Friday, September 16, 2011

Steve Winwood - "Night Train" from the Album Arc of a Diver

Steve Winwood Arc of a Diver CD cover"Night Train" from Arc of A Diver played on the way home, and it got me thinking of the time I saw Steve Winwood in Europe.

A little internet research just now and I can tell the tale: That my grandfather had decided he would take me to Europe after my high school graduation on or around the 15th of June 1983.

While Europe is pretty amazing even if you limit yourself to the parts your grandparents might dig, for the most part the excursion was exactly the whitebread sightseeing kind of trip you'd expect when you're with your grandparents. But on a couple nights they handed me some dough and let me run around the town we were in on my very own. And I of course did the things an 18-year old kid would: those having to do with drugs and rock 'n' roll. When we were in Amsterdam, for example, I hit the world famous Milky Way and bought and then consumed some Afghani black hash, the cottonmouth then averted with a bunch of skunky Dutch beer. And in Luxembourg, on the 20th, I went to see Winwood at the Théâtre Municipale.

It's a long time ago now, but I still do remember a long and excellent version of the same song I heard this evening while driving home. It's funny: Because I remembered "Night Train" so clearly, I'd long thought that this tour Winwood had done, and this show I had seen, was in support of Arc of a Diver, but I'm realizing only now that in fact the tour was behind Talking Back to the Night.

I really don't remember much of the concert, but I've found it interesting to find that this guy here says that the show was in his "top ten gigs of all time." Not going there, but I definitely remember, and always have remembered, the experience as being one of an ace rock 'n' roll show.

Steve Winwood 1983 Tour shirtFound the image next door on eBay, and looking at the back of the T-shirt now, I see that the gig I attended in Luxembourg is not even listed. Winwood had been in Brussels on the 19th and was in Saarbrucken on the 21st; I guess they decided to turn the day off into a payday sometime after the tour was booked and the merch was manufactured. I seem to recall coming across a small handbill for the event--rather than a grandiose poster--during the day while I was touring with my grandparents, which would reinforce this idea I'm getting that the show was scheduled and promoted last-minute.

Another, and probably the most vivid, thing I remember about this concert is that, arriving early, I hooked up and started chatting with a pair of Luxembourgians who were sitting next to me. I babbled something about Yes no doubt, and they recommended in return Barclay James Harvest. I mentioned Kansas, and they had no clue at all. Then the house lights went down and the three of us enjoyed the show as you do. The band was energetic, and the crowd was enthusiastic, and an encore got played, and Winwood said good night, and the house lights went up and the drummer threw something into the audience landed a few rows behind us, I figured it was a rag or whatever and I bid my newly met friends good night, told them well met and they said: hold on.

They said yeah, let's sit here and talk a bit more while the crowd files out, and I said sure, why not, time's not precious I'm on vacation. And we talked some more rock and roll, can't remember what but I'm sure it was pleasant enough, until the theatre was basically empty, one of the guys climbed backward over his seat and then crawled over a couple more until he found what he was looking for.

Climbing back towards us, he explained in a lowered voice that in European countries with harsh drug laws, and Luxembourg was that, it was fairly common for musicians passing through to toss their fans a bone so to speak in the form of little drug packets tossed into the audience.

I'd never heard of such a thing before, and I've never heard of such a thing since. but Luxembourger prog-rock brother sure enough had some dope in his hand when he arrived back in our row.

So I hung with my buddies a little longer. With no small aura of paranoia, we left the theatre and found a thousand-year old bridge or something nearby that gave us some cover from the long arm of the Duchy's law while we smoked the pot and let the buzz spreads it wanton fingers through us.

Then the moment was gone, and my Central European buddies and I parted for good, and I wandered stoned and more than just a little paranoid through the dark stone streets of Luxembourg for a short time, trying to and eventually succeeding in finding my hotel.

Good memories brought on by a good song.

Steve Winwood - Night Train.mp3

File under: Multi-instrumentalist Rock

Friday, September 9, 2011

My Lack of Favorite Things


Don't worry, Hipster Kitty, and Hipster Kitty fans, I haven't decided to change featured memes for this blog, although I will admit to having briefly considered it. But no, Music Nerd Octopus is just a guest today, on loan from his real home at

(And OK, before we move on, let's give that hyperlink address just prior a second look:
It may just be the greatest url ever).

Anyway, Mr. MNO is here to help me tell a story . A story about how last week Melanie and I were invited to go down to the Grand Central Club in downtown Miami to hear her Whole Foods co-worker play a set with her synth 'n' laptop band. The music was . . . not for me. The word that came to mind as I sought to explain was "techno," although they describe themselves as "rave/house,". which probably only serves to highlight how disconnected I am from music of this sort.

A horribly blurred picture I took at the Grand Central Club. Can't tell the musicians, but aren't the colors pretty?
But good for Khadija and Mike, you know? And then after the show, we ran into them in the parking lot, and Melanie said nice things and in doing so pointed at me and muttered something about the weird music I listen to. And suddenly I was being asked by Melanie or Khadija about my favorite band or bands, and I literally had no clue as to how to respond. I muttered something like, "I don't really have any favorites," which sounds like I'm just not that much into music, and which is of course totally inaccurate if you're trying to figure out just what it is I am also.

So fuck. It's complicated. Melanie says something about "Sonic Youth" for me, and Khadija nods her head, saying "yeah we like Sonic Youth, too" and I nod my head also, but inside I'm like, No! I have real issues with Sonic Youth. They're not my favorites, they're just a band that was really good for a good while!, though fortunately I kept my mouth shut.

So what's the point here, beyond the fact that I am just as socially inept at age 46 as I was at age 16? Well, I think it's that in my old age I've moved past this concept we've all had of "favorite band." I remain enthused about music. With the resources available these days, I continue to discover new music all the time. I love music as much as I did as a teenager. Music may in fact be the only thing holding me together, with the household going bankrupt and the Astros in the shit-tank.

