving somewhere.

I had this on one side of a 90-minute tape one spring break when my sister and I drove to Oklahoma to stay with our grandparents (our folks were in Germany at the time). I think my sister thought this was okay, but she favored the flipside of the tape, which had the Operation Ivy CD on it.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Blog - Music and Movies!

To some extent, I agree with Boo that if you have a good soundtrack, you have a good movie. But not always.

Take Honeysuckle Rose, for example. Willie Nelson, Dianne Cannon, and Amy Irving. Anyone reaching for the remote yet? While the movie itself, as I remember when I saw it in the theatre during my youth (Dad liked Willie, and quite honestly, so do I). Yeah, this is the one with "On the Road Again" on it. Some old dude named Jimmy who used to hang out at Dugan's Deli in Ames back when it was Dugan's Deli used to get shitty and sing this with Jack Gallup at their Sunday night open mics. Jack would always introduce this Jimmy character as a guy who co-wrote "On the Road Again" with Willie. I got the Honeysuckle Rose CD, and it doesn't give Jimmy co-writing credit for it, so who knows. I don't want to believe that Willie wouldn't give credit where it was due.

The soundtrack is great because it provides an example of how great country music can sound when it's live. Throw back a few Buds, and it's all good.

Valley Girl convinced me that 80s new wave wasn't just the "pop sounds of the decade." With tunes from The Plimsouls, Haircut 100, Sparks, Modern English, and Josie Cotton's covers, I realized that there was some really cool new wave out there.

Check out the sweet squares of Haircut 100 doing their big hit, "Love Plus 1".
The movie, "Laurel Canyon" was just okay (hey, TK, howsabout reviewing this movie on Pajiba?), but I really liked the soundtrack. Includes hits by Mercury Rev, and a version of this awesome Sparklehorse song:

Sometimes the movie is the soundtrack. I really like the whole background and all the great tunes in the movie "Gimme Shelter" which features the Rolling Stones. This movie sounds so fucking good on my home theater system.

I saw Good Will Hunting with my wife as sort of a first or second date. I actually think our first "official" date was a hockey game. But we saw this movie the same weekend. We went out and bought the soundtrack immediately. For the most part, it's a depressing soundtrack, with lots of Elliot Smith (but I'm guessing the Strong Sad contingent of readers for this blog will actually dig these) songs, but the two standout tunes are the cool "raggah" version of Jackson Browne's "Somebody's Baby" by Andru Donalds and the way they scored Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" to the fight scene:

I've loved this song ever since I was a kid, and it has a ton of personal meaning to me, but I really like how the violence of the movie contrasts with the slickness of the tune.

Another song that brings up a movie memory for me also includes a song Gerry Rafferty had a hand in as part of the band, Stealer's Wheel. Ladies and Gentlemen, Michael Madsen, a can of gas, an ear, and "Stuck in the Middle with You:" (WARNING! CONTAINS TORTURE! JOHN MCCAIN, PLEASE DO NOT WATCH!)

Happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Change Is Bad

Look, I'm all for innovation. I'm all for new and interesting things. Without trying new things, without evolving, we'd never have achieved important modern accomplishments like hybrid cars, purple roses and edible condoms. But... it's not for everyone.

You see, one of the things that makes me cringe is when certain bands try to branch out. It works for some. Take bands like The Beatles, Faith No More (or any Mike Patton project, really) or any other band that has had a successful, ever-changing sound. It can be a beautiful thing. At the same time, there are bands that have a formula, and a great formula. Sometimes, when you have such a formula, when you've gathered a perfect storm of sound, it's best to simply tweak it periodically, but not to try to overreach. When that happens, for some bands, well... the suck begins.

So without further ado, here are three bands that were brilliant in executing their formula... but then fucked with it, and now are pale shadows of their former selves. Sadly, these are also three of my all-time favorite bands, bands I've seen in concert multiple times, and bands that have now been letting me down for years.

