Thursday, December 23, 2004
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Part two in the story about my first band The Dislocated – When I left off I had quit my job to go back to college and also devote more time to the band. It’s about time I told you a little more about my band mates. I had known Mark Taylor since the 1st grade, but we really didn’t become friends until we were sophomores at Riverdale High. We were both obsessed by rock and roll, specifically Van Halen and AC/DC so would spend study hall drawing guitars and talking music. Of course he had one big advantage - he had been given a guitar by his uncle and soon he was playing it non-stop. I met Mike the night we went to see Van Halen in February 1984. He was just a little kid then, but he liked what Mark liked when it came to music. I tried out Mark’s SG copy that night and for a brief instant I must have channeled Jimi Hendrix as the chords to “Foxy Lady” came out of the guitar astonishing Mark. I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing. We went to a couple more concerts that year; Ted Nugent and Nashville’s once annual One For The Sun concert which featured Alcatrazz with Yngwie Malmsteen, Peter Criss, Gregg Allman, Kick Axe, and Ratt that year, but Mark got a steady girlfriend his senior year and it wasn’t until 1987 that we started hanging out together again.
Mike had learned guitar and bass by this time and he was just downright amazing. I wouldn’t say he was better than his brother, but he seemed to learn songs with ease while Mark would tend to struggle before getting things right. Mike was just a natural talent. One evening Mark and I were going to Nashville to see local speed metal band Intruder and before we had left Mike was starting to learn Hendrix’s “Little Wing”. Mark said that Mike would have it learned by the time we returned and he was right. Mike could play it with ease after just a few hours. Mark and Mike would switch between bass and guitar for most of the life of the band.
The drummer was Mike’s school friend Tim Baird. He was absolutely incredible playing with top energy all of the time. We always held practices at his house and it was a blast. His parents supported us all the way letting us take over the den almost every weekend, while we played songs that didn’t always have parent friendly lyrics. We doing are two originals plus tracks by Black Flag, D.O.A., S.O.D., Descendents, Danzig, Black Sabbath – “Hand Of Doom” was always a favorite of ours, Megadeth, Odd Man Out, and Living Color – which one of those bands doesn’t belong here? We weren’t eve called the Dislocated at this point, we were actually going by the moniker; Dalai Lama Death Squad – D.L.D.S. naturally.
We practiced on and off for most of 1988. I was lucky enough to not have to work at the time so it was a carefree year of college, skateboarding, and music. I bought a guitar at the age of 21 determined to learn how to play. The Taylor’s gave me some pointers, but I made very little progress. This was okay though since the band had begun to compose more original tracks. By the start of 1989 we had began work on the tracks “Complications” and “P.G.” with Mike handling the music and me handling the lyrics. We decided to rename the band, The Dislocated, after I dislocated my thumb skating. We started to seriously consider playing some shows around town so Mike and Tim managed to land us a gig playing in front of the entire Riverdale student body later in the spring. Man that was insane!
Riverdale had always had shows while Mark and I were students. Local Murfreesboro hard rock band, The Leonard Brothers, played during our sophomore and junior years and even though they just a cover band we were tremendously impressed by their act. I was always daydreaming about being in a rock band and perhaps going back to play my high school, but those were just daydreams. It’s obvious, but reality is a whole nuther thang. We started jamming like crazy to get ready for the gig. Our two new originals weren’t ready yet and our other two were just not appropriate for the show – the plug would have been pulled in an instant if we had tried to perform “Work Sucks”. Most of our covers would have to jettisoned for that one performance which meant Mark brought back many of the tired dogs the band had been playing before. We did manage to keep Black Flag’s “Jealous Again” and Danzig’s “Mother” in the set list. We also wrote a tune called “Mosh And Slam” which featured a cowbell break lifted from the Riverdale High pep band’s songbook. While preparing for this year I got us another gig at local Murfreesboro dive bar, Jabb’s, that would take place a week before the Riverdale show, which made me breathe easier knowing our very first show in public didn’t have to be one in front of about 1,500 students.
In part 3 – here all about our gig at Jabb’s and then the show at Riverdale.
This is anti-climactic for those who know me well, but here goes – Brian Wilson presents Smile had to be the best album of 2004.
Rock and roll mythology – Derek Taylor publicity machine – stick to the formula – lysergic fires in Los Angeles – Okies resettled in Hawthorne – America in song – Plymouth Rock to acid rock – barber shop harmony – vaudeville – jazz – heroes – Dennis Wilson – villains – Mike Love – cherub voice – Carl Wilson – Gershwin wearing a van dyke Parks – Leonard Bernstein television special – Monterey popped – Smile scraps whet the appetite – the legend grows – Brian retreats – record executives froth at the mouth hoping – Brian is not really back – 15 bad one’s – Beach Boys Love You – Dr. Landy’s koo koo farm – years pass – people pass away – Vigitone bootlegs – websites – speculation – Look, Listen, Vibrate, Smile – comeback – Pet Sounds on tour - Thank God for the Wondermints – Smile performed in England – an album to follow – could it be – is it true – “Our Prayer” is answered.