But I don't have a favorite band, and haven't had as I think about it, for quite some time. I don't know how to answer the question. I know of bands who used to be my favorites, Iron Maiden and Yes and Sonic Youth, but now they're each just one of many whom I like, each one of many with highlights and lowlights and stories and albums and songs, and I really can't say I prefer one to any other any more.

I think I have said something like "Boris are the best band on the planet" in the recent past, and on reflection now as I write I do even believe that to be true. But still, I wouldn't say Boris are my favorite band. Maybe it's splitting hairs, but I think not.

Perhaps it's that I now realize everything will turn to shit at some point, every band will break up, or release their sell-out album, or get in a lifechanging car accident, or just reach a point where they now no longer agree with me on the things I listen to them for.

Or maybe it was the fallow period that I had, four or five years in the mid nineties when I paid less attention to music than at any other time in my life, a time when I was led to concentrate on other things, a time which passed without anguish and relatively painlessly while my formerly favorite outfits worked on without my attention.

But mostly, I think it's this: of course I've had fun with my blogspot and now with my tumblr, but I believe I have a greater respect for the music now, as I now have a greater respect for growing older. I do take it more seriously than I did back when I was riding my bike to the record store. This isn't making silly lists in history class anymore. It's the way I live my life, powerful music to accompany me and to grab hold of as I struggle through. What it is, I figure, is that I've dropped some of my adolescent enthusiasms while still maintaining my enthusiasm.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Death - "Trapped in a Corner" from the CD Individual Thought Patterns

Death Individual Thought Patterns CD coverChuck Schuldiner's dead. Been dead. I had no idea.

I'm not so sure whether the honorific that's tossed Schuldiner's way--"The Father of Death Metal"--is entirely accurate. I'm no expert but a quick look at Wikipedia confirms that both Carcass and Possessed released albums considered firmly in the death metal camp before Schuldiner's band put out their first LP in 1987.

But father or no, he was in there early. Think about it: his band was named Death. How early do you have to get into the death metal racket to ensure that the name "Death" hasn't already taken?

Death Leprosy CD coverSo father, maybe not, but pioneer: yes, absolutely. Back in my most thrashtastic days in the late '80's, I remember being aware of Death. I guess I'd seen Scream Bloody Gore or more likely Leprosy in the metal bins at the record stores. Anyway, I'd seen the logo and it's hard to forget it once you have. Even if you've not listened to the music.

A deep skepticism of the growling vocals* that my metalhead buddy Alan and I had developed kept me from listening to Schuldiner's band as it began. And my own estrangement from music for most of the '90's kept me from discovering them as they matured into tech death greatness.

Atheist Piece of Time CD coverIt was probably in 2007 when I stumbled across the Wikipedia entry for Atheist's Piece of Time and thence to the article on technical death metal. Having been into prog and fusion for basically my entire adult life, the terms in which Atheist specifically and tech death in general were being described, its complex rhythms and time signatures, its experimentation, appealed to me. Surely to get at this music I could put up with some growls?

I could. Piece of Time once I bought it, in its relentless epicyclicity became a brutal, headbanging favorite, and thereafter I went looking for more tech death. One of the better albums I came up with was Individual Thought Patterns by Death.

And thoough I never really dug further into the Death canon, never delved enough, really, to find out even that their frontman had died, stupidly, tragically, the songs from that album have been in regular iTunes/iPod rotation for me ever since.

But I had no idea dude was dead, none whatsoever.

* * * * * * * * *

President ObamaYou may have noticed on Friday that an Atlanta appellate court had ruled key parts of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (some people, mostly those who complain about it, call it "Obamacare") to be unconstitutional, upholding a challenge to the law brought by Chuck Schuldiner's one-time home state, and mine own.

CNN tells me that Stephanie Cutter, an assistant to the president on the matter, disagreed with the rulling. "By bringing everyone into the health insurance system, we can not only lower costs for everyone but also finally ban discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions," she said.

* * * * * * * * *

While in the studio in early 1999, Schuldiner had felt some neck pain, and went to a doctor for what he figured would be a pinched nerve. After an MRI, it was found that instead, horribly, he had brain cancer; it was a large tumor growing on the pons part of his brainstem that was pressing on the nerve.

Chuck SchuldinerHe immediately began radiation treatment, but was told the tumor was inoperable. After some time, he was told that the tumor had necrotized, not diasappeared but begun to die, and also that there WAS a surgery option; however, it was *really* expensive . . . .

Obviously I don't have Chuck Schuldiner's tax statements, but it's pretty clear that playing this brutal esoteric death metal could not have been that lucrative for him. And none of the record labels he had recorded for had ever provided health insurance. In any case, when it turned out that the possible surgery could only be performed at NYU, the hopital at first demanded 20,000 dollars before any operation could be performed. When the Schuldiner family said that was impossible and refused to sign away future royalties as was suggested, and MTV News started calling the hospital in following the story, the hospital agreed to accept 5,000, and the Schuldiners were able to come up with that amount.

He got the surgery in January of 2000, and it was reported to the media that it was successful, though later it would be revealed that only half the tumor was removed.
Schuldiner returned to work on a new album with a new group, but in May 2001, he was told that the cancer had returned, and that once again he would need surgery.

Chuck SchuldinerSchuldiner had bought insurance in the aftermath of the first episode, but the insurer he chose refused to pay for any of the newly-needed procedures, saying that the condition Schuldiner had was pre-existing. Schuldiner and his family were deeply in debt after the first go-round, so had very little to do but go begging in the face of this rejection.

"There is something terribly wrong when a country as great as America will let their citizens die for lack of insurance or money," Schuldiner's family said in a statement at the time. "[We are] aware every time [he needs treatment] that if we do not get the money, he will die."

