Sunday, April 27, 2008

It's 1992 Up In Here

I've run out of things to write about. I'd like to think it is but a temporary lull, but even if I had some ideas I don't have the time. So to keep this dead horse on its feet, let's stuff it full of things found from one of my old notebooks circa April 1992. You see, I once fancied myself as a creative type - rock and roll songs, fanzine creator, and just general mayhem maker. I'd get these spiral notebooks from M.T.S.U. and keep these quasi diary stream of consciousness babble junk food language feasts.

This entry will be drawn from one I titled Wally Thunders Shangri-La. I wasn't a Bangs then. I only flattered myself with pretensions to heroin chic rock stardom in those days. So lets journey back to more innocent days and see how 1992 was treating me:

Rock and roll is our epiphany. Sound the trumpets, spring is here. Shake the sleep out of your eyes and dance to the tune of romance. Hand in hand the lovers go while I sit at home alone. What a lousy movie, what a lousy life. But meanwhile on the bright side, the Manic Street Preachers are soon to arrive. The days count down like the sand through the hourglass, like a mainline heroin injection time rushes by. "Nothing gold can stay."

Nothing could stop me. Nothing will. It's a movie, a ball game, a coffee maker, red Corvette, it's a pop culture genocide. We're all looking for a little shangri la, longing to find out what's never been told while all the artists hope they die before they get old but end up as fashion suicides.

Reinvention? Most types of people bore me, ignore me, or deplore me. But like W.C.W. I am the happy genius of my household, stranglehold of the senses - creation desperation. Clothes make the man so let's get fully clothed in the know. Books mean knowledge. Reading takes meaning. I'm in a band baby...let's go out.

So there's the first couple of pages. It appears I didn't have much to write about back then either, but somehow I found the time and energy to much ado about nothing. Hmmmm. It may not be much on the blog post richter scale, but it makes the now me feel a little better.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Sidebar Blues

I need tips. Some sidebar tips. I've been looking through my links and I've jettisoned some. I think I'd like to get rid of some others, but I don't want to be the hatchet man. I'll leave that to you. Suggest some for the delete pile. But also suggest some links I can add. If you want to promote your own blog I'll even trade links if I dig your site. Either email me or add your twenty cents (man inflation is killer now).

Man, When I Think About Classic Rock I Think About Neal Schon

This veers off into territory unexpected somewhat. Just remember to be careful when you're on Anderson Road near Percy Priest Lake.

Now if we all know Sukie was a girl and she liked to hang out in the graveyard, then we should also know that all of my Riverdale High School memories revolve around the rock band Journey. They were already icons to me way before The Sopranos elevated the group to the pop culture zeitgeist firmament. My close personal friends, if there are any of those even left, are probably shaking their heads and muttering about me going on about how dinosaur rock wasn't that bad. They just can't reconcile how the first person to ever play them Black Flag also has a soft spot in his heart for beak nosed frontmen and white Afro wearing guitarists, not to mention former Babys members.

The reason is simple and it comes down to two things. School buses. I had to ride school buses and Journey were all over the radio my freshman and sophomore years. So their songs are sonically imprinted upon me. The ghastliness of "Open Arms" or "Faithfully" will suddenly spring up bubbling from my subconscious and the nightmare image of couples wearing identical Journey concert t-shirts flashes up. Because this is the second thing: the feathered hair Farrahs of my roller rink days all loved Journey. No amount of punk rock sneering could disguise the fact that if they had wanted you to take them to see Journey you would have done so gladly making sure to pack an extra Bic lighter for her so that when the house lights dimmed while the ballads echoed through Murphy Center she wouldn't feel left out of the flickering worship.

But I didn't ever see Journey in concert. I actually did and do like some of their uptempo songs and Neal Schon is a shredding guitar player. But really. I did once buy a Journey tape for a girl I liked and after she was killed in a car accident I've always wondered if there wasn't some connection. I'd hate for my final moments to be spent singing "when the lights go down on the city." Suffice it to say: I have a few hangups about the band.

So perhaps this is why I sent the following quasi fictional scenario to DD Blank after this article about wrinkled rock stars.

Circa 1983:

Hold those lighters in the air as the house lights dim and squeeze your lady tight while Steve Perry sings "Faithfully." You'll tell everybody tomorrow that "Stone In Love" was your favorite while others will say "Don't Stop Believing" hit the stratosphere when Neal Schon launched into a solo that would put his old employer Carlos Santana (what has that guy done lately) to shame. Then there will be that one weird girl in Basic Math that surprises everybody when she walks in wearing a Frontiers tour t-shirt and then claims she only likes Journey because of bass player Ross Valory's sexiness. The two people in class who've actually heard The Clash's first album snicker while the heavy metal kids won't admit to being at the concert even though they've kept the ticket stubs in their biker wallets that are chained to their jeans.

Dickens To Frozen Cats To Where Did Toby Holmes Go Again?

How my mind works, sorta:

I've been reading through Charles Dickens of late. I just started Our Mutual Friend this morning and encountered a character named Mortimer. I finished the first couple of chapters and in came Lola the pet cat of Wally Manor. This confluence of events reminded me that I once knew a cat named Mortimer. He belonged to that crazy Zorlac skateboarding riding miscreant Toby Holmes back in the day. I think I may have even named the cat Mortimer. He was just a stray that decided to stay and he must have been there awhile. Then he went missing. As he was a tomcat it wasn't surprising. We imagined he was out doing what came natural to a stud named Mortimer. When he didn't return after some weeks we figured he was gone for good.

