Musings on music, old, new, popular and obscure. Post punk, metal, hip-hop, funk, and rock in general. A music fan with a desire to lose boundaries on what should and should not be listened to writes about experience in music from a listener's perspective, hopefully unhindered by prior expectation.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Everything's Gonna Be Cool This Christmas

I was raised in America, which means it's pretty much a given that I have some measure of familiarity with Christmas, as do most of us here. A bunch of Christmas carols and Christmas-related hymns are ingrained in my brain on various levels, but they were instilled so early that many of those songs have no major standing, or have been turned to white noise via repetition. It certainly doesn't help that I was convinced for many years that there was a place called Orientar, of which there were three very vocal kings.

It means that, these days--as with many things--I tend to aim for my own sense of both tradition and "Christmas," which often has interesting results. Because a lot of traditional music leaves me cold (for reasons I can elaborate on, but don't feel the need to here), it means pursuing Christmas songs from less traditional sources. Of course, this doesn't mean that this is a novel idea. There are fantastic lists of unusual or more recent lists of Christmas or holiday songs from various bands and artists over the last few decades, from faithful covers with rock instrumentation to strange, twisted covers on into both sincere and tongue-in-cheek songs written only in that same time frame.

Normally, I'm very lazy about this: I open my chosen media player (MediaMonkey) and create automatic playlists with filter words like "Christmas," "Xmas," "Winter," "Snow," and "Santa." Liking black metal can make this a multi-step process ("snow" and "winter" tend to show up as indicators of entirely different notions). Of course, plenty of other artists skew those results, too. It takes a bit, and for some reason I find myself starting over every year. I tried to start it up this year and found myself, instead, booting up the Christmas bonus levels of Epic MegaGames Jazz Jackrabbit--the original game having a solid soundtrack, and the Christmas levels having carols worked into the same style to great effect.

I did eventually get the list together and, as with every other year, a few tracks consistently and without question show up in that list:

"364 Days" and "Dead by Christmas" by the Murder City Devils
"Father Christmas" by the Kinks
"Homeless for Christmas" by the Black Halos
"Everything's Gonna Be Cool This Christmas" and "Christmas Is Going to the Dogs" by Eels
"Merry Fucking Christmas" by White Town
"Thanks for Christmas" and "Countdown to Christmas Party Time" by XTC
"The Closing of the Year" by the "Musical Cast of Toys" (Wendy & Lisa, former partners to Prince)

I suppose the most amusing of these tends to be the tracks by the Devils, Halos and Eels (once you hear it, White Town's track is less obvious by far). Of course, I use the word "amusing" at somewhat of a stretch. "364 Days" is from the Devils' last release, Thelema, and it is actually titled to reference the amount of the year that St. Nick spends "all alone." Spencer does invite Nick to "take off [his] boots, pour a drink," but then does add that, in doing this, he should "try not to cry, try not to think." It's a clever conceit for the song, and was not placed on the album to indicate its Christmas-relations. Its first release, though, was on the "Christmas Bonus Single" 7" in 1998, backed by, of course, "Dead by Christmas."¹ Self-loathing, nihilistic stories of infidelity are nothing unusual for them, but this Hanoi Rocks cover's Christmas setting certainly puts a different spin on it. As a song, though, it remains far more upbeat than the plaintive and aching "364 Days."

The Black Halos were a small Canadian punk band who actually shared a lot of labels with the Murder City Devils, both releasing their first albums on Die Young Stay Pretty before moving to Sub Pop, though the Devils stayed there until their initial breakup, while the Halos moved to a sublabel of Century Media who are usually known for metal releases. In any case, "Homeless for Christmas" is another inappropriately upbeat song, wherein Billy Hopeless, their vocalist, intones his desire not to be found, well, homeless for Christmas. As with many bands of the more independent stripes, this was another 7" release originally, a split with a band called Tuuli I know essentially nothing about (who are of course also doing a Christmas song on the release).

Eels' "Christmas Is Going to the Dogs" was actually from the live action Grinch movie, and tells of a Christmas celebration from a dog's perspective and does so quite well, though it predates front-man/only-man E's ownership of Bobby, Jr, Eels' dog mascot. Working in a chorus like "Christmas is going to the dogs/We'd rather have chew toys than yule logs," should get some kind of award, honestly. "Everything's Gonna Be Cool This Christmas" is probably the most "normal" of all these tracks, though it still comes from the deep, dark life that E has had in its way. It's a beacon of hope and optimism in the midst of that sensibility, though, and it shows.

"Father Christmas" is actually another on the dark side. The Kinks released the track in the 70s, after their initial phases of critical acclaim and before their popular breakout on the U.S. (the one, at least, that was not stunted by a ban from playing here). Ray sings of dressing up as Father Christmas and being accosted by a group of youths who insist: "Father Christmas, give us some money/We got no time for your silly toys/We'll beat you up if you don't hand it over/Give all the toys to the little rich boys."

XTC released their tracks as "The Three Wisemen" on a 7" and managed to work a strong, heavily electronic synth and a quirky, shuffling, danceable beat into the rather odd "Countdown to Christmas Partytime," (linked is Andy's demo, rather than the band version that was released, as XTC's catalog is a mess of red tape, multiple releases and confusions in general).

As someone who intends to spend the day watching Gremlins, Die Hard, and Scrooged (with possible slots for Black Christmas and Home Alone), this list is the kind that makes more sense to me, but it's the theme from the movie Toys that I actually find most evocative of my personal perception of the glowing positives of Christmas, especially when married to the footage it originally appeared next to. I don't have access to show you that, but I can leave you with the music video Wendy and Lisa did record for it, which does include some of that footage (and lets Seal make an appearance):

¹There has not been a digital release of the track to my knowledge. The video of it uploaded to youtube involves a dead animal, so I'm going to spare anyone and everyone. If this doesn't bother you, feel free to search it up.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How Does It Feel to Be Back?

I've been quiet for some time now as I've been in the process of moving--as I still am--which has limited my time to write here. However, I've now isolated my stereo and my music in their own room to allow for plenty of un-distracted listening. Once I get an appropriate chair in place, at least, which will hopefully inspire some expansion here, as music has not at all disappeared from my daily experience.

That the band from which I derived the title of this blog just responded to me on Facebook and shared what I wrote about them some time ago has certainly inspired the idea of expanding here again too, to be sure.

Stay tuned, as I intend to get more in here when I get a chance!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

It Puts My Back Up, Puts My Back Up Against the Wall -- The Frustrations of Closed Minds

In response to the impression that a positive voice is not so much unwelcome as uninteresting, as well as a series of changes in location and occupation, I've been refraining from posting much of late. It's difficult to maintain the attitude I wish to both as a person and in writing when I'm exposed so much more readily to the simplistic and snap judgments most impose on music and, often, its listeners, and certainly doesn't encourage the idea that putting that kind of attitude out there is of value to most of the world.

Those attitudes are what frustrate me most about the way music is taken these days--though I suspect the attitude is more re-framed than new in recent years and generations. The thought in general is not one I've failed to mention before, having noted its prevalence in affecting discussions of Ryan Adams, its usage to reduce genres to simplistic tropes, and in declaring the very object of this set of writings. Still, most of those are addressed more to those whose work is "published," at least in official website capacities, if not in print.

But the attitude is even more insistent in the public at large. There are, it's known, a handful of bands I sincerely do not like--and, of course, more out there I'm unaware of. Some of them are expected, some are obscure, but they're based on not liking what I heard for myself. In every case I can think of, it was actually after recommendations from people I liked as human beings at the time the recommendation was made, and I had every reason to follow the recommendation to appreciation rather than distaste. I feel a sense, not of haughty pride, but of relief that I can say that this is how I have determined these things--the philosophy I have that appreciation or disinterest should be formed on bases other than what admiration those opinions gain one.