The metal community during the Summer of 2001 mobilized itself as well as it could in order to help the Death frontman. Benefit gigs were played and benefit auctions were held. Some of this money, that which wasn't lost to crookedness or ineptitude, even got to the Schuldiners. They were able to get Chuck on a regimen of a chemotherapy drug called vincristine, but there never was a second surgery, as Chuck, weakened by the chemo, died in December of 2001.
* * * * * * * * *

I have worked for the same small industrial supply company for what is approaching twenty years. And while they have paid me a salary that has allowed me to take on a grossly inflated mortgage, they have never offered me health insurance. At certain times this has been irrelevant, as I cruised through the months healthy and unbothered. At other times, though--and now is one of those times--I have had to reach into my pocket to pay for the doctors I've needed to see. And let's also say that after six years of salary stagnation, and nearly 15 points of inflation, my ability to reach down is severely limited.

I can understand when it comes down to it why a small business would be unable to offer health insurance. The nature of groups is like the economies of scale that all businessmen understand. So if you've got a five-person company like the one I work at, it's difficult to get a good rate on health insurance. I understand that.

So why do these cocksuckers--cocksuckers like my boss, like this so-called Tea Party, like the magnates that run the corporations we work for and buy from--fight a plan that would create the largest (and therefore cheapest) group of all?

Obamacare is the law of the fucking land, yet the Right, which only gets more neolithic and only gets more savage in its ongoing war upon the middle class, and they won't be happy until 99% of the country's resources are in 1% of its pockets. Death.Nothing you see around you--not the ridiculous argument over a debt ceiling that had been raised seven fucking times under George W Bush, not this absurd Norquist pledge, not the activist ruling penned by Dubina Friday--should convince you of anything but.

They didn't give a rat's ass if Chuck Schuldiner died, and (unless you've got a boatload of money) they don't care if you do, either.

File under: Death Metal

*We made an exception for Sepultura, not sure what our reasoning was, now that I think on it (Return)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

La Historia: The Tumblr

So I started a Tumblr blog Friday. I wanted to send a link to my Sonic Youth piece to a dude who I follow on Tumblr, and their system told me I had to register with them if I wished to send a message.

So what the fuck, right? Pictures and snippets will go there, longer pieces will continue to be placed here. So during any future post-lapses, you can always head over there and see if I've posted anything that-away.

Take a look now if you'd like.

I also created a little sidebar section here to hold a link to the Tumblr and Astroland and a few other blogs I visit. It's really long overdue that I link back to TAD and Mr. Crabb. The "Site-Specific" title is a nod to the Earth "song," natch.

That is all.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sonic Youth - "Confusion is Next" From the CD Confusion is Sex

Or, Thurston Moore is a Big Fuckin' Dick

Sonic Youth Confusion is Next CD cover
infographic from Spin article on Nirvana 8/11I guess I ought to start visiting Pitchfork again, or start blog-hopping at It seems a little repetitive to always be writing about what Spin has written for the month.

Also: I remember when I was reading Shakey, Jimmy McDonough's excellent biography of Neil Young. And I disappeared inside the thing, became engrossed. I was reading about when Young came to LA, and had formed the Buffalo Springfield with Stills and Furay and all the rest of them. And evidently there was a perceived rivalry--at least from the Springfield's point-of-view--between the Buffalo Springfield and The Byrds. I became so wrapped up in this that I started telling Cerveza whenever I had been given half a chance about how much better Buffalo Springfield had been than The Byrds.

And Cerveza was like, why are you telling me this? Why should I care, why does it matter, when this little city of the angels folk-rock turf war you detail took place almost 40 years ago?

That's why I've always tried to keep things positive around here, because while the good stuff is always relevant, nothing seems more pointless than bitching about things which ended up getting resolved decades ago.

But, maybe, some things haven't gotten resolved, and remain a viable target.

Buy Nevermind Buy Nevermind Buy Nevermind Buy Nevermind Do it Now Do it Now Do it Now Do it NowSpin's latest issue is a 20th anniversary shindig for Nevermind, and while I've already told my Nevermind story, these are worth reading, too, an oral history sort of thing, a few more ambitious analyses, and a couple infographics.

It's one of the infographics that got me going, hope you dug my scan as you were passing it by. If not, go back, and note what's circled in the graphic with the aqua. I bet you're not surprised that I can wait here while you do.

Did you have this T-shirt?You see them over and over again, these references to Sonic Youth's assumed integrity, and you get tired of it, this fault--not a feature--in the critical landscape that we see when we look around us.

So it is understood let me say it plainly: Sonic Youth were a great band for nearly ten years, and have been at the least relevant for three times as long. They were my favorite band for five years, and not just for five years, bur for the coolest five years of my life. I listen to them plenty even now. This is not a "Sonic Youth sucks" post, or even a "Sonic Youth is overrated" one. I love 85% of this band's music, including the 29-year old, but still truly mind-wrenching tune I have selected for download today.

But it seems to me that if you are as a guitarist or as a bassist or as a person intent on taking the path to paragon of integrity, a good place to start is by not being a fucking asshole.

Quite frankly, no-one is as cool as Thurston Moore thinks he is. For 25 years, Moore--and his wife, too, really--have run around living their lives and making artistic decisions for their band based on the proposition that the coolness of anything they touched would accrue unto them.

When I saw that they'd covered "Beat on the Brat" for Master-Dik, I thought it was pretty cool, and neither "I Wanna Be Your Dog" from Confusion nor "Bubblegum" from the "Starpower" single set off the red flag.

Cover of Sonic Youth 'Personality Crisi' 45But whether it was their cover of "Personality Crisis" or of "Ça Plane Pour Moi" or of "Moist Vagina" or even of "Victoria" that in the end tipped me off, at some point it struck me like a 165 gram frisbee upside the noodle that SY were trying one by one to get the entire fucking canon in.