I had modular thoughts to go with the modular music of Smile. So much has been written about this record, I can’t possibly add much. Brian’s vocals surprised me; he hasn’t sounded better in years. The music was sublime and truly timeless. It’s just a complete joy to have the album the way Brian Wilson wanted it to be after 37 years of waiting and wondering. All that’s really left to say is only to listen to the record and let it leave you speechless.
James Lileks has a great bleat today on the very subject of vanishing Christmas cheer.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
The Dislocated was the first band I was ever in and especially around the holidays I get nostalgic for those carefree days so suffer with me as we take a trip into the wayback machine of my life and tell the story of one of Murfreesboro’s finest punk bands.
It was late summer of 1987 when Mark Taylor invited me over to see the cover band he had started with his brother Mike and drummer Tim Baird or maybe I just invited myself over since that was often the Wally way. They were pretty good even if they were playing fairly mainstream classic rock and roll. It was all mostly hard edged, but Hendrix, ZZ Top, Iron Maiden, The Cars, The Cult, and REM weren’t my idea of what a rock and roll band could be about. I was all for doing original material however bad it might be. I’d been trying to get Taylor to come around to liking Black Flag and punk rock for years, but it wasn’t until I started hanging out with him and his brother that summer that I was able to make inroads. Naturally I managed to win over his younger brother first.
Mark and I were a couple of years out of high school, but Mike was just starting at our alma mater Riverdale. I starting driving Mike over to the high school to watch the Warriors play basketball (the 87/88 squad was one of their last decent teams) and I would always play some crazy stuff on the way over. I was into bands like Descendents, S.O.D., Anthrax, Megadeth, The Replacements, Husker Du, Minutemen, Guns N Roses, Ramones, and Metallica at the time. Soon I had the younger Taylor digging speed metal and punk and the nature of the cover band was soon to change for good.
I spent most of time working at a local pizza joint. I had dropped out of college telling everyone I was just disillusioned, but the real truth was I was just flat out lonely on campus. Life became a mundane exercise in work, party, sleep and then repeat. The parties were just booze fests with my co-workers and there was no real purpose of joy to them. The only meaningful thought patterns I was getting came from music and magazines. One of those magazines was Thrasher. I liked looking at the skateboarding pictures. I hadn’t ridden a board since junior high, but suddenly at the age of 20 in the middle of 1987 I bought a Vision Mark Gonzales model skateboard. I began to live out Minor Threat’s lyrics, “I might be an adult, but I’m a minor at heart”. Most of my 20’s would later be termed the “Lost Years” by some of my more career minded friends, but I look back with pride at what I accomplished then.
Skateboarding was another way I grew closer to the Taylor family that year since both Mike and Mark were goofing around after practice with a couple of Powell Peralta decks. I was having no luck at getting the Taylor’s to try writing original material so I decided to give them a boost by writing some lyrics for them. I came up with a song destined to not be a classic, “Work Sucks”, but Mike slapped two monster guitar chords together and our first collaboration was done. It was noisy, loud, and with hindsight it was actually pretty lame, but it was decided that I was going to be the lead vocalist for the Taylor’s cover band as it quickly morphed into a speed metal punk band performing Black Flag, DOA, Black Sabbath, Danzig, and S.O.D. covers along with the one original. When I suffered a fairly serious accident at work – I burned my left hand while emptying a spaghetti cooker – I suddenly had a few weeks of free time to try and mastermind some more songs with Mike. We got nowhere fast when Mark got to goofing around on the bass one day and within minutes our second original was composed. We made it a tribute song to one of Mike’s crazy friends who liked to hang around while we practiced – “This One’s For Paul” – and it was modeled on the Anthrax rap rock song of “I’m The Man” which had been one of our favorites all summer. I only lasted a couple of more months at the pizza place after I recovered, eventually quitting to attend a Mojo Nixon concert in Nashville. It would be back to college in 1988 and rock and roll with the Taylor’s and Tim Baird.
Hurtling through the cosmos at the speed of light. I wonder about the fate of time and is it chilled and served with ice? The comet currents and landslide debris not subject to the gravitational pull of the sunsets of an infinite pitch-black tableau beckon and call. Weapons of mass construction and torture cannot be defiled by random thoughts; only purity and clarity carry such covens of consideration on the wind. The gods play dice, but it’s not known as gambling because there are no free drinks. Their only other concern is judging the superlative curses said in vain on a small blue planet so far on the edge of insanity, it’s yet to even be named by the vainglorious ones. That’s where my check gets cashed. You’ve heard of chaos run amuck? I’m not that messy, in fact I like to think I’m very clean in my own wonderful way. So I’ve identified myself. I doubt it makes much difference to you.
But hey, the finale of the Real Gilligan's Island is tonight, so yeah!! Will the millionaires take advantage of the young and gullible Gilligan and Mary Ann or will the Skipper somehow manage to survive? My money is on the millionaires.
Monday, December 20, 2004
One group steals Mudhoney’s effects pedals and another one puts them back.