But, consistently, I find things reduced simplistically for completely alternate reasons, and done in such vehement ways, at the mere mention of a re-evaluation in different lights or from different angles is returned as an impossibility. Most recently, this was leveled, in my "presence," at U2. Now, U2--in particular, Bono--receives a lot of head-shaking and derision these days. There are albums I don't like, there are songs I don't like--I was, oddly as opinions on their work tend to lean, not impressed by All That You Can't Leave Behind, finding, for instance, that "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of" is one of the most awkward song titles and choruses I've ever heard--nevermind that it was a tribute to Michael Hutchence of INXS, of whom I am a big fan. The song simply didn't work for me, feeling forced verbally. But I grew up on The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby, enough that the latter was easily my favourite of their albums, even without knowing what its critical reputation was--it tends to be, strangely, I think, a critics' darling but a lesser favourite compared to Joshua Tree.

The attitude I am running into, though, is that everything they ever did is, to directly quote, a "piece of shit." Out of thirty-three years of recorded music, every single thing they have ever done is that terrible? Instead of taking the easy way out and snarkily thanking someone for listening to every single song in their career and rating it for the rest of us, I decided to try and encourage the mentality I endorse in general, and referenced some of their more unusual, earlier songs--"11 O'Clock Tick Tock" and "Another Time, Another Place," from the single of the same name and the latter half of debut album Boy respectively. These particular songs would fit happily into any discussion of post punk, angular, energetic and jerky in that distant fashion that separates it so distinctly from the more catchy, pop-oriented nature of new wave. Naturally, the response I received was that different sounding shit was still shit--almost a guarantee that neither song had ever been heard, and the judgment was made purely by association with the band.

I'm not going to pretend I've gone through every piece of music recorded by every single band I dislike, but I'm also not going to tell anyone they are all "shit," nor, for that matter, am I inclined to call any of them "shit"--it's a pretty concrete, harsh judgment, at that point beginning to render judgment, by association, of any who feel otherwise. It's against my instincts not only to level the accusation openly, but to even think it privately. Certainly, I avoid those pieces of music personally--but I feel little need to come out ranting at those who feel something to the contrary.

This isn't, of course, anything new, now or, I'm sure, in decades past. It is more frustrating as the public voice--such as my own writings here--becomes more audible, available and widespread. Multiple generations join the accusations regularly, almost always leveled exclusively at acts currently active, be they long-term like U2, or fresh like--well, any newer artist. One of the most common blanket statements is that modern music is all terrible and it would be so much better if it were still the 1960s, the 1970s, or even the 1980s, despite the reputation the last has, culturally, overall. It's met with folks who grew up in some other decade who cling exclusively to what they grew up with, or with folks my age and younger who, for varying reasons, insist on maintaining their association with earlier music. "I'm 17 and I feel the same way," or "I'm 15 and I wish it was still the 1970s, Zep rules," or what have you, litter the internet and earn the appreciation of the majority, despite the pointlessly reductive nature of the comments.

Rose-tinted glasses tend to illustrate this mentality in its totality--accusations that Glee is being compared to the Beatles acts on the assumption that the charts were magically made entirely of the music we hear regularly now, despite the fact that many express pearl-clutching despair at the "travesty" of so-and-so having a #1 single now, despite the fact that Classic Rock Band X never did--which obviously tells us that there was something else in its place, though I suppose the assumption might be that 1970s charts ran "Zeppelin, Queen, Bowie, Clash, Kiss, Thin Lizzy..." or some such fantastic nonsense. A quick glance disproves this readily, showing names I've never heard, and inevitably earn the, "Oh, yeah, I'd forgotten all about that song..." responses from those who lived then.

Now, certainly, the pop charts in particular are more focused on the genres of music that seem to be "distilled" into the more confectionery variety of music, but that's a result of splitting charts, communities, genres and musical availability further and further as time goes on. We have a magazine named for an album named for a cover of a song that is used to describe an entire genre, for instance (No Depression). At that point, is it really fair to expect pop charts to run the gamut of genres? When you are able to pick a genre, a focal periodical or website, order independent releases directly and affect the charts in this fashion?

Of course, don't take this as dismissal of modern pop music as a whole--I don't get a chance to hear much these days, but I've liked plenty of songs here and there, and even own both of Lady GaGa's first albums for myself, as does one of my most well-rounded-musically friends, who could also manage an impressive bout of discussion about musical history. Certainly enough to scorch those who respect only "classic rock," as both of us listen to plenty of that, as well.

This also has led to increased willingness for people to more openly and visibly declare that they know better than an artist what they "mean" to do--not in the sense of feeling they aimed for something and missed, but of aiming for the "wrong" thing. Mike Mictlan of Doomtree recently released SNAXXX, an interim "mixtape" intended to tide us over until he finishes another complete album to follow up his debut with producer Lazerbeak, Hand Over Fist. Mictlan has always been the most "traditional" of the Doomtree crew, having made his home in Los Angeles for some years, and being recommended by P.O.S. as the crew member to ask for rap battling, and most prone to braggadocio. Still, at least one listener suggested Mictlan had no business releasing this, as Doomtree "is about" socially conscious rapping--missing out on, for example, Sims' "Spinal Tap," most tracks from Mictlan's contributions, and various bits and chunks from throughout time. Or those who suggest Dessa is "better" than rap and has no business tooling around with the guys--despite the fact that her earliest contributions were all more rap-focused anyway. Of course, most bizarre in either case, is that the crew as a whole has endorsed their releases, furthering the notion that any declarations of what "should" be are utterly inaccurate.

Naturally, my friends often simply respond to these frustrations with the eminently reasonable, "Some people are just stupid jerks," but I'm left with enough faith in human nature--somehow!--to think that everyone might receive just a little more enjoyment if they looked for what might be good, instead of attempting to earn "cool" points by having the "right" opinions.

John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats managed to drop a comment to this very effect in a recent interview (somewhat ironically, written up for Pitchfork, who tend to feel the exact opposite):

"Not to be a total hippie about it, but every place on earth has a frequency. It's not good or bad, it's just the way it is, and if you can attune yourself to that frequency, then you can find comfort in that. You can get into anything if you are determined. I always thought that with music, too. I don't like to say, "Oh, I don't like this kind of music." I like to listen to it and try to see what people who like it get out of it."

Of course, Darnielle put some people in an awkward position by recording, semi-famously, a Goats-take on Ace of Base's "The Sign," without any sense that he did this to distance himself from the original, but more because, he said, he always liked the song anyway.

And that's the kind of attitude I like--strange though it seems to be.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

If You Do Spread Your Wings, Please Let Me Know -- Kno's Death Is Silent

Actually quite similar to how I run into a lot of metal these days, no longer hanging around any metal heads, I was unfamiliar with CunninLynguists in general and Kno in specific for certain. This happens a lot with rap, which seems to run in an even greater variety of strains and layers. There's obviously the readily available and apparent mainstream rap, there's heavily familiar underground rap, there's the more intricate varieties that focus on wordsmithing, there's the hybrid forms that meld with other genres, and the kind that has determined fans without any major hook from violating expectations. Heck, there's more beyond that. Still, it makes it increasingly difficult to get a handle on whether you might like an artist or not without simply listening. On the bright side, the nature of rap means hearing it live is one of the more accurately represented genres, so long as the place you hear it has reasonable sound and the DJ (or laptop) is solid, it bears a pretty strong resemblance to the recorded material.