As if when they covered the New York Dolls, they got to keep any of the Dolls' leftover coolness that the surviving members weren't using, as if there were a kewlness account somewhere they could squirrel it all away to and withdraw from when their ego needed.

Enough to make you feel a certain fondness for Dinosaur Jr, for their cover of "Show Me The Way," it never bothered J Mascis at all; he never thought covering Peter Frampton might make his band less cool.

And good for him in his security. As for SY: Why does a band whose own work is so respected feel so insecure?

OK, two more stories, let me hammer this thing home.

A couple years back, I spent some time talking about "I'm Not A Young Man Anymore", this long-lost Velvet Underground song that surfaced in early 2008. I made a very big deal about it, because it was a very big deal, a never-previously heard live track of outstanding quality from a seminal band.

Velvet Underground Gymnasium album coverLooking now in Wikipedia, I see that in 2008, Rage Against the Machine and My Bloody Valentine played shows for the first time since their respective heydays, and I see that Paul McCartney played Israel for the first time since 1965. Bo Diddley and Rick Wright died, while M83, Fleet Foxes, Vampire Weekend and Deerhunter released breakthrough albums. But I'd still say that the recovery of "I'm Not a Young Man. . . ." was the musical story of the year.

And I guess that Thurston got jealous of all the attention that Lou and John and Sterling and Mo were getting, 'cause when Moore made his appearance at South By Southwest in March of '08, he announced that he would play the song. There's no other way to look at it: Moore was trying to divert some of the attention that had been directed to the song onto himself. I hate him for this. The only people who had any right to play that fucking song at SXSW were the ones who played it at the fucking Gymnasium, and Thurston trying to steal the limelight for himself is most definitely not the action of a "paragon of integrity."

And then there was the time I read that Moore and Gordon had 1) named their dog "Merzbow" after the obscure Japanese noise project 2) made recordings of their dog barking 3) sent those recordings to the actual Japanese noise artist.

Merzbow, or at least the dude who calls his music thatChrist. Naming your fucking dog "Merzbow" is, now that I think about it, very much the same as covering an obscure academic curiosity like Steve Reich's "Pendulum Music" (which, guess what? SY have also done). Such a pointless act can only come from a conviction that coolness can be swept into some kind of continually-growing ashpile, and he who has the biggest pile wins, and also that obscurity a priori = cool.

Arrgh. It makes me want to kill yr idols. I'm gonna skip the way SY mercilessly dissed the Jesus and Mary Chain on an EP only some few years after worshipfully name-dropping them in the liner notes to EVOL, and I'll skip the whole ironic we-love-Madonna thing, which I can look back at, and hate.

But hopefully you get my point despite my incompleteness. Though they may be supernally innovative artists, with a catalog of revolutionary works, Sonic Youth are not paragons of integrity as is so popularly (and so tiresomely) supposed. They're more like total dicks who have their priorities all bass-ackwards.

I've never felt the need to admire the artists who make the music I like, but still, it sure is confusing.

File under: Pigfuck, Postpunk

Monday, July 18, 2011

Marilyn Manson & the Spooky Kids - "Misery Machine" from the Live As Hell Demo Tape

Marilyn Manson & the Spooky Kids Live as Hell Demo TapeRead something interesting if not necessarily immediately arresting to me last week at Boing Boing. Said that the current laws regarding sampling are so screwed up, it would cost The Beastie Boys 22-1/2 million dollars to clear the rights for Paul's Boutique, should they try to record and release their odd psychedelic classic in the here and now.

And you know, okay, point made, but let's face it: no-one--least of all The Beastie Boys--is trying to make Paul's Boutique these days. If someone was, I might be listening to that somebody's rap, but there isn't, and I'm not.

So my immediate response to the little anti-copyright treatise on the big anti-copyright website is, call me when it affects an artist I give a shit about . . . .

But guess what: even though my hip don't hop, and even though I haven't been a Marilyn Manson fan in twenty years, I was reminded today that, even for cool rock dudes with their heads in the sand, it's not too terribly hard to come up with an example of a song that had been pretty much disemboweled by copyright restrictions.

Once it bumps you on the iPod, I mean.

* * * * * * * * *

Misfits Die Die My Darling 45 CoverDanzig Who Killed Marilyn 45 Cover
I've always said that Glenn Danzig was cooler back when his songs referenced pulp novels and comic books, and I can speak from experience when I say the same thing about Marilyn Manson.

Like Danzig, the erstwhile Brian Warner had a fascination with junk-culture ephemera that receded once he decided that some more gullible fans might buy into the Antichrist bit.

Though I wasn't at the show Tim told me about, where Warner, I mean Manson, took a stagedive into a crowd that made a collective and concerted effort NOT to catch him, I did attend at least two and maybe more Manson shows in South Florida, back before he jettisoned his Kids, back before he signed on the dotted line for Trent Reznor.

The Mystery MachineThey were good shows as I remember, Marilyn and his Kids circa 1990 the hardest working band on the South Florida dive bar circuit, no Antichrist schtick developed yet, but plenty of dummies and mannequins on stage, Manson rocking his Perry Farrell look but the Spooky Kids usually in drag, always high energy, always a kaleidoscopic light show projected onto the venue's walls, full of Rocky Horror-style high camp, images of Lost in Space lunchboxes, of the Cat in the Hat, and of Scooby Doo.

Bringing us back to "Misery Machine," which in the version I present for you here, features not only a four-second clip of Those Meddling Kids to introduce things, but also a splice of James Brown his ownself, telling us in a bit stolen from "King Heroin" how riding in the Machine would ride you to hell . . . .