1) Metallica

The lovely Boo already talked about their new album, "Death Magnetic." It's not bad. It's an attempt to re-establish themselves closer to their roots. But the thing is, they should never have moved away in the first place. Metallica has two near-perfect albums, "Master of Puppets" and "Kill 'Em All," and one near great one, "Ride The Lightning." Many people love "...And Justice for All," whereas I see it as the beginning of the end. Metallica's bread and butter was always speedy, thrashy, arena-metal with a penchant for headbanging and lyrics about drug use or goofy mythology. Then they started trying to write about Very Important Issues, and consequently, their sound rapidly shit the bed. They tried to appeal to a wider audience, and in the process watered down what made them so great. But, here are some of their best works, from back in the day:

From Kill 'Em All, my personal favorite, The Four Horsemen:

Same album, here's "Seek and Destroy"

"Damage, Inc.", from "Master of Puppets"

2) Helmet

Oh, God, Helmet. How I loved Helmet when I was in high school and college. I still throw in "Meantime" or "Betty" to this day and rock the fuck out to them. Helmet, led by virtuoso Page Hamilton, was a force of nature in their prime. Known for rapid-fire riffs, barking vocals mixed with monotone singing, and some truly amazing, innovative drumming from John Stanier, their first three albums are classics for alternative/hardcore lovers from the early to middle 90's. Betty, while a great album, also signified their efforts to change it up again, and much like Metallica and "Justice," it marked the beginning of their decline. Once Stanier and drummer Henry Bogdan left the band, Hamilton tried hard to recapture the magic. He came close on the near-miss album "Aftertaste," but ultimately, Helmet just never was the same. Here's one track from each of their three great albums:

"Bad Mood," from "Strap It On"

"Ironhead," from "Meantime"

"Biscuits for Smut," from "Betty"

Incidentally, the best song on Betty, and a spectacular example of Stanier's drumming skills, is easily "Rollo," but I couldn't find an embeddable video. So go look for it.

3) Social Distortion

Social D is one of the granddaddies of punk rock. A bunch of white trash heroin addicts from Orange County, Social Distortion created a fascinating hybrid of country, rock and roll, and punk that spoke to kids everywhere. Plagued by heroin addiction for years, frontman Mike Ness was a incredible performer who would eventually clean up his act. They sustained their sound and their greatness for a solid decade-plus, starting with the nasty-sounding "Mommy's Little Monster" in 1983 and getting good results out of 1996's "White Light, White Heat, White Trash," which was probably their most heavily produced album, but still a solid effort. Four years later, guitarist Dennis Danell would die of an aneurysm, and Ness became the last surviving member of the original lineup. Since then... not so much with the good records. 2004 gave us the weak "Sex, Love and Rock and Roll" and while there's another album due in 2009, I don't have very high hopes. But they still put on a motherfucker of a show (or so I hear - I haven't seen them since 1996), and their punk rock legacy will live forever. Here's a few of the classics:

"Mommy's Little Monster" from the album of the same name:

The popular, radio-friendly Johnny Cash cover, "Ring of Fire" from fire, from their eponymous album:

"I Was Wrong" from "White Light, White Heat, White Trash"

Interestingly, Ness has put out a couple of solo albums that are really, really good and definitely worth your time, especially if punk's not your thing. They're much more mellow.

So there you go. Three bands that either danced with, or achieved greatness based on a perfect formula, that ruined themselves through trying too hard to change or grow. It's not always a good thing, people.

Listening to: Helmet - Rollo
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

quick cut: great big sea

they look like a seattle grunge band. they play irish... folk... newfoundland...pop... um... you know what it is. a less angry dropkick murphys. a whole lotta fun. they've even got a bouzouki player on board. and we all know how i feel about bouzouki.
anyway. please to enjoy, puppets and all:
great big sea: mary mac

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

music for when things fall apart

so, we're having a collective "one of those weeks" around these parts. everyone's a little overwhelmed, a little exhausted, a little fried.
because sometimes, things don't work out.
for those times, this is some of the music i turn to (provided, of course, that my ipod continues working, since that seems extremely questionable given its little performance this morning in which the click wheel has stopped working. sigh.)