When I saw this album, it screamed "independent rap," but that's a pretty wide swath of music to plow through, and there's no telling what it means. The one advantage metal does have is that, while the named genre or subgenre can be misleading, it does at least give a starting point. Subdivision of rap hasn't taken enough hold to become widespread. There are certainly vibes and feelings that I break apart in my head for my own moods, or to attempt to share a genre that receives a lot of hatred or at least dislike in the kind of circles I most often find myself in.

I mistakenly first believed this was a CunninLynguists album, as it is marked as "CunninLynguists Presents," but it is in fact the first solo album from producer/emcee Kno, who is from that duo or trio (depending on when you are discussing). I'd heard the name, outside of the obvious pun that inspired it, and was pretty sure I'd heard it associated with talent, which is what drove the (rather cheap) purchase of what I discovered was an out-of-print album.

Kno's beats are loop-oriented and relatively lo-fi, spare and heavy on vocal sampling. The title of the entry actually refers to the song "Spread Your Wings," which also features fellow CunninLynguist Deacon the Villain:

The abstract notion I have of the subdivision this falls into is somewhat confused. The beats are reminiscent of both the underground varieties of "mainstream" rap (as opposed to the more introspective varieties), and indeed the lyrical material makes reference to sex (particularly in "La Petit Mort," the French term for orgasm, I've heard--making it a clever insertion on an album that is intended to deal in the matters of death) and drugs more explicitly and at greater length than in most of the rap I do listen to regularly.

At the same time, the lyrics are also in that same vein, in that the words are impressive more in terms of rhyme scheme and witty wordplay than in terms of their perceptiveness. It seems, by and large, to be in that vein of rap that's not been moved into territory that makes it comfortable for those who "don't like rap," and is simply underground because it is not of the modern production techniques.

Kno's voice, to be honest, is a bit awkward and is regularly outdone by his guests, be they his regular group members (the aforementioned Deacon the Villain as wellas Natti) or others who appear. His words are often clever, though sometimes a bit forced, and his articulation is somewhat peculiar and uncomfortable, as if he hears his voice in a different way than it comes out. He has great control and the flow isn't off, but the emphases and the enunciation make things a bit weird--think of someone forcing a dialect unnatural to them and you may have an idea of what I mean.

The production, however, which is what Kno seems to be best known for, is excellent. And, as a bonus, the album proper is followed by instrumental versions of most of the tracks unlisted on the CD version of the album.

I do recommend giving it a listen, whatever reservations I might have, for the production to be sure, but also for those who may feel differently about Kno's voice.

You can check it out (and purchase it directly from the group) over at bandcamp.

Friday, September 21, 2012

You Used to Be Like My Twin -- Katatonia's The Great Cold Distance

One of the most simple yet random of the purchases I made some time ago, Katatonia's The Great Cold Distance is my first ever Katatonia album, and, indeed, my first ever listen to Katatonia at all. The name rang bells from the days I hung about a discussion forum based around metalheads in college. I can't actually guarantee those bells were ringing correctly, but I figured that for a brand new copy of the album at $2, I couldn't complain too much.

My notion going in was that they were going to be on the more commercial and accepted side of extreme metal. I found through a quick round of sampling that I was more right than I suspected. They aren't really in the range of extreme metal at all. They may have been previously, though their home being Sweden, there's a strong strain of more readily accessible metal wandering there, much of it falling into that subgenre "melodic death metal" or "melodeath," which this isn't. Jonas Renkse flat out sings consistently throughout the album, nowhere approaching the "growl" of death metal.

The album did drop one single, "My Twin," which is a solidly catchy song:

Wikipedia justifiably has editors classifying the album as "alternative" or "gothic" metal, which is quite reasonable. The inherent tone, both musically and lyrically is rather somber and depressed. There are some weird arguments flying about how they sound like Tool, but this reflects more on some choices in a few odd vocal effects and some approaches to guitar riffs on occasion, but overall doesn't bear out too much.

If you will allow the phrase, it's a very pleasant album. Obviously, with the tone, this isn't exactly the right sort of word, but I think we all know that rather "down" music can indeed be very enjoyable despite this. And this album is very much that. It's interesting to hear it come from the general community of metal as well, where musicianship is emphasized enough that the experience with it does show in the performances on this album.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Blue, Why Don't You Stop and Look at What's Going Down? -- The Jayhawks' Music from the North Country

Sometimes, connections are just strange. I last wrote of Jaguar Love, who I found because, well, I liked the bands its members came from--simple enough. The Jayhawks, however, are something entirely different. I'm not sure if I heard their name before I looked into them, and I'm not completely certain I didn't hear their two bigger, earlier singles on the radio when I was younger. I did live in Missouri growing up, though, so it's entirely possible dim memories of "Jayhawks" relate only to one of my then-neighboring state's mascots.

When I finally looked into this band, though, it was because of an offhand reference to the song "Six Pack" by Black Flag, which was met with a reference to "6 Pack on the Dashboard" from The Bunkhouse Tapes, the semi-official title (a la The White Album/The Beatles) for the Jayhawks eponymous debut on Bunkhouse Records. I didn't know that, and simply used Google to find out where this reference came from.I found it was the Jayhawks and looked for an example of their music, as this was made by Gerald, who I've mentioned on many other occasions. I stumbled into a video of "Save It for a Rainy Day":

I ran into a copy of their post-reformation latest album, Mockingbird Time, and was pretty well taken. I referenced the album in one of my endless lyrical entry titles not too long ago, but also picked up the recent deluxe edition of Tomorrow the Green Grass. I saw this anthology, Music from the North Country, a few times before I picked it up. My disineterest in best-of collections, however, collided with my love of music videos--as well as the fact that, in this 3-disc deluxe edition, there was also a disc of bonus material, as well as the only location for their relatively small videography. I was finally pushed over the edge by the presence of "Save It for a Rainy Day," being my immediate introduction to the band and coming from an album old enough that it wasn't going to show anywhere new, but unpopular enough--and released recently enough--that it was not going to appear used very often.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Parades Burst from Your Brain, Plaid Haired Girls Call Your Name -- Jaguar Love

This is simultaneously the easiest and most difficult thing to write about as I go through my slew of purchases from the few days I photographed previously. This is actually a 3-song EP released in 2008 by Jaguar Love before they had completed an album. I bought it because I owned both of their albums, 2008's Take Me to the Sea and 2010's Hologram Jams and this was the only track left I did not own. Chaz over at Bull City Records had a copy in his discounted new CDs and I'd picked up Take Me to the Sea from him on vinyl not long before that, so it was a given (much like picking up The Hookers, the band The Murder City Devils were formed from, which Chaz emphasized--no surprise, as we first met minds over my purchase of the Devils' In Name and Blood on vinyl from his store at its old location, on my first ever Record Store Day). So, easy: one track. Not question about where to start on that, of course! Catchy as hell, if you like Johnny's vocals (which I do!). "Black water, in a crystal skull/Drink deep, hallucinate an ancient ocean/Black water, flowing out your mouth..."

Now, I guess the next question--easy to tell, but lengthy--is who are Jaguar Love?

Well, I have actually mentioned them before, and indeed briefly relayed their history. Jaguar Love, at the time of this EP, was composed of Johnny Whitney, Cody Votolato (younger brother of more famous Rocky Votolato) and Jay "J." Clark. Now here we practically need a chart, but I'd spend too much time on it and it would look terrible anyway, so bear with me. Johnny and Cody were most famously in the Blood Brothers, an extremely strange, experimental and abrasive post-hardcore band from Washington (the state) who broke up in 2006 after releasing their fifth album, Young Machetes.