I thought about using the William S. Burroughs cut and paste method with the press kit Sub Pop sent with the Comets On Fire release since the term “heavy metal” was used in one of the junkie bard’s books once – I forget which one since their paranoiac drug fantasies all tend to run together – but cutting and pasting might be more labor than I’m accustomed to undertake, besides this might be my last review ever for it appears my ears have permanently sealed themselves shut due to the strain of listening to an entire album by The Album Leaf.
This was to have been a simple assignment: just compare and contrast the heaviest Sub Pop artist, Comets On Fire who (and I quote verbatim from the press release) “dealt in pure bombast, attack, overwhelming distortion and chaos, and yet possessing a shameless love for anthemic choruses, shattering hooks and rifs, and the smoke and magic of yesteryear’s rock and roll iconoclasts”, with the lightest, The Album Leaf who appear to be the Icelandic antidote to No Doz. The dirty hippie rock of Comets On Fire came bellowing out of my stereo speakers with what I thought was a field recording of an African elephant charge and I will admit that what few atoms of gray matter I have left remembered back to those lost years of my twenties which I spent peddling broken shard feedback frenzied rawk and roll and I could truly appreciate the stroboscopic wall of density being heralded by this elephantine stampeding opener, “The Bee And The Cracking Egg”, and its pulsating punishment of sound. The rest of the disc, with the exception of the bizarro world jazz of “Pussy Foot The Duke”, invokes a reptilian heaviness as capable of smashing Japanes buildings as well as song structures. I thought hippies were raised on granola, lentils, and the platitudes of love and togetherness, but these guys must have been spoonfed Blue Cheer and side two of the Stooges “Funhouse” record for every breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Blue Cathedral is some boffo skronk, some of the best I’ve heard since the days when Sir Lord Baltimore used to prowl the earth with their amplifier eyes leaving razed monitors and smoldering cities in their touring wake.
I was actually looking forward to listening to in a safe place by The Album Leaf after such a visceral roof raising decibel assault to my senses. I knew the music would be tranquil so there was no surprise as the mellow soundscape began to unfurl like the flag of Iceland. The next track began and it was more of the same, but the textures were already wearing thin and getting blander by the second. I began to have doubts if I could even get through all ten cuts. The dull instrumentals made me imagine what the band Tortoise would sound like if all of their soul had been squished out. I’m sure I’m probably missing the point since The Album Leaf is all about the meditative Sunday afternoon state, but John Tesh is more rock and roll than this. Instead of producing enlightened abstract feelings on truth and beauty, I found myself getting into a peeved torpor as I strained harder to hear why so many people think this Musaked out music is so great, so hard in fact that my ears just gave up – they boarded up and left town before the hurricane of boredom took them over completely.
I hit the shuffle button in a panic hoping that the Comets On Fire could reach my ears with its glorious noise. Dimly I registered something, perhaps merely the memory of massive array of drums, guitars, and analog synthesizer drone, but even they could not restore my hearing. Growing despondent I was about to give up, when the press kit fell from the stereo console into my lap and it came to me with flash! This holy talisman of paper that the kind folks of Sub Pop included with the Comets On Fire album held the key – I bet they knew the effect The Album Leaf would have upon an unsuspecting reviewer – with the line about “yesteryear’s rock and roll” and I knew what would save me. I reached for the quintessential Sub Pop release and within a few notes my hearing was restored by the power of Superfuzz Bigmuff by Mudhoney.
Friday, December 17, 2004
If rambling disconnected writing about Tippah County, Mississippi isn't your idea of fun reading, consider yourselves warned.
The following are fragments of a work in progress of what will someday become a book of short stories about my youth. When I get finished with the stories, this little post will make a nice archival laboratory snapshot.
This is ideas for the story about the dump people:
North Mississippi. Tippah County. Ripley. Where the shadow of the Colonel Falkner looms over the Pizza Hut. Hot green summer mixed with red clay and sky pines.Garbage dump on the peak of a hill that just seemed to rise and converge with the atmosphere. Humidity, heat, and stink of refuse. But the dump people were not refused. Allowed to build shacks around the periphery, the dump people circled their way through life like buzzards. White and black trash turned pioneer recyclers. They were noble and proud though grime encased, my cousins and I were not allowed to play with the dump children. We were poor, but not that poor. Plus the dump children were multi-culture before there was such a term, predominately black, but there were still plenty dirty white boys and girls. My grandmother's little four-room shack was below the hill where the dump resided and dump kids would come down from the mountain of waste cruising by on scavenged bicycles. They were never normal, but bike's cobbled together from the discarded bicycles at the dump. Low riders with steering wheels where the handle bars should be 4 wheeled bicycles. The kids would coast by the house with effortless precision and we were not allowed to speak to them. We were too frightened anyways even if there was a mysterious allure to these vagabond like children, an appealing grubbiness. They were usually headed to the small convenience store a few hundred yards down the road. It was not a convenience store in the modern sense, but a concrete covered dark store selling groceries and gas and Lord knows what else according to my grandmother. Since I was mainly in Mississippi during the first two weeks of July, it always seemed like Wimbledon was on the television the store had. It was the only television I got to see since my grandmother did not have one. No air conditioner at grandmother's house. We took baths in big tin buckets. She just had a radio that was tuned to the top forty-country station from town. It was always a great treat to be allowed to walk to this store and buy ice cream or a Sunkist, and it was always a drag when the place was closed. The owner never bothered with keeping steady hours.