social distortion - story of my life
charlotte martin - haunted (no decent videos on that, sorry.)
the police - the bed's too big without you
imogen heap - sweet religion
social distortion - don't take me for granted
the darkness - givin' up
the bad plus - iron man
bad religion - sorrow
johnny cash - the man comes around
and (this is so embarrassing, but honestly, it's true. i have no cred.)
u2 - stuck in a moment

who do you turn to, musically, when things just effing suck? what gets you through? please tell me there's something!
(i'd have more opinions and songs, but i'll be honest: i haven't escaped the "things kind of suck" stick. so you're getting a list of songs that i've lumped into a "get through this" play list.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

hate / love: some shit happened and now some other shit is going to happen. heavy.

dear pink,
please. effing. stop it.

well, the posing is fine. i really couldn't care less about the posing. you sure do spend a lot of time at the gym though, don't you? wow. actually, i'm talking about this song, so what. you see, my co-worker listens to pop radio, and that song is played roughly every fifteen minutes. you must be raking in so much cash right now. (which is probably good for you, since you haven't had a hit in, what, 8 years?) however, just because a song is played every fifteen minutes doesn't mean it's any good. just because a song plays over and over in my head when i go home after work doesn't mean it's any good. it may be an effective pop song, but it is seriously obnoxious. so stop.

love (not really,)

really, though, i'm not joking even a little bit. so what has showed up in my dreams, will play in my head when i'm trying to sleep, i find myself humming it on the subway... and i hate it.
for those readers who can't watch youtube at the moment (what, your job expects you to do work while you're getting paid? ridiculous!), here is a sample of the lyrics:

na na na na na na na
na na na na na na
na na na na na na na
na na na na na na
i guess i just lost my husband
i don't know where he went
so i'm gonna drink my money
i'm not gonna pay his rent (nope)
i got a brand new attitude
and i'm gonna wear it tonight
i wanna get in trouble
i wanna start a fight

na na na na na na na
i wanna start a fight
na na na na na na na
i wanna start a fight

this is a perfect example of what i think of as the "some shit happened and now some other shit is going to happen" song. however. other bands have done it better, and, in light of their accomplishments (perfection!) i don't really think that pink should have even tried.

in the loooooooooove category, may i suggest:

kaiser chiefs - i predict a riot

this song is apparently responsible for me breezing right past two friends in the train station - i was that caught up in rocking out to it on the pod. i have it on fairly constant heavy rotation, and have had it that way for years. it's irresistible, catchy without being poppy, and a whole fricking lot of fun.

and the ultimate best of the best of the sshansosigth genre (and also, seriously? one of the best videos ever.) is of course...

ok go - here it goes again

i've spent quite a bit of time this past week trying to figure out what differentiates pink's version from these other two. they all have repetitive, silly lyrics. lots of major chords, augmented by a diminished here and there to feel "edgy."
i've come to the conclusion that it's two things, primarily:
1) real instruments / no vocal correction
2) actual soul
i didn't really think that i'd ever say that ok go was soulful, but in light of this development, that's what i'm going to have to conclude.
i am, however, willing to admit that my conclusions may be silly. does anyone have a better take?
also, does anyone have a way to get pink's version out of my head?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Felicia's fall concert series: More Canada!!

And so the concerts continue...I'm starting to run out of steam and money but it's totally worth it when I'm discovering new opening bands along the way. Last night was the Broken Social Scene show at the legendary First Ave in Minneapolis. Up and coming indie rock band Land of Talk from Montreal were the openers. This trio with front woman Elizabeth Powell delivers a grittier indie sound with an emphasis on guitars. I was impressed, although Elizabeth's gorgeous vocals were downplayed due to the loud guitars and drums. She mentioned that she was sick, so I'm not sure if that contributed to the quiet vocals or if that's just their main style. Check out this video for the song "Speak to Me Bones."

Broken Social Scene is known for their revolving door of artists coming and going. And they're usually going once they hit it big solo like Feist, Amy Milan of Stars and Emily Haines of Metric. The beginning of the live show was absolutely amazing, almost life changing I would say. It's hard not to feel something when you've got 20 musicians on stage pouring their souls out for the audience. Two drummers, four guitars/bass, trumpets, trombones and vocalists, all the senses were engaged.