Cody played guitar in both bands, and Johnny sang in both, as well as in another splinter band, Neon Blonde. Neon Blonde released one album and one EP in 2005, before the Blood Brothers broke up, but were also composed of "alumni": Johnny, of course, and drummer Mark Gajadhar. Mark handled all the percussive elements and Johnny did, well, everything else (with the exception of the saxophone's occasional appearances, by Joel Caplin). Neon Blonde is, by far, the weirdest, with Johnny's voice at one point accompanied by drums and piano and nothing else. Jay Clark remixed a Neon Blonde song on their EP Headlines, thus foreshadowing his later appearance in Jaguar Love.¹

I started it all, though, from the Blood Brothers. I picked up most of their latter era albums, beginning with Crimes and following with Young Machetes, ...Burn, Piano Island, Burn, and March on Electric Children because they were re-issued by major punk label Epitaph in "deluxe" editions with extra discs of live shows, concert video and b-sides. I was still working at Borders at the time and had never heard of them, but darned if they didn't look interesting, and the idea of these albums being re-released and completely unheard of fascinated me. The prices were solid, too--MSRPs for deluxes at around $16, so I just went for it. I didn't regret it, and later picked up This Adultery Is Ripe, their first album and Rumors Laid Waste, the collection of their early 7"s and splits.

I heard that after they broke up, Johnny had formed these other bands (of course, I found out Neon Blonde was formed before they broke up, but nevermind!) and happened to stumble into Hologram Jams around that time. Clark had actually left the band at this point, leaving it Cody and Johnny and a drum machine for even live performance.

That's about as close as you can get to understanding what the logic behind looking into a band no one has ever mentioned to me and I've never heard of is. It's rough and odd and somewhat arbitrary--though the idea that a reissue of an entire indie catalogue is somewhat leading, to be fair.

And yes, I realize Johnny's voice is utterly repellent to many people. I really (sincerely!) like it, though.

¹Let's be really amusing here:
The first Blood Brothers EP was recorded in the "soft underbelly of the Jake Snider Residence." Jake Snider was the vocalist/guitarist for Sharks Keep Moving, and currently fronts Minus the Bear. Minus the Bear's most famous guitarist is doubtless Dave Knudson, though, who was in Botch. Further, Clark's prior gig was Pretty Girls Make Graves, whose first EP was released on Dim Mak Records, who released all of Neon Blonde's work. Pretty Girls, of course, were a sort of splinter from the Murder City Devils, who formed from the Hookers, whose drummer became Pretty Girls' vocalist. Apparently, if you're from Seattle and in a band, everyone knows everyone and played in their band, their bandmate's band, or their brother's, or produced it, or shared a label. It's kind of mind-blowing.

Monday, September 3, 2012

I've Never Met a Traitor I Didn't Like -- Hot Cross' Cryonics

To avoid getting mired in an excessive numbers or numerals, I'm moving away from the titling format for this discussion of these releases--also reflecting the fact that this is the last of a previously singular post broken down into the separate releases that were to compose it. I'd gotten up to this album, wrote half of it, realized it was going to be a stupidly long post and asked my friend Brian who agreed splitting things might be advisable. So, now, I'm breaking away from even that and simply writing on the albums on their own terms. I'll still tag them as part of that series, but let the posts have a little breathing space from uniformity.

This was the find that day, for sure. While Special Wishes was nice in that it wasn't going to be easy to find cheap, I've seen Harvey Milk albums float around and did not know at the time it was a rare one--indeed, I'd bought the compilation of their early singles and splits from the very same store. Of course, I learned in the course of my usual dissection and reassembly of compiled tracks into their original sources that the insert for that CD is basically the only place you can find the cover art for those old Harvey Milk singles!

Still, I picked up Hot Cross's Risk Revival a few years back, only because its listed label was Equal Vision Records, which was the first label Coheed and Cambria was on--at least, under the name Coheed and Cambria (obsessive fans know that of course the Delirium Trigger EP was released under the name "Shabutie," and it came out on the label Wisteria). Admittedly, Equal Vision does stop off into stuff that I don't feel like I have time to sift through, so this isn't a guarantee, but looking into Risk Revival led me to the track "Turncoat Revolution," which has one of the most blisteringly fantastic central riffs around (comparable in some ways to the riff from Converge's "Dark Horse" I mentioned in the previously).

Allegedly, the album is "screamo," which is one of the most derogatorily used genre names I've ever heard--both dismissive and denigrating--in almost every context I've ever seen it used. The reviews I found were the ones on Amazon, though, which meant there was only a handful of them, all three stars and all from a community embracing the genre names rather than using them as catch-all insults. I always prefer finding such reviews to get an idea of what genres mean, as I read things like "While Hot Cross may most commonly be known as the band that came after Saetia," as it gives me a nice context for what a band is to the community it comes from. Of course, I still haven't ever seen any Saetia so, despite the fact that they were clearly a central figure here, I haven't a great idea what they sound like.

The album, though, was great--sure, Billy Werner is screaming throughout the album (if you take that reductive approach of "aggressive vocals are always screaming" that doesn't appreciate the variation in methods used to achieve aggressive vocals), and yes, it's got a sense of betrayal, loss and emotional frustration and anger, but the lyrics are intelligent and interesting. But forget all that--the thing smokes:

That was probably one of the best  pseudo-blind purchases I ever made on an obscure, defunct band out of a morass of random titles--a set of releases dumped at an FYE because the labels had damaged stock, missing slipcases or re-packaged used titles. There was a lot of Equal Vision, plenty of Earache and a few other labels that would catch my eye quickly. It was the same boxes of miscellaneously labeled stuff that spawned some of the purchases mentioned here.

Soon, Hot Cross entered my regular listening for its mix of melody, aggression and expression. It manages to ride a crest of energy that more aggressively abrasive bands (such as the death metal bands I listen to) can occasionally become tiring with, never quite crossing that point as the clever guitarwork carries the sound for the part of me that appreciates the "prettier" side of things. By this time, I let Chaz over at Bull City Records know I was on the lookout (inspiring the usual response to mentions of Hot Cross: "Man, haven't heard that name in a while!") and he suggested I check out Level Plane Records, which is a label he told me would carry similar material.

So, when I saw Cryonics at the store that day, I snatched it up without hesitation as my jaw dropped for seeing "Hot Cross" on a split card in a CD section in the first place. At this point, the band apparently functioned with two guitarists, creating a different variety of more complicated and often more subdued sorts of textures, exemplified in songs like "Frozen by Tragedy" (which tends away from naked aggression) or, "A Tale for the Ages":

And, of course, what label was Cryonics released on? Level Plane.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Tiny Music...Songs from Various Record Shops VIII -- Harvey Milk's Special Wishes

 Tiny Music...a series of entries on recent and seemingly random purchases. Why I made them, and why, perhaps, you ought to do the same--or at least take up the methodology!
Part I              Part V
Part II            Part VI
Part III           Part VII
 Part IV                        

Harvey Milk is a peculiar band. Named for the assassinated, openly gay San Francisco politician, Harvey Milk (the band) has no political associations to speak of, no clear stance on anything political, no openly gay members or anything else to indicate why they chose the name. If someone has an answer, that would be awesome. Until then, please explore their merch page and perhaps reconsider taking their attitude--whatever it is, anyway--seriously. There's weirdness, humour and experimentation melded into a band that is primarily, I suppose, sludge/doom/stoner metal. It's almost all very down tempo, loud, and heavy in the sense that it is full of low-end and pounds and thuds its way out of speakers.
Their outspoken frontman, Creston Spiers, suggested that this, Special Wishes was their best album yet, and that the acclaimed follow up from 2008, Life...The Best Game in Town was their worst. Of course, that album was my first, stumbling into a similarly random-seeming cover: another badly-angled shot of a wall, but this time bearing a crumpled poster for Iron Maiden's second album, Killers, the last with first vocalist Paul DiAnno. It's familiar enough that that one jumped out at me when I saw it, despite the fact that both albums, as you can see, give no front-based indication of who or what they are.