"Just stay away from the dump people", our parents warned us when we went to the store. Dump people cussed, not anymore than us really, and they smelled, not that we smelled that great, and they were mobile. The mobility was a big factor of our admiration. It was a rare occasion for a cousin to bring a bicycle with them to grandmas. One serendipitous such time happened during one of my visits and I took off for the very first time ever on my cousin Lisa's bike. Parents were screaming at me to get off the street, but I didn't care. I had tasted freedom of sorts and I pedaled that horse all the way to that same dark store. The dump people had nothing on me now. And they lived on top of garbage. It was an airport for flies, with runways of diapers, and scrap metal.
We lived in Mississippi for one year as my parents pursued a dream of running a restaurant (Raney's). It was a trucker's favorite out by the city limits next to a salvage yard and a shoe factory. Not much better off then the dump people; we lived next to a field filled with effluvium waste from the shoe plant. My dad loved visiting with the dump people and salvaging through the remains looking for some treasure, or at the least, some copper wire. Gold and silver were thought of being the most precious and desirable metals, but copper ruled my father's life. He was like some conduit missing a piece of his soul or something; he had to find some copper he could turn into cash. I would go along and dig in the garbage with him hoping to find some abandoned toy the dump children had yet to find. My father was always thought of as a weird bird by my mother's relatives and perhaps he was (My father didn't get along all that well with my mother's brothers. They said he was a strange bird. He would cut his eyes when he was in the same room with them, looking across and back with what they termed shiftiness. I figured he was just trying to make sense of them or perhaps find some hidden truth in their besotted eyes that he was blind to). Unlike them, he would talk to the dump people. Not only that, he treated them with respect and not as pariahs. They were fellow seekers with an even deeper commitment then him. I believe he would have liked to join them there at the dump where everyday was a treasure hunt and where society's rules of decorum need not apply.
There's much of that kind of junk left to post so if it interests you, that's great. If not, don't worry there will be plenty of pop culture to discuss and music to review.
Thursday, December 16, 2004
I don't have the foggiest reason why, but somehow the Pete Shelley song, Homo-Sapien has lodged itself in my head and it won't go away.
It's not one of his greatest works. I'd much rather have Why Can't I Touch It or I Believe running through my mind. "The aim of existence is to offer resistance to the flow of time" and while I'm faced with "I'm a homo-sapien too" echoing in my skull, the day is going by very slowly.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Dawn Of The Dead is another film where the location is pivotal to the plot, in this case the primary seetting was the Monroeville Mall located in Pennsylvania. Though many of the store's are different, the ice skating rink is now the food court, and their never was a gun shop, much of the mall still looks the same. Check out this Dawn Of The Dead fan site for all of the gory details.
By popular demand, well at least one person demanded it; here is part two of Phonoluxe - Brushes With Greatness.
First off: some more about working at Phonoluxe Records located at 2609 Nolensville Road in Nashville, Tennessee - It was a dream job, but there's drudgery and annoyances in dream too. In any kind of retail job, there's a constant infusion of goods and somebody has to buy those goods and then put them out for the public. I got to do both. I was proud when Mike, the owner, trusted me to be a buyer and while that was usually one of the best parts of the job since you got to see the newest arrivals first but it could be a chore. There were times when you couldn't offer anything to the customers or times when you only offer a trade which left me facing an angry person usually. Anger I could deal with however unpleasant. The worst customer (really a seller) to deal with was the person with an Elvis or Beatles record that wouldn't believe their record wasn't worth the thousands of dollars they had envisioned. Let's get this straight people: Elvis and the Beatles sold millions of records so only true rarities are worth big bucks. What's even funnier are the same people expecting ransom note type dough for their albums always had the most scratched up records too. I'd have to argue with these people for minutes that seemed like hours the end result usually being them calling me stupid and myself telling them to go sell their junk elsewhere. But at least they never threatened me like the gangster hip hop kids did one day when I had to run them out of our parking lot. Two little mini-gangsters had come into the store trying to sell us some goods we didn't want to buy. We couldn't prove the CD's were stolen, but we had our suspicions - often we would ask sellers about items that seemed odd for them to be selling and if the answers didn't seem right we'd just refuse to buy the stuff so if the goods were hot we were protected and if they weren't then it was just us losing a chance to add to our inventory - so we refused to buy their CD's. A few minutes later, the manager tells me they're trying to peddle the CD's in our parking lot so I had to go run them off. This led to a heated discussion which finally led to the smallest of the two small fry telling me he's got something is his car (which happened to be a brand new red sports car) that will take care of me. I told him to bring it out and luckily for me he chuckled at me and got in the car with his buddy (both kids looked 14) and drove off, before it finally hit me that he was obviously letting me know he had a gun in the car. My only other taste of anything violent was when I pushed a drunken bum out the front door using a baseball bat who had come into the store ranting and raving about some scaffolding outside the store. I thought I'd get in trouble for this, but when the owner heard about what I had done he told me, "good show."