Unfortunately the show didn't continue along that vein. The middle of the show lacked the emotion the first portion did. It was highly schizophrenic jumping between styles and I was finding myself wondering if I was at a Phish concert at times. Near the end of the set Brendan Canning said that instead of ending the show they were going to give us an "impromptu jam session." These three words combined are like death to me. I hate jam bands and everything about them. We left shortly after that hippie shit took place, but the beginning of the show totally made up for the purple haze I left in. I still believe BSS is one of the best eclectic bands out there right now, and if you don't mind a little jamming you should catch them on this tour.

"Fire Eye'd Boy" video

"Almost Crimes" video

"Hit the Wall" video

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

From the Peanut Gallery: Best Songs to Karaoke To

Taking a page from one of my favorite websites evarr, I wanted to do a little spotlight on the commenters today.

So, the grand question: What are your Top 5 Karaoke Song Choices? Not songs that you like to hear other people sing, but the songs that finally convince you to join your friends in looking like complete idiots on the stage.

My five?

1. Stuck In the Middle With You
2. Pour Some Sugar On Me (BUT only in a drunken group situation--Oh god that is embarrassing)
3. Barracuda
4. Son of a Preacher Man
5. Anything by the Jackson 5

Ok, GO!

Monday, October 13, 2008

After the Show with Uncle Tupelo

As far as I can tell, I am the oldest writer of this group. The advantage that holds is that I’m able to talk about shows and events that happened in the early to late 90s, that might have some historical significance (well, at least to me, let me not be overdramatic here) as long as I can remember the events. The 90s weren’t that long ago, so this shouldn’t be a problem. Although you obviously have no idea how much beer I’ve drank since those days.

I was introduced to Uncle Tupelo through a fellow musician named Brian Buhman in Ames, Iowa. Brian is currently living in Chicago and you might find him in any number of swing, country, rock, or otherwise bands prowling the taverns of America’s greatest city. I was really into the first Gear Daddies album, but Brian was more schooled in the history of Gram Parsons, the Birds, and the Flying Burrito Brothers, which he considered more “echt” than the sounds the Gear Dads were bringing, so he loaned me the “No Depression” CD and told me that they would be playing at People’s Bar & Grill, there in Ames, the following week.

If you’ve heard the album, and you like it, you know that it was groundbreaking. I’m with Tweedy when I say they didn’t really invent the genre, they were just making good music, but the album DID have a really strong influence on alternative country, a genre that seems to have a lot of followers, but musicians and bands reluctant to be categorized as such.

Let’s just set the record straight: Def Leppard IS a hair band as much as they don’t wanna be, and if you play good, straight up country-influenced music (listen for the pedal steel guitar) and aren’t being played on modern (shit) country radio, you’re more than likely and alt-country band. Can you get over it and keep making great music? If AC/DC can be okay with their lot in life, you can, too.

I remember seeing Uncle Tupelo for the first time at People’s. Being in a band in Ames, People’s was always my favorite place to play. Tom, the owner, was a good guy, and I gave him a hard time about booking cover bands. But truthfully, he brought in a wide variety of bands, and had the best stage and sound system in town. The clientele varied depending on the band, but I think it, more than any other bar in town, was the bar where most of the Greek system boys and girls hung out.

Uncle Tupelo played there on the Thursday night the week before spring classes were going to start in January of ’91 (I think). People’s was having a special: quart jars of any mixed drink for $2. Sure it was well liquor, not the premium stuff, but you might as well call that the “Hungover Fer Sure” special.

I got a whiskey and coke and noticed that the band was playing pool. Buhman, James Stone (who played drums in a couple of bands with me) and I walked up and started talking to the guys, played pool with them, and I bummed Mike Heidorn’s Marlboro reds. Brian Henneman was with them. Brian has his own band, the Bottle Rockets.

I don’t remember too much about the show that night, but that’s what will happen when you drink three quarts of whiskey and coke. I know that afterwards, they needed a place to stay, and Buhman told them they could stay at his house. We helped them load out, they got a case of Leinenkugel’s from People’s Bar and Grill, and we got in their van and headed off to Perkins for some breakfast. I remember gibbering something over my hamburger that it would be so great if they could come back to Ames because mostly all we got were cover bands (I had a problem with cover bands back in college. As I look at it now, it was kind of silly, but mostly I was just jealous that people wanted to hear covers as opposed to coming to see my band(s) that played all original music).