This was back in the day when Toby and I went skating almost every day regardless of the weather. There was an office complex just down the street from the trailer court where Toby lived and one cold and frigid night we rode down looking to do some ollies and curb grinds. There was where we found Mortimer on his back frozen solid. Did we feel sad? A little. Did we give him a proper burial? Nope. We took turns ollying over his corpse. It was the kind of thing Mortimer might have liked.

I lost track of Toby over the years, but a couple of years ago he contacted me. We went and had some pizza and beer and sent emails back and forth. He was the same old Toby. But now I've lost track of him again and I wonder if I might find him one day frozen solid on his back. And if I did; would I try to ollie over him before I notified the authorities.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Review: R.E.M. Accelerate

Kick it out on the dancefloor like you just don't care!

After spending an inordinate amount of time writing some sub-Meltzer piece about how Accelerate is the perfect mid-life crisis album reflecting how time speeds up as one's metabolism slows down I decided not to inflict such weirdness on the world.

Supranational history lesson:

1984/85 discovered this hot combo from Athens, GA by way of magazines, David Letterman, and Jason & The Scorchers (Stipe gets co-write and sings back-up vocals on "Hot Nights From Georgia")

1986/87 made a pilgrimmage to Athens, GA went to both Wuxtry's (bought Boomtown Rats Mercury debut, Police Outlandos D'Amour, and a Pandoras record), bought any and everything with the name R.E.M. emblazoned across it, and saw them in concert. Started having some doubts when Document didn't do much for me.

1988/90 didn't purchase Green, didn't go see them play Murphy Center, but lots of high school and junior high kids did because I saw them when I'd go skateboarding

1991 bought Out Of Time after hearing "Radio Song" in a Sound Shop, brought it home and found it dull, and after R.E.M. swept the MTV Music Video Awards I began a long loathing of Stipe.

1992 - 2006 still listened to older stuff and liked "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?", wrote a piece about how I once loved the band, but it got to the point I became so disenchated with the band that I couldn't even bear to listen to Murmur and I sold all of my R.E.M. vinyl, the only thing I kept was a couple of cassette bootlegs from the Tyrone's days

2007 tuned into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame awards ceremony mainly to see how Bill Berry was doing and like all televison show ads claim now: It All Changed - the moment they launched into "Gardening At Night" I forgot all my former hate and just remembered all the joy they had once given. I went to Amazon soon after and bought all of their old great albums and then I picked up the later stuff in the bargain bins.

Which brings us to 2008 and Accelerate. It's heralded as a return to rock. A retreat from the blandness and lack of focus that had afflicted the three legged dog from Athens, GA. If you've read to this point you're either about ready to put me up against the wall and scream "Well, is it?!!" at me or perhaps smirk and say "I know it's not. Lots of other blogs have already told me so." I'm hip to this jive.

So let's first address focus. The album clocks in at 34 minutes and 39 seconds. With 11 tracks there's not much room for meandering. The album is succinct, to the point, brief, curt, and as many other adjectives you want to throw in there. I appreciate this. Just because you can pack 80 minutes onto a CD doesn't mean you should. Too many bands today suffer from bloated albums that you can't listen to in one sitting anyways. Hence the IPOD shuffle supremacy. So focus is confirmed.

Is Accelerate bland? That's a big negatory good buddy. While the album does tend to blur somewhat with such buzzing guitars that haven't been heard since New Adventures In Hi-Fi, there is enough sonic variety to tickle the eardrums especially if you've got your earbuds in place. It sounds like real people playing musical instruments this time. Gone are the sub-lounge singer keyboards. Stipe's voice may have lost range, but he sounds impassioned. Isn't passion one of the ingredients needed for good rock and roll.

Which is what Accelerate does. It rocks. And I didn't expect it to. Just because I had found my long shelved love for the band didn't mean I would accept whatever they did. I'm a big fan of Bill Berry and his contributions to the band. Plus, I still remember things like them saying they would break up at the stroke of midnight of the year 2000. It was a coming to terms over those types of issues that let me love the music again. So I wasn't sure if I would like the new material, but I do.

Accelerate is a solid album. Something they should be proud to put their name behind. Will junior high school kids want to go see them in concert (if they could afford to) - who knows. Not only are all the fans from the Murmur era, from the Document era, or the Automatic For The People era different so is the music industry. There's no way R.E.M. can ever reach the highs of the past. Their own success acts like an anchor. The impulse is to say how this album stacks up in the catalogue. I think this wrong to a certain extent.

Shouldn't we let some time go by before making grand assessments like: is Accelerate as good as Document? Hell, I don't know. I barely liked Document during the 80's. That album had to grow on me. How about Life's Rich Pageant? How does Accelerate stack up against it? Man, it was such a completely different world when Pageant dropped....weren't R.E.M. already being accused of being sellouts. Let time decide such comparisons. For now; I'll just dig Accelerate. The three legged dog has finally learned how to run.

Now if you want to read what I think is the best review of Accelerate I've found (and the main reason I didn't do any song analysis since it's here) check out Annie Zaleski's one at Riverfront Times.

Ghosts Of Surfing Past

I had an email from Future Me in my inbox this morning. I almost deleted it as spam, but I opened it out of curiosity. Here's what it said:

Dear FutureMe,

It's been four years since I wrote this. I hope everything is going
well. One word of advice for the future me: cool out. Seriously, chill.
Read some books and play some music. Play with the kids. Take the wife
out for a night.


That was some good advice from my younger self. I'm surprised I didn't put in "Stop living like a Repo Man."