The other big chore was just simply putting out the stock which is a never ending job of shuffling things around. CD's aren't that big of a deal, but I was the only one that stocked the record shelves then, most of which were $1 records. Of course I did spend lots of time shopping while I was working especially when I would get crazed over some maligned old genre or style, the most notable one I remember is when I started buying all of the early 70's CTI releases.
Some odd events that hit Phonoluxe during my history there were: The time a guy drove his car through the front window of the store and then asked us if we had any Parliament-Funkadelic records. One day a customer who drove a huge car and always parked out front opened his door to come in when a semi took the door off thankfully before the dude started to exit the car. People were always getting into fender benders outside the front door where the parallel parking spots are. One of our maddest customers was a famous country singer. He had brought up a huge stack of lounge records and when he was told we would have to call his check into the bank since it was over a hundred bucks he just went nuts. "Do you know who I am," he screamed. Sure, we knew who he was, but the hundred dollar policy was one we weren't about to break. When we called the check in, it was no good. The short but rather large front man then starting going on about his accountant screwing up (which was probably true) and that he'd make sure the check would be good to no avail. He stormed out of the store. A few minutes later an elderly couple came into the store and asked us where the records were their son had wanted. So the very nice parents of the country music star bought the records for him and also apologized for their son's behavior.
Before we get to the brush with greatness I'm sure you're waiting on I thought I'd mention a couple of the cool part time employees I worked with back in the day.
Louisa Reiss came onboard around the same time as Olivia, but she left to attend fashion school in San Francisco some years ago. She was neat since she was a customer long before she worked there. She lived up the street and she used to walk down to Phonoluxe with her brother both dressed in black with Army field jackets covering their waif bodies. She gave the store a much needed shot of youth when she started there. Of course we did have eternal youth John Hudson working part time there through my whole run and I believe he still does some moonlighting there. He is of course the famous musician from such classic bands like, The Popes, Dragula, Girls In Action, Trauma Team, The What 4, Igor & The Humps, and the Exotic One's. I still remember the first night I met the dude. He was stocking albums wearing his day job outfit of slacks and white dress shirt. He did not look like he should be working for Phonoluxe. He would have been called square back in the beatnik days, but I just thought he looked dorky. I was soon taught an important lesson as he proved to be one of the most interesting and coolest persons I've ever met. I was the true dork for basing my view on the surface only. I found out we shared many common interests and the next thing I knew he was playing guitar in my garage band for the next 3 years. One of these days I hope to get to play a show alongside him again just once more for old times sake.
John wasn't there at Phonoluxe the day that David Allan Coe strolled into the store. It was late in the day and I was just hanging out behind the counter killing time trying to tick co-worker John Dunneback off when he noticed Coe first. He whispered over if I knew who it was and I did. I always thought his cover of Steve Goodman's "You Never Even Called Me By My Name" is the quintessential country song. I wondered what he could be looking for so I asked him. He named some obscure punk band and said they had covered one of his songs. I couldn't help him there, but I did listen as he rambled on about the internet and how he liked it and spent quite a bit of time surfing the web. Maybe now he will come across this story here.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Monday, December 13, 2004
CD singles are offered up, but the prices for them are ridiculous. Adjusting back to 1980 using the Consumer Price Index for a CD single priced $6.99 gives you a cost in 1980 dollars of $3.10 and I usually paid at most about a buck and a half, probably less, at the local record store. Sure, a CD single usually gives the consumer bonus tracks, but I’ve found that most of these extras should have stayed unreleased. If you didn’t get the CD single and you really wanted to hear the song, you either bought the complete album or perhaps copied the video until the fairly recent downloading revolution came along to shake the industry up. Now that the companies have wised up, we see singles being offered digitally for as little as a dollar a song.
I don’t listen to the radio and since I drive a car that cost me $650 (I need MTV to pimp my ride) satellite radio is out too. So the only way I hear what’s popular is through flipping the television dials between MTV, M2, VH1, GAC, and CMT. Most of the time, it doesn’t stay on any of these channels for long. “Hey Ya”s and “Stacie’s Mom’s are rare in the pablum pop world of mainstream music, but a handful of songs every year make it through my BS detector and I find myself singing along and trying to catch the video the next time it airs. So here’s the three singles I consider the best of the year.
Kanye West – Jesus Walks: I’m not quite as sure as most that it took a lot of courage to release this track, but I am surprised at how big a hit it was and how much I liked a hip hop song. I’m sure this makes me a rockist, but most hip hop either bores me (where are the breaks?) or it just annoys me with the constant misogynist and violence laden lyrics (how many times can the movie Scarface be referenced?). Jesus Walks was novel and not a novelty for the genre that needed it just like “the way Kathie Lee needed Regis that’s the way ya’ll need Jesus.”
Gretchen Wilson – When I Think About Cheatin’: The third single release by Gretchen shows she’s not just a redneck aberration. This song gives us many of country’s eternal themes; love, betrayal, leavin’, and drinkin’, and wraps them in a traditional ballad form which Gretchen sings simply and sincerely. The way her voice quavers the first time she sings the word “you” during the chorus knocks me out. Classic country is not dead.
