Saturday, February 16, 2008

Pumping On Your Stereo

I knew this day would come. All art is circular. At any given time in history, the medium returns to a previous form that was once hailed as brilliant only to have been cast out into darkness later. We live in a constant state of irony. What was popular five years ago is now considered bloated and pathetic, only to be resurrected from the dead in another decade or so as "cool". It is the same for all art forms; painting, music, film. In music trends come and go, but good old fashioned rock and roll never dies. It simply lays dormant, waiting for the next musical eclipse to come along. Take disco for example; seemingly seconds after Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park in Chicago in 1979, it was essentially uncool to like disco. Heavy metal was creeping up on us, hairspray in hand, and all the boys were growing their hair long and swapping their cocaine for Budweiser. Now it is 2008 and disco-punk and disco-dance-rock and any other newly created forms of disco exploitation the hipster bloggers choose to coin a catchphrase to is all over the radio waves. It is now suddenly expected to replace a guitar player with an idiot holding a keytar and wearing Kanye's ridiculous sunglasses. But I digress; this is not all bad. Where alternative rock was once popular in the early 90's, it is now apparently making a comeback, even if said comeback is fronted by the guys who created it in the first place. Bands like Stone Temple Pilots (or as I prefer to call them, Grunge's Mentally Challenged Rejects), Supergrass, Seven Mary Three, Superdrag, the Smashing Pumpkins, and many other bands whose name does not start with an "S" have recently reformed with the intent of putting out new music. Now does this mean that rock is suddenly going to replace all the other shit on the airwaves? Not necessarily. People are inherently dumb and prefer to listen to music that doesn't make them think so much as it makes them think they look cool while blaring Soulja Boy out of the blown speakers of their pimped-out Dodge Neon. When Gene Simmons stated that the fans killed the music industry, he wasn't just speaking financially (or maybe he was and is just a prophet unaware of his gift, but I doubt it). However, there is some good music on the horizon from bands that have either since reformed or just flown under the radar for the last decade, so I am obligated to point you in the right direction. It is simply me doing my part to prevent the airwaves from permanently "Ridin' Dirty". Enjoy.

Seven Mary Three
You probably know this band from their 1995 hit "Cumbersome", and their lesser known but far superior single "Waters Edge". When American Standard came out that year, it was impossible to ignore due to the constant radio play these tracks got. American Standard was a good rock record from a good rock band that disappeared just as quickly as they had arrived on the scene, but they never quit making music. 7M3 have released four more records since their debut, none of which made a splash on the music scene, regardless of their quality. I particularly liked 2001's The Economy Of Sound, while Orange Ave. had a few killer tracks on it as well. 7M3 is releasing another album next week titled Day&Nightdriving, and from what I have heard so far it is pretty damn good. You can hear a few tracks off of the new album on their MySpace page, including the new single "Last Kiss".

In the past 12 years Supergrass has released 5 studio albums and one greatest hits record, and will be gracing us with the presence of a new record in a few weeks. You might remember Supergrass from the radio hit "Pumping On Your Stereo" as well as their 1995 Beatle-esque "Alright". The video for "Pumping On Your Stereo" was an MTV staple in 1999; right around the time MTV stopped playing music. While the band has had other singles released, they were not very popular (at least not here in the US), however that is more of a statement about the poor quality of music on the American airwaves than it is an insult to Supergrass. Supergrass has never made a bad album, and with every release they manage to out due the last record. 1997's In It For The Money was rated by Q magazine as the 68th greatest album of all time, is listed in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, and was bestowed by NME what can only be assumed as the greatest compliment ever given to a rock band; "more fun than watching a wombat in a washing machine". Well the boys are back with an excellent new record, Diamond Hoo Ha. Check out their MySpace page for a preview, as the record will not be released until next month.