It seems a little hard to believe now that Trent's people couldn't clear the James Brown stuff, considering rappers had been ripping the Godfather off for a good fifteen years when this stuff was first looked at. But they couldn't get it cleared, and they couldn't clear the Mystery, Inc. stuff with Hanna-Barbera, either, though that's probably less of a surprise.

Marilyn Manson Portrait of an American Family CD coverSo the version that ended up getting released on the Manson debut album was missing its best parts. I guess the "blood is pavement" line still works, and so does the "I am fueled by fuel and fury," they're mighty powerful in fact, in either version, especially at loud volume. But all of the cool subtext is fucking gone in the version of the song that most people know. And that's all kinds of fucked up.

Manson/Warner could have used a bassplayer who belongs to Polydor, and Polydor would have gotten it done on their courtesy. But he couldn't use a five-second sample that live DJ's have been using since time immemorial.

Which I guess is what they were talking about in the Boing Boing article; I just had to find the right way of looking at it to appreciate it. Marilyn Manson in my opinion kind of took an unfortunate path with his career after he broke out of South Florida. He got rid of the cool stuff and kept the stupid. That's his fault.

But the fact that his latter-day fans haven't heard the ace version of his best song, that, my sampling and MCing and DJing friends, that appears to be the fault of some silly and obsolete industry dogma.

Marilyn Manson And The Spooky Kids - Misery Machine.mp3

160 kbps mp3, up for six weeks (right click and save as target)

File under: Spooky Snacks

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Washington Squares - "Fourth Day of July" From the CD Fair and Square

How about we do it Tumblr-style (sorta) today?

Washington Squares - Fair and Square - 01 Fourth Day of July.mp3

File under: Neo-beatnik Neo-folk

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Psychedelic Furs - "Dumb Waiters" from the CD Talk Talk Talk

Psychedelic Furs Talk Talk Talk CD cover
So the U2 360° tour passed through town Wednesday. I was not at Sun Life Stadium for the event, nor had I wished to be.

I have instead put my measly weekly discretionary income aside for The Psychedelic Furs, who are playing The Culture Room tonight.

If I were looking for the authentic concert experience, and why wouldn't I be, then it probably should have been the U2 show I steered myself toward. After all, U2 released a new album of original material as recently as two years ago, and they are touring of course with a lineup composed entirely of original members.

Taking a quick look at the Psych Furs' Wikipedia page and at the band's own site, I see that the last time the Furs released a new album of original material, it was 1991, and that only two out of six in the current touring lineup were onhand 31 years ago for the debut elpee.

Consider that tickets to the U2 show could have been had for as little as thirty bucks, and that The Culture Room is asking 25 tonight, and I appear to have allocated my time and my money somewhat rashly.

The question, then, almost assaults you in its eagerness to be formed: Why would I wanna go see some nostalgia band when for almost the same dough I could have gone to see something that is continuing to evolve?

Well, the smartass answer to that question is simply that I don't like what U2 is evolving into.

Seriously, I liked the Irish blokes in the '80's, when Bono 'n' The Edge 'n' Adam Clayton 'n' Larry Mullen basically copyrighted the angular postpunk pop anthem. But their music in the nineties and in the aughts moved away from that sound, into some kind of nethergroove I don't get, and I chose--rightly I think--not to follow.

And if The Psychedelic Furs have stopped evolving because they've stopped producing original music, maybe the most important upshot of that is that they stopped growing at a place where I still liked them.

The Furs' site says that their current set of dates is the "Talk Talk Talk 30th Anniversary Tour," and though I don't know if any Furs album is the complete masterpiece that would truly deserve such honorifics, I still think the fact that they'll be playing their second album in order tonight, in its entirety, is pretty cool.

Even if John Ashton and Vince Ely and Duncan Kilburn won't be some of the ones playing it.

* * * * * * * *

I see, as they are fond of saying on the internet, what I did there. After spending two days writing condescendingly about the nostalgia process and the way it replaces critical listening, I lay down some bullshit that suggests nostalgia's OK when I choose to invoke it.

Guilty, I suppose.

Psychedelic Furs Midnight to Midnight CD CoverThis won't be the first time I've seen The Psychedelic Furs, as it happens. I think it was 1987 and the band was touring off Midnight to Midnight. If that album wasn't the band's artistic height, it was certainly the height of their success, and its promo tour came to the fancy-ass James L Knight Center at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Miami.

I remember that the newest AOR station in town at the time, WGTR, was sponsoring the thing, their personnel as they raised the banners and introduced the show blithely ignoring the sad fact that the station featured none of The Furs' music in their daily playlists. The station had brought along their two-and-a-half storey inflatable guitar-playing monkey, and had tried to raise it outside the hall, but it, fittingly and pathetically both, was in a sad state, non compos erectus, I guess you could say.

Maybe it was because of the ringtail radio station or that monkey or the sad truth that once I got inside, I was completely sober. But despite the fact that the show was well-played, and well-engineered, with no glaring mistakes of performance or of sound, I left the show a little bit annoyed.

I think it was mostly the lighting. The band had a huge glitzy sign that swung forward at louder moments, practically illuminating the entire hall in faceted diamond light, and the whole thing looked and felt so Hollywood and so mechanical to me. It sure as fuck didn't feel like the Psychedelic Furs, who had always seemed much darker, much smokier, much more noir than all that gaudy rockstar bullshit.

I think Richard Butler will tell you now that Midnight to Midnight was the closest his band came to a sellout album, and would agree if you told him the album was his band's most blatant attempt to enter the mainstream. And I guess I just found some measure of offense in the way that the lighting and the stage show were so blatantly mainstream, as well. I was, like, I'm not sure who told these guys they were stars, but . . . .

Anyway, the Culture Room, while having made some improvements over the past few years, is still a hot and sweaty dive and a major fire trap, to boot. Maybe a better name for the band I'll be seeing tonight would be "The Butler Brothers Plus a Few Guys Who Played On Midnight to Midnight." But let's not quibble. If I can be pardoned for reaching back into my past, three quarters of the reason I'm taking the plunge this eve is that I'm hoping maybe tonight I'll see the Psychedelic Furs as they should be seen.