My Chemical Romance – I’m Not Okay (I Promise): The video got me before the tune did. The video is a miniature movie about typical teen angst, sharp and snappy. The song is emo styled, but it packs a big wallop even though it smells contrived. Screaming, croquet mallets, a fuzzy headed guitar player, a drummer that remains to be seen, and cheerleaders with something in their eye: it all helps make up the whole of a great three minutes.
So there's 3 good singles. The fourth entry in my best of 2004 for best album will be posted soon and I'm sure it'll leave you grinning.
Friday, December 10, 2004
I added a sidebar link to Creem. Be sure and visit them.
My best of the year in music continues next week with my three favorite singles, which should surprise some people. Then I will post my best album of the year, it's sure to leave you grinning.
I got quite a few CD's in the mail to review next week so look for stuff on Comets On Fire, The Album Leaf, The 45's, The Sadies, and The Bigger Lovers. Blogging pays off a little bit.
Thursday, December 09, 2004
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Young Heart Attack – Mouthful Of Love: Young Heart Attack channels AC/DC, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, MC5, and the Rolling Stones, to name but a few of the influences that can be explicitly heard, into a 34 minute masterpiece of hesher rock. The title track explodes out of the speakers with total abandon; the opening chords learned from the school of Angus Young, but the song really takes off when Jennifer Stephens adds her vocals to the mix. She really does sound like Vince Neil circa “Too Fast For Love” and part of what sets this record apart is her vocal interplay with Chris Hodge. “Starlite” begins with a synthesizer riff almost identical to the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and then gives us a freak lyrical version of Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” as Chris tells his date, “I’ve got to prove I’m a man, can’t you understand” while the music boils over. “El Camino” features a sped up Black Sabbath guitar riff as if Tony Iommi had been pilfering Ozzy’s diet pills while the vocals evoke Robert Plant. While the Southern deep fried boogie of “(Take Me Back) Mary Jane” is stretching a bit, they still manage to pull it off. After all, they do hail from Austin, Texas. You don’t have to have lived through the original era of heavy metal parking lots, parachute pants, and mullets, but it should would deepen your appreciation for the Young Heart Attack who quite simply: flat out rock! Pop a cassette in the tape deck, pick up your buddies, buy some booze and cruise.
The Features – Exhibit A: Sure the Features are Tennessee homeboys who’ve played together since high school in the small town of Sparta and my old garage band used to play the same venues. Lead Feature Matt Pelham might even say hello to me if we bump into each other like we did a few years ago at a Salvation Army thrift store (I scored a Vibrations record that day!), but this doesn’t mean you’re not getting an impartial review. The Features first release years ago on the now defunct Spongebath label disappointed me because I didn’t think it captured their live sound adequately. Their Beginning EP showed me that the live act could be caught in a studio setting. Exhibit A really cranks up the volume with 12 witty and exuberant pop songs. “Blow It Out” should have been a huge hit with its chorus of “If you’re happy and you know it, turn the volume up and blow it out”, plus I love “There’s A Million Ways To Sing The Blues”. The Features aren’t conventional rockers. Matt’s high keening vocals might not be liked by all, but the songs are well written, arranged, and performed. I just wonder how teenagers growing up in a small town on the cusp of the Cumberland Plateau could have been so influenced by Pere Ubu.
The Clash – London Calling Expanded Edition: One thing that Rolling Stone magazine got right was when London Calling was named the best album of the 80’s, even if the record actually came out in 1979. I usually balk at naming a record the number one of all time, but while London Calling is playing I can’t think of anything else I want to be listening to, if that makes any kind of sense. Even if this wasn’t packed with bonus tracks and a DVD, it would be worth getting. Maybe it should be reissued every year.
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
I'm currently reading One Matchless Time, the new William Faulkner biography, thanks to the kind people of Harper Collins who were nice enough to send me a copy to review. I'm enjoying it so far, but I'm wondering for how long since many of the reviews I've read of it say it's not that great of a book. My only criticism at present is early in the book Faulkner's family moves from Ripley to Oxford and much is made of Oxford being a county seat. Well, Ripley's a county seat too. It's the county seat of Tippah which borders the state of Tennessee. I lived for a short time in Ripley before I started school and I visited there at least once a year until I got out of high school. North Mississippi's pine trees and red clay are a big part of me, occupying a dreamlike space of my memory that seems to loom larger as time ever recedes from when I was physically present there as a child. I've envisioned writing a book of short stories relating to that time, but the best I've done so far is a poorly written pastiche called The Last Cotton Field that you can read at Dead Mule.com http://www.deadmule.com/content/word.of.mule.php?content_id=832
Of course that story predates me time spent in Tippah County during the Seventies and Eighties. My experiences probably aren't all that different from anybody else, but I'm compelled to share them. My remark about future semi-serious posts to this blog does include the distinct possibility of subjecting you to trial runs on stories from there. I harbor thoughts about translating and transmuting those days into a North Mississippi version of Joyce's Dubliners. It will all depend on how much will I possess, because it will be really tough, and I'm not even talking about coming close to the masterly job of a James Joyce. I'm referring just to writing a story well and the Dead Mule entry is proof that I'm a long way from that. So if I make you suffer through some fumbling attempts of literature here, I ask your forgiveness at the start.