Stylistically, at least, there is not a huge change between the two albums as the style is pretty thoroughly their own. While notions of other extremely slow--though not quite Sleep's Dopesmoker slow--sludge bands reach your ears, eventually songs like "Once in a While" or "Instrumental" with its bizarre radio-trivia-sample frame that references the Alan Parsons Project's The Turn of a Friendly Card appear and make you wonder what is going on.

This was a lucky find, too--it's no longer in print and was not easy to find in the first place. This is part of the absolute joy of the approach I take: while you can find things online with relative simplicity in many cases, the hunt and the find, and sometimes the unrealized find, has a thrill to it that you can't get from clicking through Amazon's used section. In fairness, this did come from the used chain of stores that also once contained the extremely out-of-print Josef K album(s) and compilations for a total of $59, and they often research and price in accordance with such information. Fortunately for me--unlike when I picked up those Josef K albums which, yes, I did, despite that being $59 for two CDs--this was just priced as a plain ol' used CD at the time.

"Once in a While"

Tiny Music...Songs from Various Record Shops VII -- Out Every Window the Snap of Envy and Greed

Tiny Music...a series of entries on recent and seemingly random purchases. Why I made them, and why, perhaps, you ought to do the same--or at least take up the methodology!
Part I              Part V
Part II            Part VI
Part III                       
 Part IV                        

Friday, August 31, 2012

Tiny Music...Songs from Various Record Shops VI -- How to Compose Popular Songs That Will Sell by Bob Geldof

First, a brief interlude. Coloured vinyl is a pretty, pretty thing and I never miss a chance to show it off:

Tiny Music...a series of entries on recent and seemingly random purchases. Why I made them, and why, perhaps, you ought to do the same--or at least take up the methodology!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tiny Music...Songs from Various Record Shops V

Tiny Music...a series of entries on recent and seemingly random purchases. Why I made them, and why, perhaps, you ought to do the same--or at least take up the methodology!

Part II
Part III
 Part IV

Released as part of the "Original Masters" series with this cover, this is the first purely ambient solo album Eno released, two months after Another Green World, the first Eno solo album I ever bought. If you want something up-tempo, danceable, short, fun, etc, this is not an album for you by any stretch of the imagination. Ambient music is generally quite long as a result of the languid nature of the music: indeed, the genre's name is derived from the intention to make the music a part of the ambiance of an environment.

In defiance of many expectations, when I first delved into Aphex Twin, the album I was most interested in finding was not The Richard D. James album with its frenetic Drum and Bass/Jungle/etc (please, please don't ask me to figure out what electronic genres are which--I have enough trouble with distinct, classically-recognized instruments-based bands) but Selected Ambient Works, Vol. II which was a follow up to the ambient-techno (it's a different thing, promise) Selected Ambient Works 85-92. SAWII was a sprawling, 3LP, 2 cassette, 2 CD monster that was 25 tracks on vinyl and cassette and 24 on UK CD (the US release inexplicably dropped another track, which has annoyed me for years) and primarily consists of slow, beat-less tracks in the 7-10 minute range.  
Discreet Music is similarly "ambient" (not "ambient techno") in that its first half is the 31 minute "Discreet Music," which flows gently along for 30 minutes with no audible beat and nothing grating, intrusive or otherwise attention-grabbing. But it's incredibly pretty and pleasant, which is something I often find appealing, myself. The second half is a re-interpretation of Pachelbel's Canon in numerous variations, similar in end result to "Discreet Music," though it is performed by actual live strings instead.

Caustic critic Christgau called it "good for hard bits of writing," as it functions in that place that Satie envisioned a lot of his music would, to some extent: musique d’ameublement or "furniture music," as it is most commonly translated. Of course, Satie was, in some respects, creating the idea that did become ambient music. Richard D. James himself (aka the Aphex Twin) has noted the influence of Satie before, and referenced him pretty openly regarding the much more mixed album Drukqs, which contains a number of solo piano style pieces reminiscent of the peculiar French composer.

While I was out shopping for all of these things, I did eventally stumble into a (slightly mutilated) copy of Erik Satie's own writings and musings collected as A Mammal's Notebook, too. I do like the French composer's work, actually, though not, as always, to prove some kind of point about my taste or style, but because the minimalist approach to music hits the right chords--well, notes--for me. I carry around a small list of the Satie works that are apparently some of the best recordings, and own a compilation of Aldo Ciccolini playing them.

But I'm really getting away from the primary point here: Eno is known as a producer more than anything these days, or as a collaborative artist, especially when he works with David Byrne, but for a time in the 1970s he did independent work like this and Another Green World and hit various poles of music in the process. It's good stuff--this one I have listened to a few times and quite liked!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tiny Music...Songs from Various Record Shops IV -- An Emotional What? Junk What?

Tiny Music...a series of entries on recent and seemingly random purchases. Why I made them, and why, perhaps, you ought to do the same--or at least take up the methodology!

With respect to a stack of some weird and out-there choices, An Emotional Fish's Junk Puppets was probably the most random selection of all. Of course, it was part of the 2 for $3 mess, so I did need to walk out with an even number of titles. Still, the cover art was intriguing, and while the metaphor of books and covers may hold, the actual literal meaning of judging inert objects by their covers can turn out quite well.

Finding out what this disc was was one of the more peculiar events of the trip, as it's one of those lingering, obscure titles in the Amazon database which has had incorrect cover art assigned (Amazon thinks this is the cover). Similarly, Wikipedia has no articles on their respective albums, despite three of them being released. They're a band from Dublin, and opened for U2 on the Zoo TV tour (on the backs of Achtung Baby and Zooropa).

Their first album was even released on U2's own label, Mother Records), after their single "Celebrate" even hit the top 5 on the US Modern Rock charts. They apparently maintained far more popularity in their home country than anywhere else and sort of fizzled after this, their third and final album. It's a bass-heavy 90s rock album that, as yet, does not jump out and grab me, but I'm still giving it some time.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tiny Music...Songs from Various Record Shops III -- The Cult's Sonic Temple

Tiny Music...a series of entries on recent and seemingly random purchases. Why I made them, and why, perhaps, you ought to do the same--or at least take up the methodology!

I wandered into The Cult more by chance than anything else. I discussed the Beggars Banquet Omnibus Edition series releases some time ago, and The Cult's Love was amongst them. I didn't know the band and they had a weird reputation--weird in the sense of "normal." It meant it was the last of the Omnibus titles that I purchased (The Fall followed The Fall, and Bauhaus came close behind). The liner notes themselves reference this, noting all the reviews and interviews that suggest that "rock" was a 'dirty word' at the time of Love's release, at least in the independent community that they came from.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Tiny Music...Songs from Various Record Shops II -- Walking With Thee by Clinic

As I'm failing to focus on any group long enough to create a distinct article on anything. I've decided to break down the things I pick up and explain the whys, wherefores, and sometimes the end results of the purchases I've made semi-recently, via short discussions of each that I began previously.

Part 1 can be found here.