After we ate at Perkins, we went to Buhman’s house and passed around an acoustic guitar. I was playing punk rock back then and didn’t really tool around much with the acoustic (this experience would change all that) so I started playing “Dust in the Wind.” As one of my most embarrassing life experiences, Jeff Tweedy said, “Dude, I think I’m all dusted in the winded out,” or something to that effect.

When I woke up the next morning, the band and Brian Henneman were gone, but they left us the untouched case of Leinenkugel’s.

I saw Uncle Tupelo again in Austin, Minnesota, where they played with 4 other bands at the Gear Daddies “last show” at the Austin County fairgrounds. House of Large Sizes, the Draghounds, and Run Westy Run were there as well. I don’t think there were any others. I drove from Wisconsin and met up with some friends who drove up from Ames. They had an interim drummer, as this was just after the release of “March 16 – 20, 1992” and did a good set. I didn’t talk to them, but I do remember talking to Run Westy Run. A couple of my friends who were in an Ames band called Funky Thermos and the Soular Grape Fruit Band (Funky Thermos for short) worked out a deal where they would open for the Westies on an upcoming Ames show they caught wind of.

The final time I saw Uncle Tupelo was after I got out of school in 1993. I drove down to Ames from Decorah, Iowa on a Friday to see them play at a small venue at Iowa State University called the M-Shop. Joe Henry and his band opened. They were great. Uncle Tupelo played an awesome show, as well. They came out with “Acuff Rose” and everyone went nuts. I remember them doing “Whiskey Bottle” as an encore, without the loud, crashing choruses (I later asked Ken Coomer why the toned down choruses, and he said it was “too heavy metal.” Whatever!) and Jay Farrar messed up the words, which will happen.

My friend, Shanda, was talking to Coomer and Stirrat after the show and invited them back to her place for an after-party. We stopped and got a case of cans on the way there. They showed up. Farrar was standing in a corner with a roadie nursing an Old Style. I think they were telling jokes to each other. Tweedy comes in and he heads straight for the sink and gets a water. I see this and look at Stirrat and ask, "Do some members of the band not drink?" He says, "Some of us don't," and takes a swig out of his bottle of Old Style.

This is where it gets good...or annoying if you're Jeff Tweedy. I start asking him questions about different lyrics of his songs. I can't be sure what I asked him now. After about the 3rd question, he asks, "Are you going to interview me all night?" I sort of crack a smile and two of my friends, Andy Strom and Eric "Smoke" Smith chime in with, "No, you gotta understand, we've been talking about this stuff for the longest time, and you're the guy who can answer it." Jeff sort of shrugs his shoulders and I think he's left alone for about five minutes.

I didn't talk to him or really anyone else for the rest of the "after-the-show" party. My friends practiced with their friends in that house, and I think they got at least 2 members of the band to jam with them until the neighbors upstairs called the cops. As we were leaving, the band was leaving, too, and Jeff apologized to me for being agitated. I just grinned and shook my head. I said, "It's okay, Jeff, I know how I am." He smiled and nodded. Not sure he expected that kind of response.

What's funny, however, is that in Golden Smog, a side project many musicians from about 3 other bands are involved in, including the Jayhawks and Soul Asylum, Tweedy wrote a song called, "I Can't Keep From Talking." When I interpret it for myself, it appears to be about annoying people like me, with the final verse being about his feelings for those who ask. You can get this off of iTunes, if you so care to.

When the Wilco book, “Learning How to Die” came out, it had a lot of information about the Uncle Tupelo years. It’s not like I was really involved with the band or anything, but they were around during such a short time, and as I read it, I felt I was “this close” to actually getting into the book.

I was in Bellingham, Washington in May 1994. I was there for Garage Shock, a 4-day festival of bands held in the 3B tavern. I was looking through a Rolling Stone magazine at a local record store when I read that Uncle Tupelo played their last show in St. Louis earlier that month. I was kind of bummed out, but knew there would be more coming from the guys in this band.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday is Theme Day!! Soundtracks Soundtracks Soundtracks!