Jumbled up events run through my mind. My mother and father running a restaurant called Raney's along the main highway for a few short months. I used to play the jukebox continuously; my favorite tune was "Dueling Banjos". I first heard an electric guitar just down the road from the railroad overpass (the railroad that William Faulkner's great grandfather helped found) in a small trailer. My baby sitter's teenage son could really wail. When tornado weather was threatening we would leave the trailer and drive down the road the few hundred feet to the overpass and park beneath it. I played on that overpass with other small children; by this time I was being watched by my Aunt Beverly's sister whose land bordered the railroad tracks. We weren't supposed to go onto the tracks, but of course we did often. One day we pressed our luck by throwing gravel at the cars driving beneath. I'm eternally grateful we didn't hurt anybody and I'm also glad we were caught and given a sound whipping. I didn't really like playing on the overpass since I was in constant terror from the possibility of being hit by a train, but there was a girl involved that I wanted to impress so I went along with the older boy that wanted to do it. A standard refrain runs through those days and it was of being hustled around to different baby sitters. The people that watched me who lived down the street from the restaurant were the worst. Our street was next door to a shoe factory. The field beside the factory was polluted with muck. The few houses down the street were tiny clapboard hovels with leaking roofs and peeling paint. I will say that at least the dump we lived in was the biggest house on the street. The baby sitters there had loathsome older children that would pick on me as soon as the adults turned their heads. I remember their delight at scaring me with tales of the devil's eye you could see from a hole in the ground next to one of the houses. I suppose it was just the reflection of your own eyeball. Trying to scare me was one of their lighter attempts at picking on me. Don't misunderstand; I'm not trying to wallow in some post-childhood trauma to make myself feel better. It's only natural for kids to get picked on by meaner kids. I had a high threshold for that kind of crap, but if I ever reached the point where I felt completely threatened I would boil over like some miniature Hulk and the bullying would stop. The most compelling memory I have of that group of baby sitters was when I joined them to move a house. Moving an entire house is something one can't forget. Maybe next time I'll tell the complete story of that day, which was one of the stand out days in my Tippah County boyhood.
Loretta Lynn – Van Lear Rose: I fell asleep on Saturday nights with cornpone humor images of Hee Haw picking and grinning their way into my four year old subconscious. I was usually ay my Granny’s house which had no indoor plumbing, no central heat & air, and none of the usual appliances associated with modern living except for the television. Meals were cooked atop a wood stove and clothes were washed with a hand cranked machine. Water was gathered from an old fashioned well and if you needed to go the bathroom there was an outhouse that was frequently home to wasps during the summer. I’d spend carefree days there playing in the ash pile left from burning garbage. Morning seemed to stretch into infinity as I chucked rocks at the huge garden spider by the back door taking care to not actually hit such a beautiful creature. I’d ride my tricycle around and around on the front porch since it was the only smooth surface. It cost me a broken arm one afternoon when I got too close to the edge and fell off with the handlebar snapping a bone in my right arm. I watched as I perched atop my rabbit’s cage one day as my Granny slipped on the stepping stone path from the well and fell breaking her hip. Soon she’d move into a different house and she’d catch up to the Seventies. But my most vivid memories are of her first house I ever knew. Pictures from then show a light skinned child on a Farm-All tractor toy, a Ford truck from the Fifties, and a smiling country lady whom I was always told was a quarter Cherokee.
One of the most compelling objects in the old home was an old acoustic guitar covered with dust propped in a corner. No one ever played it so I would sometimes sneak over and pluck the strings. I was more into watching the strings vibrate, the sound was secondary. But there was a dim awareness that if I could ever learn to play it, I might be able to appear on that funny show that seemed to always be airing at my Granny’s house when I fell asleep. I might be able to accompany somebody as delightful as Loretta Lynn.
Well I’m nearing middle age and while I did learn to play guitar, I doubt I will ever get to play alongside Loretta. I’m just pleased that Jack White and the Greenhornes did on Van Lear Rose. The songwriter of such classics like “The Pill”, “Fist City”, “Your Squaw Is On The Warpath”, and many others takes a career invigorating turn with Jack White producing and it’s great to see her reach a new generation of fans, many of whom probably only knew her from Crisco commercials or that Sissy Spacek movie. It’s much like what happened when Johnny Cash decided to take a chance with Rick Rubin. So, let’s all pour ourselves a sloe-gin fizz and salute the “Queen of Country Music” as she ascends to the top again.
Wilco - A Ghost Is Born: The critical backlash was inevitable. Success often breeds contempt. Revisionists have even taken it upon themselves to deconstruct Yankee Hotel Foxtrot which brought the success in the first place. A Ghost Is Born is the follow-up that was destined to fail and that it didn’t is a tribute to the talent of Jeff Tweedy and cohorts. It was not merely the pale ghost of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. It holds up well in the Wilco catalogue. I agree that the guitar solos can be tiresome, but that’s a minor complaint. It doesn’t detract from the ultimate triumph of the album. Even if one does feel the album falls short of the glory that came before, falling short for Wilco is still good enough to make the record of this year’s best.