This series will take us from my first "classic" period Bad Seeds album through to the far more obscure Kno album Death Is Silent, as seen (somewhat blurrily, for which I apologize, but I do not have the discs handy to replicate and touch up the photo!) below:
 Today, we have Scousers Clinic and their second album, Walking With Thee.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tiny Music ...Songs from Various Record Shops I -- Tender Prey

As I've only created an increased avalanche of incoming music that I am happily making my way through, I'm going to continue with the compressed formatting of explanation for the purchases I showed off previously to explain my relative quietness, moving on ahead through the alphabet. I left off before with The Byrds' pre-Byrds demos known as the "preflyte" sessions--though, of course, this isn't a completely fair name. They weren't the Byrds yet, but they were the Jet Set, which is still about flying--but nevermind that.

This will take us from my first "classic" period Bad Seeds album through to the far more obscure Kno album Death Is Silent, as seen (somewhat blurrily, for which I apologize, but I do not have the discs handy to replicate and touch up the photo!) below:
This was a string of peculiar trips to various stores, mostly an FYE, a few locals and one chain used store, so it's going to continue as a truly weird selection.

To avoid complete overload, I'll go through an album a day here, hence the reference in the title to someone-or-other's weird, off-kilter third album.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

If I Forget Thee, Lowcountry

While I was pondering an expansion of notes on the last update on acquisitions I made, I realized it said "Here's an image," and I managed to forget to include an actual image! Well, that has been hastily (with shameful expression) corrected and can now be viewed, even in its full glory. Sorry about that!

Of course, I do that and I've long since opened the previously unopened titles appearing in those stacks and created an entirely new stack over the last week or so through thrifty poking about here and there, but for today let's take a closer look at the top of that first stack. I talked previously about how I find music, but this will address the details that lead to my often seemingly arbitrary decisions by looking at why it is this band or that album warranted enough interest to take up more of my rapidly diminishing space.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Too High or Too Low There Ain't No In-Between -- Extremity in Music

While a lot of my own musical development has been tempered by the peculiarities of the people I've known and the kinds of music I've grown up with in extremely disparate environments, often then coupled with the aforementioned peculiarities, I did not manage to avoid a period of "finding music to annoy other people and seem 'hard.'"

This did lead to my unusual foray into "nu-metal" in high school, wherein I took up bands like Static-X, Deftones, Tool, Powerman 5000 and various others who eventually proved that, while there are some bands that held to the sensibilities that defined that (intentionally disparaging, actually) genre name, a lot of them were looped into it in much the way that "grunge" never managed to accurately describe most of the bands still heavily identified with it--Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains, for instance--in that they often managed to hit different ground quite rapidly, or even already hit different territory long before they became famous. Early Soundgarden, for instance, is very different from the album that broke them, Badmotorfinger.

Of course, while proponents of many of these bands--such as my best friend throughout high school, John--would note that grunge was a nonsense term and really referred to punk (Nirvana) and metal (Alice in Chains) bands if anything, it has stuck in its way. Other genres have done the same thing, with "emo" and "new wave" in particular starting from similar origins: offhand comments used to describe a group of bands vehemently denounced and disavowed by those bands.

Still, while many of the bands I mentioned have wandered into totally different territory, mellower in some respects if not all, they were, in that heyday, still quite abrasive and heavy as mainstream music went. Static-X self-describes as "evil disco" (not unfair considering the drum machine and drum-machine-like beats forming the base of their music), Tool heavily associates with progressive rock, even touring with King Crimson for a time, Deftones have entered some post-rock influenced territory on their last three albums and Powerman 5000 turned into a much more "normal" rock band and keep going through variant incarnations.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

And How I Can't Explain -- Six Songs

Someone I know posted this from an NPR article, and I thought, before I posted it elsewhere, perhaps it actually belongs here. So, without further ado--and a welcome request for mutual answers--here are the six songs that (theoretically) define me:
  • What was the first song you ever bought?
Even younger, I took things as albums. Less insistently, more "because that's how I see them as available" (well done, record companies!)
Now, as to what it was...I'd have to think pretty hard. The Downward Spiral was by far the most difficult to acquire for me. But it might not have been the actual first. Oddly, the first was probably Creepin' on ah Come Up by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, or maybe TLC's Crazysexycool, or maybe even Green Jellÿ's Cereal Killer. Lastly, it might have been Gangsta's Paradise by Coolio.
If you weren't aware of or sure you'd guessed my age, it's probably pretty clear now.
  • What song always gets you dancing?
Not that anyone ever sees it (though video exists, which will not be shared), it's probably "You Make My Dreams" by Hall & Oates. Gimme a lovely funky keyboard riff any day to set me off.
  • What song takes you back to your childhood?
I've beaten the "time" out of almost every song I've ever known, unintentionally. If I listen to anything enough, the temporal association disappears. At a guess, the soundtrack to Transformers: the Movie, or Harry Nilsson's The Point, as I watched the movies (on the same dubbed VHS, no less) a million times over.
  • What is your perfect love song?
"Home" by Lou Barlow. I've even made a video for it, which you are not going to see.
  • What song would you want at your funeral?
"Dead, Drunk and Naked" by Drive-By Truckers. Let's leave this unexplained. Which is not to imply that my funeral would entail any more than the first, but you never know, I suppose.
  • Time for an encore. One last song that makes you, you.
For years, the answer to this has always been "Arched Maid Via RDJ" by the Aphex Twin. Let's go ahead and continue with that answer for the moment--though it's spectacularly enigmatic, of course, as it is purely instrumental electronic music, from an uncommon 7" EP entitled Hangable Auto Bulb.EP2.

I'm a Demon, I Walk the Road through the River of Fire - 70s Hard Rock Revival

There are a few entries here where I got around to typing a label for the entry, usually shorthand before I go out and figure out what lyric to assign to the actual entry, and then left, knowing I'd want to get back to it but not necessarily feeling it at the time. This particular subject is one that has been a source of great joy and periodic frustrations. I have difficulty impressing this "genre" on people, one which I have, in effect, invented of my own accord. I think my definition still holds in its way, but that's because I invented it, I suppose. I don't say invention with the air of some accomplishment, mind you, but as a means of referencing the fact that, in all likelihood, even people who share a love for these bands aren't likely to consider this an accurate, effective or sensible label or grouping.

That doesn't really concern me though, as the end result for me, as always, is music I really like. Now, I did actually sincerely attempt to sit down and write this one because of the fact that I do like this stuff so much. It didn't work out too well as I got caught up in trying to verify the application of the genre sense I had, and stumbled into an eye-rolling mess. I've also tried to expand this beyond the three (or so) bands I stick under this umbrella in my first-ever attempt to use Pandora--it was an area of music I wanted more of, but it resulted in my notoriously negative first impression of Pandora. I inserted these three bands and it spat back Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Rainbow--and all I could think was, "Well, it's nice to have confirmation that there are people out there who agree on the origin of the sound, at least!" followed by, "Gosh, Pandora, pretty sure I've heard of these bands."

And it is with that, I give you the trifecta of bands used to define what I call "70s Hard Rock Revival," albeit only in my own little world (and if any of those sentiments gives you pause, please bear with me just for this entry and give these bands and me a chance!):

The Hellacopters


The Parlor Mob

Friday, August 10, 2012

It's Time to Tie Your Loose Ends Up (Tie 'Em Up!) -- More Errata!

As I start work on something far more informative and useful, some updates are happening around this blog. I've updated the sourcing for entries on the right side of the page through the most recent post prior to this one (this one will be added shortly!). I'll be updating the "CDs Visible in the Banner" over on the right as well, now that I have a more focused and higher resolution image in place--even if that means they may indeed be easier to read now anyway.