File Under: Concerts That Rastro Went To

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Brain Damage Part 2

Thinking a little further about yesterday's post (and thank you Mr. Crabb for commenting on it). . . .

Alright, so I'm bitching about corporate radio stations and the litany of same old same old. Fair enough.

But why DO the corporate stations structure things in the way that they do? Or, to penetrate one of the sheerest veils, what is it about the same old same old that makes these companies money?

Melanie is something of a foodie, and she is fond of using the term "comfort food." The meaning is a little nebulous (or maybe it's just that my understanding of the term is nebulous), but examples are things like macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes.

These are high-carbohydrate foods, yes, but more to the point, they are also things your mom might have made you when you were a kid. Most of us like the carbs, but what's most important to these foods and to this concept is that they remind us as adults of the simpler times we had when were children.

So what I'm guessing is that the Classic Rock format functions as comfort music. Now, the magic period being evoked moves up a few years, from childhood to adolescence, but if you're in that 30 - 50 demographic that these stations seem to target, and your contracting business is in the shitter and you've got three more years of child support to pay, and they just raised the rent on your duplex another 75 bucks, I can definitely understand if you'd rather listen to something that reminds you of yourself when you were a bit more piss and vinegar.

It's why music like Dust or Sir Lord Baltimore or Nick Drake or Matching Mole or Can or anything else semi-obscure like that, though all of it is properly of and belongs to the quote-unquote classic rock era, won't get played on Classic Rock radio.

They didn't play this stuff back then, so there's a void where the memory-trigger is supposed to be now. The Clear Channel programmers understand that nobody is going to be comforted by an obscure 7-minute track from some band they've never heard of. People for the most part want what's easy, and if you don't make their music easy, you've given them no reason to return to your small slice of the radio spectrum over and over again. And return visits are what radio advertising is all about.

It's all well and good if people like me and Mr. R Smith and Tad and all the other likeminded music geeks on the freaking internet wanna go out (actually, in my case that should read 'wanna force themselves to go out') and challenge themselves with something new or something buzzsaw or something progressive or something obscure.

But I'm guessing most people (and most people who listen to Classic Rock stations) don't need any additional challenges. They've got enough already, courtesy of their government or their boss or their ex-spouse.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pink Floyd - "Brain Damage" from the Album Dark Side of the Moon

Pink Floyd Dark Side of the YawnOne of my favorite things in the whole world is when I go on over to RS Crabb's Top Ten site and he's written another rant about how terrible Classic Rock radio is.

"Fucking radio kills me," he says.

Such purity of emotion, you know? Some Clear Channel automaton plays "Margaritaville," and Crabby's near suicide. Then if an enlightened DJ plays Eddie and the Hot Rods, his faith in humanity is restored.

You need to be wary of such wild mood swings, Crabby, my friend. Not that I don't think that mass market rock radio sucks, I'm sure it does. Every now and then I'm even reminded.

But because of the iPods I've owned and put into usage, very little of the time I spend listening to music is spent listening to the radio. The concept of Classic Rock radio's suckitude is not actually transmitted to me all that often.

I mean, Christ, if III's shuffle plays the same Dust song over successive sessions, I get annoyed. If it serves up a couple of Maiden covers back to back I'm wondering how come the Shuffle ain't Shuffling. So I truly can't imagine what it must be like to listen to commercial radio on a regular basis. I do imagine tortuous alternate universes, like the one in which my boss brings a radio into the office to increase some vaguely defined concept of "workplace spirit," and I thereafter have to listen to "Rhiannon" four times a day, every day.

No thanks. Fortunately the boss in real life is so unhip that he's hip, know what I mean? I'd rather slit my wrists than listen to the kind of music you can play in an office. No thanks, well-wishers, I'll just go back and forth up and down Blogspot in the blessed silence broken only by the ringing phone like I'm oh so happy doing.

So, what I'm trying to say is I do understand that it must be fucking horrible, listening to that stuff the way they hurl it at you, over and over and over and over, til you're sick of what you might have once liked. But I so rarely feel it as viscerally as Mr. Smith does.

Got a taste today of how he must be feeling, though.

A quick but savage lightning bolt overwhelmed my backup as it so often gets overwhelmed on Sunday. And for some reason programs on a certain drive don't come back after a restart, so to make a long story short, III was all confused as I undocked this morning; he never came on, I flip the switch, see the green, but no music for the hour long commute in.

And no music for the hourlong commute home, either. Even should I in desperation turn to it for music, FM radio would not be an option in the morning, 'cause all anybody ever does is talk. So I dunno, I just go into this zenlike state and focus on the various roadways' thermoplastic dividing lines.

But coming home, I figured, well, what the hell, it's better than silence, let's just bite the bullet and throw Big 106 on.

And it started off OK. "Don't Bring Me Down" is a little too popular, a little too poppy, for inclusion on my iPod. But I DO listen to ELO, "10538 Overture"'s a fave, and so is "Fire On High." Plus when I was a kid we knew this guy Bruce, and I think it was Steven Singer who always sang, "Dont Bring me Down, Bruuuuuce," it was hilarious, and good to remember that, actually.

Then they did the 5:30 funnies and it was some black dude talking about Viagara, I didn't get it, but no harm done either. And then--at 5:40 in the afternoon, mind you--they played "Brain Damage" by Pink Floyd.

I'm pretty sure they've overplayed "Stairway to Heaven" more severely. But you know, "Stairway to Heaven" heard during a traffic jam actually kind of works. "Stairway to Heaven" has a majesty that they've tried to kill but that dies hard.

Whereas "Brain Damage," heard anytime with the sun shining is just kind of stupid.