Sufjan Stevens – Seven Swans: One could be forgiven for thinking most of the Christian music being produced today is banal pop not doing justice to its subject matter. Sufjan Stevens should change your mind. Seven Swans crossed over into the indie underground this year and it’s going to appear on numerous secular best of 2004 lists. It is a sonically simple masterpiece of understated grace punctuated with Sufjan’s banjo playing. It rewards deep listening and if your mood is receptive you’ll find yourself easily getting lost with the music.
The next part my best of 2004 will feature three more great releases that should please people who want to rock and roll a little harder.
Monday, December 06, 2004
It suddenly hit me over the weekend, along with a horrible cold and a fairly dark cloud of depression that Soulfish Stew was starting to become devoted to only music. While music's a huge part of my life, it's not the reason I started this blog. So this week will see some semi-serious entries for a change in addition to my best of music in 2004 posts which will start later this week.
Friday, December 03, 2004
Thursday, December 02, 2004
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
As most of my loyal readers know I once worked at Phonoluxe Records in Nashville from 1993 until 1998. The store is still going strong so if you're ever in Nash Vegas be sure and stop in at 2609 Nolensville Road. There are plenty of used CD's, DVD's, and old records to cull through, just as long as you don't expect the staff to be overly friendly. The time I spent working there was incredible. I received one of the best musical educations in the country and got paid for it. The owner, Michael Smyth, is a walking encyclopedia of rock and roll and blues. One of the managers, Allenette, is an expert on Sixties garage bands. Besides also being a blues nut, the other manager Jeff is a surf freak with a top notch surf combo Thee Phantom 5ive. The surliest member of the crew who's still around from my old days is a dude named Dunneback and if you need to know anything about classic rock he will let you know if you ask him nicely. The sweetest person still at Phonoluxe is Olivia. I met her at a Fourth of July party thrown by Allenette when she was just fourteen and hobbling around on a broken foot and I knew she was destined to be a record store clerk like the rest of us at the party. Two of the best people I know left the store before I did and they have gone on to much bigger and better things: Chad, who was the little brother I never had, now works for www.kidrobot.com and he edits the awesome webzine Friends Of Sound that you link to from the sidebar, and Mike, who works for the Country Music Hall Of Fame where he helped produce the fantastic Nashville soul box set Lost Highway released last year. Chad was the resident hip hop genius and college rock maven. Mike is a giant of jazz knowledge, but had in interest in anything good. I probably knew more about punk rock, but I'm a genre jumper attracted to all kinds of music which led to manic obsessions that would last for months and often as not coincided with Chad's interests. There was the Latin jazz phase including a huge bossa nova spell followed by acid jazz, lounge, Burt Bacharach records, samba, old school hip hop, and Dischord Record release to name but a few of our common pursuits. Some of my more personal fixations were on The Who, The Beach Boys, The Kinks, Sir Lord Baltimore, Oasis, Pulp, Blur, and garage rock in general. It was a dream job being around music and music lovers all the time. The best was getting first dibs on incoming items although internal squabbling occurred lots of times - the most notable fight between Chad and me over an original Fat Albert record.
Enough of all that, I'm sure you fame hungry folks are just dying to hear about the big stars that walked through our doors. Well here's an initial list: Bill Lloyd, Steve Forbert, one of the Everly Brothers, Marshall Crenshaw, Lucinda Williams (I used to be the one who bought promo CD's off her, boy is she cool), David Allan Coe, Rick Nielsen, Tom Peterson, Ken Coomer, Billy Gibbons, Radney Foster (I bought the first 20/20 record after he sold it to the store), Peter Frampton, Raul Malo, Sonny Burgess (he told great Elvis stories), the Dr. Hook dude who didn't wear the patch, Emmylou Harris (her daughter worked at the store briefly), Webb Wilder (we sold a pair of his Doc Martens), Jason Ringenberg, Tanya Tucker (well, I don't know if she ever came into the store, but I bumped into at the Mexican store next door), and Kristi Rose. I'm sure I'll think of more when I get the chance.
Here's the scoop on Rick Nielsen. The dude is very tall and large. He also didn't spend very long in the place. For some reason when a rock star came in who wasn't a regular like Bill Lloyd or Steve Forbert I was always given the task of seeing what they wanted. I was never star struck so it was cool with me. I went up to the legend of Cheap Trick and asked him what he was looking for. I believe it was in 1997. He asked me if we carried any Not Lame releases. Not Lame was fairly new then and I asked him to repeat the question so I could make sure of the label. "You know, Not Lame, they're out of Boulder, Colorado," he said. When I said no, he just grumbled and quickly stalked back out. I knew then that I would need to find out what Not Lame Records was all about.
Soon you will be able to buy your very own piece of Nashville rock and roll history.
Coming soon - Dragula The CD - Tales From The Strip!