Released in March of my senior year of high school (1998), Fastball's radio hit "The Way" was a feel good hit of the summer I graduated. I can remember hearing this song every damn day that summer, along with the other singles off of All The Pain Money Can Buy "Fire Escape" and the wonderful and overlooked track "Out Of My Head". I always liked this band, and may be one of the only people I know who actually owns their other records. They suffer from the same affliction as Supergrass; they make consistently good records while being completely avoided by the industry. Fastball's first record Make Your Mama Proud contained, among other great tracks, the single "Are You Ready For The Fallout", which is probably more known for being in the movie Varsity Blues. The Harsh Light Of Day was just as good as All The Pain Money Can Buy, with a wider sound and greater depth. The band is currently in the studio recording their fifth record, so until then I suggest you give their back catalog a try, you might find some hidden gems.

The Dandy Warhols
The Dandy Warhols are indie rock darlings dripping of The Velvet Underground, which may explain why they put out excellent records that are completely ignored by most radio stations. Despite their lack of radio support, you have probably heard a few of their songs without knowing it. They are featured in numerous commercials and soundtracks, but the real goods are the records. 2000's Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia is an excellent record with their most well known song "Bohemian Like You". Their earlier records are equally good, especially 1997's ...Dandy Warhols Come Down. A band that is more known for its live show antics than their music (Zia McCabe performing topless, for example), and their music videos can be pretty controversial, but once you look past the aesthetic value, they are an excellent band with a handful of excellent records. This year's expected release Earth To The Dandy Warhols should be no exception.

The Lemonheads
The Lemonheads are mostly known for their cover of "Mrs. Robinson", which is sad because their records are great. It's A Shame About Ray, released in 1992, was filled with tracks far better than the album closer mentioned above. "Confetti", "It's A Shame About Ray", and "Buddy" (originally titled "My Drug Buddy") are all excellent tracks. After this album came records with equally catchy tunes overshadowed by Evan Dando's persona and drug use, but the music didn't seem to suffer as much as the rest of the band did. After breaking up in 1998 Dando did some solo touring and released a live record, but nothing he did could match the Lemonheads. Part of their success could be attributed to the wonderfully sexy Juliana Hatfield, who provided bass for most of their records while never being an actual member of the band. Nine years later the band is back, this time with Karl Alvarez (Descendents, All) and Bill Stevenson (Descendents, All, Black Flag) and a new record coming out this year. Until then, check out the back catalog and try to listen to more than just "Mrs. Robinson".

Nada Surf
You probably know Nada Surf for the 1996 radio hit "Popular", a song which is one of the few by this band that I skip every time I play their album. I can understand why it was a hit; I just feel that it overshadows the good stuff. Their second record, 1998's The Proximity Effect was a great record killed by the recording industry, as is the case with a lot of bands from the 90's alternative days. The band bounced back in 2002 with Let Go, a critically acclaimed record that far surpassed everything the band had done up to this point. The Weight Is A Gift was their last record, and while it was decent, it wasn't exactly note-worthy. Which brings us to their newest record, released last week Lucky is a record worth it's weight in gold. Another band that has failed to release a bad record, Nada Surf may always be remembered as a one hit wonder for "Popular", but don't be fooled; they bring the goods.

The 90's was a time of flannel sweaters, bad haircuts, Starbucks, and bands with the word "super" in their title; Superdrag, Supergrass, & Superchunk, all good bands lacking a little creativity in the band-naming department, but thankfully they more than make up for it in their song writing. Superdrag is most known for their 1996 MTV Buzz Bin hit "Sucked Out", which is a good song, but hardly the one they want to be remembered for. It is hard to say that Superdrag was a victim of record label abandonment, especially when their second record, Head Trip In Every Key was written to go against what Elektra was demanding from them. This caused the record label to abandon Superdrag and withhold promoting the record, which is a shame because this is easily their best effort. After another record which failed to chart and a few EP's released, the band called it quits in 2003 due to John Davis' alcoholic lifestyle and his "finding God" thing that rock stars always seem to do nowadays. Thankfully, the band is back together and in the studio recording a new record that I hope will not be a gospel-inspired record with religious overtones. The world does not need another Creed. Anyway, check out their MySpace page for some new tracks and see of there is anything you like.