While I am doing this, this post also serves to advance my immediate cause of referencing Tommy Stinson's short-lived post-Replacements project, Bash & Pop, whose album (not first, not second--just album) I picked up yesterday as I thought, "Why do I know this name, 'Bash & Pop'?" and was luckily able to look them up quickly and then bump the heel of my palm against my forehead. I don't know them well enough yet to write much at all, though I was tempted to write a "Post 'Mats" article, as I have a fondness for (and a much greater familiarity with) the works of Paul Westerberg. But I'm going to keep myself restrained regarding my "immediate impressions" sensibilities for a non-exceptional instance.

What I will mention, however, is the next stack of items added to my queue at the moment, just as a starting off point for anyone who happens by and wants to give some, any, or all a thumbs up. As with the last time I did this, here's an image of those releases:

Agoraphobic Nosebleed/Converge - The Poached Diaries
Alien - The Pleasure of Leisure
Baroness - Yellow & Green
Bash & Pop - Friday Night Is Killing Me
Blindside - A Thought Crushed My Mind
Botch - An Anthology of Dead Ends
Boysetsfire - Live for Today
Bronski Beat - Truthdare or Doubledare
Burning Airlines - Identikit
Burning Airlines - Mission: Control
The Byrds - The Preflyte Session
Cabaret Voltaire - Mix Up
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Tender Prey
Clinic - Walking With Thee
The Cult - Sonic Temple
An Emotional Fish - Junk Puppets
Brian Eno - Discreet Music
Bob Geldof - How to Compose Popular Songs That Will Sell Well
GoGoGo Airheart - GoGoGo Airheart
Harvey Milk - Special Wishes
Hot Cross - Cryonics
Jaguar Love - Jaguar Love EP
Jayhawks - Music from the North Country [Anthology]
Katatonia - The Great Cold Distance
Kno - Death Is Silent
Lit - Atomic
Mercury Rev - All Is Dream
Takako Minekawa - Roomic Cube
Mission of Burma - Unsound
Rabies Caste - Let the Soul Out and Cut the Vein
Radiohead - Amnesiac [Deluxe]
Radiohead - Kid A [Deluxe]
Radiohead - OK Computer [Deluxe]
Royal City - Little Heart's Ease
Ruhaeda - Ruhaeda
The Ruts - Something I Said - The Best of the Ruts
Slint - Spiderland
Smashing Pumpkins - Pisces Iscariot [Deluxe]
Chris Spedding - Enemy Within
Sunny Day Real Estate - Diary
Supersuckers - Devil's Food
Tangerine Dream - Green Desert
Television - Adventure
Tones on Tail - Everything!
Torcher - Your Word Against Fire
Tom Waits - Blood Money
X-Dream - Radio

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Symphony of the Earth--One Fewer, and We Might Have the Question -- The Elephant Kashimashi

There are a dozen, or at least a half-dozen, ways to start writing about this. And it's really just two songs. Well. Two songs, two instrumental versions of those songs, and seven live recordings.

The opener that has always entertained me is that this band fell into my lap by chance. I was studying Japanese (which has turned out poorly) in college and was handed a random "Best Of" for Christmas about eight or nine years ago. It was a band no one, including me and the one who gave it to me, my father, had ever heard of in our area. No friends, searching for them online tended to turn up sites in Japanese, if anything. The cover wasn't an awful lot of help, and of course all notes were in Japanese. I was going out to visit friends, though, so I put it on in my car stereo as I drove out, having sampled it briefly at home. They were noisy, boisterous, and rougher than the sounds typically associated with Japanese music in the modern age, especially that theoretical entire genre of "j-pop," which tends to be bouncy and slick more than anything else.

Of course, that compilation started with an album track from 24 years ago, the rather noisy "Fighting Man," simply transliterated into katakana instead of actually translated. Of course, Japanese music of any popular variety is notorious in English-speaking countries for its broken-up nature and habit of using English awkwardly at best, and totally uncomfortably at worst, jammed into the middle of otherwise entirely Japanese lyrics, often seemingly for no good reason. While it does compose the chorus of that song, it makes no other appearances, beyond that refrain of "Baby, fightingu man!"

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Well Every Time I See You, I Wanna Thank You, More and More Each Time -- Reubens Accomplice and Long Waits

About five years ago, I stumbled onto a promotional CD at my former employer, the now defunct Borders. It had a peculiar kind of pastel cover art, with little description. I don't have the disc anymore, having passed it to someone else (with whom I've lost contact), but it was an album called Dog Problems, by a band called The Format. It rapidly disseminated itself with some effort from me, spreading "virally" even to people I don't (or at least didn't) know via those that I do and did. That band no longer exists, having broken up shortly after that very album, and reformed into the solo artist Sam Means and combining with members of Steel Train and Anathallo to form fun., who have achieved a pretty high level of success at this point.

However, I managed to catch The Format before they broke up, when they played a show at the local major independent venue, the Cat's Cradle. It was August 26th, 2007, and it was one of the larger lineups I've seen in my time. The Format was backed with Limbeck, Piebald, Reubens Accomplice and Steel Train. The overall highlight of the night was certainly all of the bands coming together to play Van Morrison's "Caravan" at the very end, but this was definitely a show that helped encourage my policy of checking into opening acts. There's a good chance I'll talk about Piebald another time (a very good one!) and Steel Train as well, but right now, there's a reason I'm talking about the band I'm here to write about.

Yesterday, I made the excited purchase of a number of items, from an album someone almost got me as a present ten years ago (but skipped on as it was apparently nowhere near gift quality in its used state), to two albums I've been searching for intently at every store I enter, to a well-regarded album that influenced a number of bands I like or love, to a difficult-to-find band of less known status--and even a few others. And yet, I came home and found a link in my e-mail, began my download, and those two albums I'd been searching for finished ripping to my computer and have remained untouched since. Indeed, the trays of my optical drives are sitting outside my desktop with the discs still in them.

That download was a link to the new Reubens Accomplice album.

I left that show five years ago with a rather large selection of merchandise:

Saturday, July 28, 2012

All You Need Is Drums to Start a Dance Party, and You're Invited to Our Dance Party

There's something of a curse to trying to keep an open mind about music: the last post I made, over two weeks ago, hints at this.

Of course, that only addressed that particular time frame for purchasing music, not including the recent releases of a new Baroness record, a new Mission of Burma record, the hinted but otherwise unmentioned new Elephant Kashimashi record (albeit delayed--but, hey, I have to import the things!). I stumbled into the remaining FYE while out to see The Dark Knight Rises and found myself walking out with a number of severely discounted items that caught my eyes, either fulfilling curiosities existing or beginning new ones and being irresistible at the price of $1.50 for an expansion of experience, taste and ideas. These releases were, by and large, obscure in the near-extreme. One has befuddlingly misplaced cover art on Amazon and is out of print--actually, many of them are out of print--and another is easily found to be out of print (and semi-valuable!) by notice of the very artist behind it, with only a tiny bit of Googling. And, of course, they were on top of an existing backlog of material I've only skimmed, aurally speaking. I have made it a habit to listen to all "new" music I acquire, but that doesn't mean I am able to give it time to quite sink in.