Heard anytime sober it's kind of stupid as well, I'm guessing. "Brain Damage" might have been alright once, but its bell-like peals can't take a punch the way "Stairway" can.

But mostly, I'm just feeling a numbness where my opinion of "Brain Damage" used to be.

I remember back in the day, when I was delivering The Herald, there used to be this guy who called into one of the morning shows every day, requesting "Careful With That Axe Eugene."

I don't know if I should be that guy, I don't know if I could be that guy, but someone sure as hell should.

At this late date, I can't remember what it was like when "Brain Damage" was new to me, when it hadn't been bludgeoned to death. I kind of suspect it's not that special a tune in actuality, that it is probably comfortably nestled into its little nook, dwarfed by the monumental constructions that are tunes by the Floyd like "Sheep" or "Echoes."

But I don't know that for a fact, and this numbness where an emotional reaction to a song used to be inside kind of pisses me off, now that I'm thinking about it, this evening, now that I'm *really* feeling what Crabby's been feeling.

Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon - "Brain Damage"

I really don't see any reason to post this, because if you really want to hear it, they're probably playing it right now on some nearby Classic Rock station. Or perhaps Roger Waters has commenced yet another Dark Side of the Moon anniversary tour at a venue near you, tickets won't be cheap but they should be available.

File Under: Overplayed, Underdone

Monday, May 23, 2011

The White Stripes - "The Union Forever" from the CD White Blood Cells

White Stripes White Blood Cells CD coverMy experience is, it's more likely that a new song about an old movie will be worthwhile than a new movie about an old song.

Not that "The Union Forever" is new, mind you, but please understand there is in general a time lapse involved when considering my picking up on things known to most others. . . .

You might say I had no idea what this song was about until I saw what it was about.

I still remember when I met Donna, she was incredulous that I hadn't seen The Godfather. I was like, Jeez Louise (I was like, Jeez Louise, with her a lot), it's not such a big deal, I watch what I like and this is how it's turned out, my canon or whatever. Apocalypse Now and A Clockwork Orange and Chinatown and Meatballs and Where the Buffalo Roam, what the fuck's wrong with that?

Nonetheless, I made sure as soon as we were settled in to mosey on down to the Blockbuster and rent the trilogy, which we took in order over some long mid-nineties weekend.

From then on, I tried to make sure I'd seen the movies I should be seeing, a Vertigo here and a 12 Angry Men there, and by the time I met Melanie, whose film knowledge borders on the encyclopedic, I'd seen most of the movies you need to see, seen most of the ones Melanie would have expected me to see, most of the American ones anyway.

But somehow I'd missed Casablanca, so a few weeks back Melanie got her Netflix account to send us the Bogart-Hepburn thing, and it was, I have to say, a pretty great film.

Well, I then thought, what other 70-year old movie hadn't I seen?

Citizen Kane sat around the house for a couple weeks before we finally watched it Saturday. That's because it--the idea of it--is intimidating. The weight of its supposed greatness, the heaviness of that Rosebud jazz, the last words and the innocence-symbol, all the film snobs who go on and on about it, all this stuff preceeds it, and makes it hard not to infer that the film might be juuust a tad dry.

And while now that I've seen it I can say that Citizen Kane isn't dry, and is for the most part a pretty enjoyable film, it's no laugh riot. And it's not stainless, either. "Rosebud" as a plot device, the last words dripping with import, and the reporter's intrepid search for their meaning, isn't quite pulled off, and the film feels torpid in spots where it fails. And it, to be honest, isn't carried inexorably forward by snapping great dialogue, the way Casablanca is.

There is a great script underneath it all, but it consists mostly of monologue, characters talking at each other rather than with each other. Some of that is merely a reflection of the way that Charles Foster Kane conducts his business, but some of it speaks to the film's didacticism, its penchant for lecturing us about Charles Foster Kane at the drop of a hat.

Now, you might argue that the film invites conflicting opinions of Mr. Kane, as did its promotional materials, and you would be correct. But it doesn't change the fact that the viewer sure does get lectured multiple times. . . .

But anyway: back to said great script. You have to pick through, but parts of the movie sound so very good, and Jack White has noted this fact well for us with his song.

Not that I knew he had until after I'd seen the movie, though.

Towards the beginning of the movie, the young Charles Kane is cavorting onscreen in the snow, when I hear him shout "The Union Forever!" And instantly I think of The White Stripes, because, you know, you don't hear that phrase very often elsewhere. It even seems out of place in the film.

I chalk it up to coincidence, however--until I hear Kane upon his 25th birthday tell Thatcher that he's sorry, he's not interested in gold mines, oil wells, shipping or real estate.

And I realized--loudly as it happened, so that Melanie would know too (this might have been rude)--that Jack White had written his spooky song I already quite favored about Citizen Kane.

In tracking this down on the net after the movie was over, I came across quite a few who said that their appreciation for The White Stripes had increased now that they knew the band had written a song about Citizen Kane.

Well, I'm here to tell ya: my appreciation for Citizen Kane has increased, now that I know the White Stripes have written about it!

Given the, um, certain varying stated and actual relationships that Meg and Jack have had, it's tempting to try and parse the snippets from the movie that White has used in his lyrics for meaning.

It's very tempting. Leland says that all Kane "wanted out of life was love...he just didn't have any to give." And Kane in flashback toasts "to love on my terms." But the movie doesn't employ much of its space on the word love, and I don't believe that the movie when it comes down to it is all that much about love or the lack of it.

Personally, I think the movie's about how one man can gain the power and the freedom to do fuck all whatever he wants, and how the natural consequence of so doing is that he will be forced to endure a thousand different unpowerful and unfree little people as they weigh in with a thousand different unfree opinions about just what it was he was trying to do. That, in the old parlance, opinions about a man's life are like assholes; everybody's got one.