The bands mentioned above ruled the airwaves in the 90's, only to be replaced with Nickelback and Daughtry and God knows what else, but they are among many others like them who hold a special place in my heart. You can never relive those high school summer days at the lake, nights at the pool halls and mosh pits, girl troubles, missing class and ignoring your homework, all to the sound of some good music. The times are gone, but at least the music remains.

can you hear us pumping on your stereo?

Technorati : , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, February 08, 2008

Jesus Is Fucking Metal

If I was in a heavy metal band, I would call it Gay Demons Frolicking Amongst The Flowers. We would dress up like Mudvayne, but with fantastic pink devil horns and rainbows painted on our bodies. Our stage would literally be a giant flower pot, with roses and tulips and maybe some pretty daisies. We would jump and skip around in the flower bed, stopping only to complain when we broke a string or crushed a tulip. Our sound would be heavy, with crushing guitars and drums that would cause irregularities in your heart beat. Our songs would be titled "I Will Destroy Your Soul If You Don't Tell Me Where You Bought Those Shoes" and "Kiss Me, Kill Me, Gay-Marry Me". Our first album would be titled Give Me Dick Over Bush or maybe something a little less political, like Andy Dick Fuck Machine. And when we win a Grammy, we could play our latest single, "I Loved The Sound Of Music", and stand at the little podium and thank GLAAD, Ozzy, God, and every gay icon in the entertainment industry. Then we would become a cliche, turn into one of those Behind The Music downward spirals. I would get hooked on smack or Epsom salt, loose all of my money paying off the flower mafia, be saved by Jesus, and make a great comeback album titled You Can't Keep A Good Gay Demon Down. It would be heavier, darker, but with way more singles and frolicking involved. Now that is a Behind The Music episode worth watching. I can't fucking wait. Happy Friday!

this was my life, this was my fate

Technorati : , , ,

Monday, February 04, 2008

New Day Rising

I have been waiting for an appropriate time to mention the music of Bob Mould, and seeing as how he has an excellent new record coming out on tomorrow, this seems as good a time as any. Bob Mould started his career as the guitarist for the seminal 80's punk band Husker Du, one of many bands chronicled in Michael Azerrad's excellent book Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981-1991. After the demise of Husker Du, Mould released solo records as well as creating the band Sugar and working in music production. So for those of you unassociated with his work, allow me to shine some light.

Husker Du - Land Speed Record
Recorded live at the 7th Street Entry on August 15th, 1981, Land Speed Record is Husker Du's first release. And trust me, the record lives up to its name. Recorded for a mere $350 on a 2-track soundboard, the record is 17 tracks and 26 and a half minutes of hardcore punk. It has not yet been remastered, which makes the CD a hard listen, even for the most devout of punk fans. A few of the tracks were re-released on their first studio record Everything Falls Apart, but even then it is still a pretty rough listen. If you're not really a fan of punk rock, this record is absolutely skipable, but is a must have for the diehard fans.

Husker Du - Everything Falls Apart
Released in 1983, Everything Falls Apart is Husker Du's first studio record. This record included their second single "In A Free Land" as well as the track "Do You Remember", which is the Danish and Norwegian translation of the bands name. Another highly sought after record from the band due to its small original pressing; it has been re-released onto CD as Everything Falls Apart and More, although this too is a pretty rough listen. The band was known for their distortion and low quality recordings until later on in their career. The record also contains a cover of Donovan's "Sunshine Superman", which always seemed like a weird choice to me, but they manage to make it work.

Husker Du - Metal Circus
This 1983 EP could be considered the starting point of the band's transition into more melodic punk rock, as well as the start of Mould and Grant Hart singing the lead vocals on their own songs. The songs at this point are still pretty short, with 7 tracks clocking in at 19 minutes, but that would soon change.

Husker Du - Zen Arcade
The band's breakout album, the double-LP concept record Zen Arcade is considered a punk rock classic, the record made many top critics and magazine lists. While the record is considered a concept album about a dream or... something, I don't really know, but I don't see it that way. The record does however include many of the band's classics, including "Never Talking to You Again", which was covered recently by David Grohl of the Foo Fighters, which you can download here. This record also includes one of Grant Hart's best songs, "Turn On the News", which the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has placed on their list of "500 songs that shaped rock and roll". If you need a good starting point to get into their music, this is it.