Oh, how we love a good theme! Huzzah and Hoorah! And what better than to combine two of the things that most of us love in the whole big wide world: MUSIC and MOVIES. Thus, we will present Soundtrack Fridays for the next little bit.

Ah, the beauty of setting music to a story. It accomplishes so many things at once. Music can cue us in to what the director wants us to feel: Love, terror, tension, drama, sadness, boredum—a whole spectrum of emotion. Music helps the director to really create an atmosphere; afterall, what would Deliverance be without "Dueling Banjos"?

A fantastic soundtrack can take a decent movie and catapult it into greatness. A good song can stay with us as we leave the movie theater, can bring our thoughts back to a beautiful moment, and can add a fourth dimension to the artistry of the film. Show me a movie with a bad soundtrack, and I'll show you a bad movie. They ultimately go hand in hand.

For my Soundtrack Friday post, I'm going to present a musical buffet. It is so hard to pin down one good soundtrack—they really need to be divided into their proper genres. I'm gonna chose my own genres here, and hopefully my pics will make sense within each one.

Glorious Guilty Pleasure Soundtracks
Dirty Dancing
I'm getting this one out of the way first, because it is by far the guiltiest. The reason this particular soundtrack made the list is not for the furiously insulting "I've Had the Time of My Life," or even the mediocre at best "She's Like the Wind," but for the undercurrent of music that runs throughout the movie. Otis Reddings "Love Man," Mickey and Sylvia's "Love Is Strange" really save it for me, among other classics.

The Best Soundtrack Featuring One Artist or Group
Harold and Maude: Cat Stevens
This was a tough one, but ultimately I think the soundtrack affects the mood of this movie more than my other choice, so I'm going with it. It has some of the happiest music ("If You Wanna Sing Out, Sing Out") and some of the saddest music ("Trouble") to ever grace the silver screen. This song is actually my favorite under-1 min song ever. (I hate the Happy Birthday song. Hate.)

Tea for the Tillerman

The Best "Harken Back" Soundtrack
Almost Famous
The Who. Simon and Garfunkel. Yes. The Beach Boys. Lynyrd Skynard. Led Zepellin. Nancy Wilson. David Bowie. The Allman Brothers Band. Elton John. And the best sing-along scene ever.

Tiny Dancer

The Best Without Words (Mostly) Soundtrack
The Proposition: Nick Cave and Warren Ellis
Not only did he capture the mood the director was going for, Cave and Ellis created almost another entity within the movie with his haunting violins, didgeridoo, deep slow drum beats, and spares piano. It not only underscores the harshness of the Outback (the violins buzzing like flies and crisp humming like hot sun), it gives the characters and even more intense reality and emotion. Powerful.

The Best Covers on a Soundtrack
No, not "The Wedding Singer." Ha ha.
The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou
Seu Jorge, a Portugese guitarist, covering David Bowie! Ah, love.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Felicia's fall concert series: a rollercoaster of a show

I've talked about Jamie Lidell before on this blog here, so you all know how much I am in love with him. I got to see him live at The Varsity in Minneapolis again last night. His opener was Janelle Monae, a futuristic R&B singer. I had never heard of her before, but was impressed with the energy she brought to her set. It was the type of energy that was infectious and spread through the whole crowd. She also has a great voice and fits the characterization of "big voice, little body."

Many Moons video

Jamie Lidell's set continued the energy that Janelle brought from the start. He sounded great, was on point and most importantly looked hot. Things were going along like a typical show. You know, grooving along to the music when all of a sudden you get hit in the face by the kid on ecstasy standing right in front of you while simultaneously catching a whiff of the dude who hasn't showered in years next to you, when all of a sudden Jamie took a turn for the worse and he started some sort of rave set. I don't even like raves when I'm high, so I sure as hell don't like them when I'm almost sober. The soul drained out of his set faster than my legs on free birthday cake at work day. He was all about turntabling and beat boxing to a trance-like beat. He lost over half the crowd and I was starting to wonder what the hell was going on.

After I took a bathroom and PBR break he ditched the crazy rave shit and started singing like the great soul man that he is. He finished the set very strong and had the crowd back in no time. He definitely made it up to me by posing for a picture with my friends and me and babbling to me in his hot English accent. Head over to my personal blog to get a glimpse.