But let's never mind what I believe, because it is more intriguing to think that Jack White--whose most famous relationship had been broken and then clumsily repaired before anyone even knew who the fuck he was--might see the film in terms that nullify the possibility of true love.

The White Stripes - White Blood Cells - 07 The Union Forever.mp3

File under: Celluloid Heroes

Sunday, May 15, 2011

On This Date

Brain Eno
Happy birthday to Brian Eno, and Happy Brian Eno's birthday to everyone else.

Did you know that ABBA is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but that Eno is not?

This despite Eno's role in the establishment of the seminal art rock band Roxy Music. This despite the revoltionary quartet of art pop albums Eno released under his own name between 1973 and 1977. This despite the tape loop processes he pioneered in his work with Robert Fripp. This despite the production and the songs and the ideas that he brought to work he did with no less than five artists already in that Hall since then.

This despite ABBA's recorded output.

I don't like to inappropriately use the word "travesty."

Both Henry Kissinger, who oversaw the war in Vietnam and masterminded its incendiary expansion into Cambodia, and Barack Obama, who continued both wars he was handed, and then started a third for good measure, won the Nobel Peace Prize.

THOSE are what I call travesties.

So I won't be hyperbolic here and use the word "travesty," especially since the man himself is either unaware or couldn't care less. And people, you know, do not, and justly do not, take the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame all that seriously.

But if ABBA is in and Eno is out at that silly museum in Cleveland, then I have no choice but to steal the word from Hipster Kittty and call it a SHAMOCKERY.

Brian Eno Nerve Net album coverBrian Eno - Nerve Net - 05 - My Squelchy Life.mp3

320 kbps mp3, up for six weeks

File under: The Vision Thing

La Historia Word Cloud

Given my love of stupid widgets, I'm sure you're surprised I hadn't posted one of these ages ago . . . .

I copied the text from my atom feed, which goes back 25 posts, and then used notepad to edit out the boring words, prepositions articles pronouns, relative and otherwise, and forms of the verb to be.

File under: More Bullshit

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Nine Inappropriate Classic Rock Album Covers

I remember writing some time ago about an album cover that was particularly apt. These are the flipside. Not horrible, necessarily, not laughable, nor even bad, just wrong in some way for the music contained within.

Molly Hatchet first album cover
Molly Hatchet S/T

The artwork by Frank Frazetta is a sword and sorcery classic, but somebody forgot to tell Danny Joe Brown and the rest of them about the equivalencies between fantasy art and metal.

This would have been great as a Cirith Ungol cover, or for some other band with a name jacked from Tolkien, like Gorgoroth, or Amon Amarth. But for a Southern rock band whose best song is called "Gator Country?"

Not so much.

Boston Don't Look Back album cover
Boston - Don't Look Back

If the metal <==> sword and sorcery equivalency is damn near hard and fast, the prog <==> sci fi one is a little more fluid.

Yes kickstarted the sci-fi thing with the Fragile backstory, but they also went fantasy with Relayer. For every 2112, there's an In the Land of Pink and Grey.

Neither of which sound anything like Boston. Simply put, the Rock 'n' Roll Cities In Flight thing here doesn't work. Not for this album, not for this band. I'm not really judging the music. There's no need for me to slander Boston, at least at the present time.

But listen to it, or at least remember back to when you did: this is beach music, for sunny days, blue skies, hot chicks in pink bikinis. Frisbees. Nowhere in sight is there anything remotely resembling a fucking guitar starship. . . .

Rolling Stones Let It Bleed album cover
Rolling Stones - Let It Bleed

Because the one thing we all think of when we come across smokin' slide guitar blues rock, or for that matter achieve the sweet absolution when she spills her honeyed blood or splatters her musky nectar and makes a mess all over us, is . . . . birthday cake!

Sir Lord Baltimore album cover
Sir Lord Baltimore S/T

Proto-metal cult classic musically, but--and I guess it's because in 1971 they didn't have the metal iconography down pat yet--a bad misfire on the cover logo.

It's like you see some old concert poster from the early '70's and they've got Black Sabbath's name in some airy-fairy, wavy gravy hippie font. Metal is for angular Germanic fonts, goddamnit. Otherwise, how are we to know it's metal?

Jon Anderson Song of Seven album cover
Jon Anderson - Song of Seven

Son of a bitch made the album look like Olias when it don't sound like Olias

Neil Young & Crazy Horse Zuma album cover
Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Zuma

There's been some kind of mixup, apparently: this artwork had actually belonged on the cover of a Daniel Johnston album, right?

Roxy Music first album cover
Roxy Music S/T

Actually a little torn on this. On the one hand, it's not surprising that a band featuring two well-known horndogs like Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno should have an album cover that so obviously attempts to titillate.

But on the other hand, this is art rock. Growing up in the '80's, I was despite my best efforts inundated with T'n'A album covers from hair- or sleaze-metal bands like The Scorpions or Warrant, and this sure as hell ain't them.

Blue Öyster Cult On Your Feet Or On Your Knees album cover
Blue Öyster Cult - On Your Feet Or On Your Knees

I'm of the opinion that the cover art for live albums should--unless they are making a visual joke a la Kansas' Two for the Show or Aerosmith's Live! Bootleg--use some pictures that were taken of the band while, you know, playing live.

Think Double Live Gonzo or Live at Budokan or Rainbow's On Stage.

I don't know, maybe it's just me. But a picture of some limousine, even if it is festooned with the BÖ logo, doesn't convey the concert experience. At least Some Enchanted Evening had the Grim Reaper. . . .

Dust hard Attack albuym cover
Dust - Hard Attack

Another Frazetta, and basically, what I'd said about the Hatchet. Maybe if Dust had been some pagan black metal outfit from Norway rather than some hard rock dudes from New York, I'd be feeling the cover more.