There are a few ways this little problem makes itself most readily apparent, and is fed and pushed to move further into the abyss. Of course, wandering into a new place with hidden nooks and crannies (even those technically out in the open) of music does not ever help me, as I've noted above and previously. However, there are some other things that are problematic. A coworker recently asked for a recommendation starting from the song "Crystal" by New Order. Unfortunately, I've not gone past my initial experience of New Order, at least not much. I did pick up Substance 1987, the New Order companion release to the Joy Division compilation Substance (the "1987" was added to differentiate). A number of alternate cuts and edits are present on that release, some unavailable elsewhere. I still have not gotten the last of those reissues though, 1989's Technique, let alone the work New Order did after they left Factory Records. This gives me the impression that I've somehow failed to complete a branch of music knowledge, which drives me to go further on.

Friday, July 13, 2012

When Lightning Strikes and We Are Sleeping...

In case anyone is wondering where I might have been with my ramblings and random musical selections, you may note from the Last.FM widget over to the right that I have been happily continuing to listen to music, not including my vinyl and compact disc rotations (the latter being in-car listening). Mclusky's Mclusky Do Dallas, in all its vulgar glory, has occupied my turntable of late more than anything else in its white vinyl re-release form that appeared briefly in the collage of images that represented my collage of Record Store Day purchases this year. My car CD player has rotated endlessly, as it often does, based on where I am going, when and the whims of the moment.

What has interrupted my posting, however, was a recent influx and an attempt to catch up a backlog of complicated reissues.

To put this in a kind of perspective, here is an image of the purchases I've made in the last week, which is not totally out of character and should clarify any concerns about what on earth keeps me from focusing on a single release or artist to discuss them:

You can click to enlarge that sucker, and in the process see the sheer volume of stuff I just inundated myself with. For those who cannot make things out, here's a brief rundown:

Saturday, June 30, 2012

With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness -- Firey Songs (with Tongue in Cheek)

I was at work yesterday and someone noted that the song they were listening to--to be quite honest, I can't recall--was appropriate for our discussion relating to work-things being burnt down (which will have to go without explanation, except to say that this was not a plan any of us had in mind, so the secrecy is to protect the sanctity of the workplace, not its employees plan to end it), and so ensued a discussion of songs with the word "burn" in them, as I groped blindly through my memory for songs after suggesting Nine Inch Nails' "Burn," I found myself pretty lost. I noted that it was hard to think of songs with "burn" in the title without my digital music collection (more specifically: the program I use to deal with it). The use of google was immediately noted, but of course the song is ridiculous common and parsing for multiple conjugations of the verb is not easy. We started assembling an increasingly ridiculous set of songs collectively, eventually dabbling into early rock like Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire" and Elvis Presley's "Burning Love" (written by Otis Blackwell and Dennis Linde respectively, to get credit where due!), after exhausting our memory of other titles.

The words "Fire" eventually got added, which only made the list that much more ridiculous. However, my original goal was to try to incorporate other songs that were referring to the word in its destructive sense (if you didn't click the link, the NIN song gains its title from the refrain of "I'm going to burn this whole world down!" with intense emphases I can't replicate visually without looking ridiculous and thus failing to actually convey it).

I could continue that idea here and do it the justice I intended, or just play with the whole idea and go with songs I think are really good that use the word in their titles. How's that?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

She Walks in So Many Ways -- What Else Hides Here?

While I can have a packrat attitude in general, it is often supplemented by a tendency toward organization, even if the rules for this organization are known only to me. As such, I've quietly added a small handful of "resource" pages to this blog for various purposes, such as identifying the places from which I derive my entry titles, which are generally from the artist I'm discussing when I am discussing a single artist, but are sometimes lyrics that come into my head as thematically relevant to the issue or work at hand. I separate them out by month of web-publication for an entry to keep them somewhat easier to digest, though I plan to archive them by year when it gets to that point, in order to keep the volume of links reasonable. So far, this means I've written these basic charts for March, April, May, and June.

I also feed my excessive attention to detail with a selection of the resources I regularly consult for my personal usage in carefully sculpting the flow of my digital music collection. These can be absolutely mind-boggling for people, as they are so utterly devoted to the minutiae of music release that one wonders what on earth possesses people to do it. I've learned to only appreciate this, as so long as someone is always going further than I am, they will include the information I want, and I can just marvel in abject, slack-jawed wonder at who would take the time to scan or photograph a thousand 7"s just for the purposes of simple variations in the printing of 45" record labels. Indeed, though, I was just spending time cataloguing the bonus tracks on my nearly-complete collection of the Byrds' '60s albums, and am currently listening to chronologically arranged tracks included on the original and reissue of Blue Öyster Cult's Tyranny and Mutation.

For the purposes of clarifying my extremely subpar photography skills, I've also compiled a list of the CDs that appear from my own personal collection in the banner that heads the blog. It's subject to change over time as my collection expands, and sometimes unusually shaped or sized releases are pushed out of place to my "Box Sets" shelf. Which I wish I didn't need to separate, but making room for boxes that can hold full-sized 12" LPs is not very spatially efficient.

You can also find a few less focused links, like my profile page where you can see what artists I've been listening to most on my computer (naturally, vinyl and in-car CD listening is not tracked), as well as what tracks I've last listened to as of the time you visit. The movie reviews I wrote for a few years are also available over on the right, and a link to a gallery of my more unusual vinyl records, and the Facebook page for this blog, which I politely request you "Like" if you get the chance and use the site.

Just to make things easier this once: this title comes from a song by the Jayhawks, and it's actually the title of the song as well as the opening line of its chorus. Here they are performing the song at Ocean Way Studios (I don't know which one, though I'd hazard at guess that it's the Nashville one), and you might be able to see that this is only appropriate as a song to follow a brief mention of the Byrds:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Had I Known You Better Then, I Would've Said Those Three Ol' Words -- Daryl Hall/John Oates's Abandoned Luncheonette

While I do try to keep (negative) reputations from influencing what unfamiliar things I will listen to, it does mean that they're often things I won't go after quickly. Artists with a reputation for flaccid or sneer-inducing pop I tend not to judge near so harshly, but not knowing which will really strike a chord with me means I'm wary of touching any of them without some point of familiarity. Mix in the fact that, my current and varied and peculiar knowledge notwithstanding, I used to have no idea who wrote or sang this song or that one and it doesn't help much. Of course, those who were at a point of absorbing a lot of those facts when artists were regularly and visibly releasing music can say, "They did..." and hum or sing a few bars, sometimes even just name a song and things will fall into place. Recommendations when I stumble into something, too, can help with this.

One day a few years back, I was flipping through a crate of duplicate and unwanted records my father had, taking what I wanted for myself. After picking out the known quantities--a copy of my favourite Beach Boys album (Surf's Up) as well as the double-LP reissue that combined their later album So Tough by "Carl and the Passions," named for a pre-Beach Boys group Carl was in, packaged with Pet Sounds; The Association's Greatest Hits; and newly-appreciated-to-me Sparks' debut under that name, A Woofer in Tweeter's Clothing (they were called Halfnelson and released a self-titled debut under that name, but renamed themselves Sparks and the album was reissued as eponymously as that instead), I was left sorting through mostly obscure disco, pop, and electronic music, the dance/electronic end very much derived from the taste of one of his friends. Things like Michael Garrison's 1979 debut In the Regions of Sunreturn, which is out of print even on CD, or Larry Fast's 1975 debut as Synergy, Electronic Realizations for Rock Orchestra, which is an utterly fantastic album that made the charts in its day--#68, anyway--but is sort of lost today. There were some other in-between sorts of known quantities like Golden Earring's 1975 album Switch, sandwiched between 1973's Moontan (which spawned the huge hit "Radar Love") and 1982's Cut (which spawned the other big hit, "Twilight Zone").

There was one other album that managed to jump out at me, simply because it looked a bit odd, had names I knew, and had those names arranged in a peculiar fashion:

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