Husker Du - New Day Rising
What could be considered the band's best album, 1985's New Day Rising solidified not only their new direction in sound but also the band's status as one of the decade's best indie band's. Featuring classics such as "I Apologize", "Terms of Psychic Warfare", "Books About UFOs", and the record's 2 singles "New Day Rising" and "Celebrated Summer". New Day Rising has been listed on many "greatest" lists, including being the only Husker Du record on Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of all Time". By far the band's best record.

Husker Du - Flip Your Wig
Released the same year as New Day Rising, Flip Your Wig is a big departure from the band's earlier hardcore days. This record includes the single "Makes No Sense At All", which is not only the band's first music video but also one of the few Husker Du songs that Mould plays at his solo shows. The record also includes a few of my favorite Husker Du tracks, including "Flip Your Wig", "Hate Paper Doll" and "Keep Hanging On". This record proved a pivotal turning point for the band, as they were not only jumping to a major label but also experiencing a lot of inner strife between the band members, which would not only tear the band apart but also draw out some of the bands best music as a result of Mould and Hart's competitive song writing.

Husker Du - Candy Apple Grey
The first record of theirs to crack the Billboard Top 200, as well as my personal favorite record from them, Candy Apple Grey is their first to be released on a major label. There were 2 singles released for the album, both written and sung by Hart; "Don't Want To Know If you Are Lonely", which was made into a music video, and my favorite Husker Du song "Sorry Somehow", which was released as an EP. Here is a clip of Green Day covering "Don't Want To Know If You Are Lonely", for your viewing pleasure. This record also includes some of their slower songs, including the wonderfully melancholy "Hardly Getting Over It", "Too Far Down", and "No Promise Have I Made". My favorite record of theirs as well as their best in production quality, this record alienated a lot of fans, but has aged very well. If I could only suggest one record, this would be it.

Husker Du - Warehouse: Songs and Stories
The last record from the band, Warehouse: Songs and Stories cracked the Billboard Top 200, even as a double album. There were three singles released from the record; "Could You Be The One", "Ice Cold Ice", and "She's A Woman (And Now He Is A Man)", although only the first one was made into a music video. It's a decent record, but I have to be honest; I don't really care for it. "Could You Be The One" is really the only song I listen to off of this record, but I continually find myself giving it another chance, only to be disappointed. The record clearly shows how tired of itself the band has become, and the group disbanded after the tour for this record. This record is probably the easiest on the ears, and it's definitely their most catchy record, so it would be a good listen for those who don't care for the heavier stuff, but honestly I am the only Husker Du fan I know of that even owns this record. A sad ending for a great band.

Bob Mould - Workbook
Mould's first solo record following the demise of Husker Du is a mostly acoustic record that is composed of folky tunes that sound almost nothing like his previous work. While "See A Little Light" is a pretty good tune, I rarely listen to this record. I plan on giving it another spin this week, but it takes a little getting used to due to the drastic change in pace from what I am used to. Still, it's worth checking out.

Bob Mould - Black Sheets of Rain
My favorite so far of Mould's solo releases, Black Sheets of Rain takes late-era Husker Du and gives it a heavy pop coating. This record contained the top 10 hit "It's Too Late", which is among his best solo work. Along with that single, the record also has some pretty good songs that Husker Du fans will probably dig, such as "One Good Reason", "Hanging Tree", "The Last Night", and "Stop Your Crying". This record is definitely one I would suggest you to pick up and give it a spin; really good stuff.

Sugar - Copper Blue
Easily Sugar's best work, Copper Blue is a Sugar album written entirely by Mould. I would list the key tracks, but I would have to list pretty much every damn one. So, to make it easy I will point out my favorites; "Changes", "Helpless", and "If I Can't Change Your Mind", a great song which was butchered by the band Train. A pivotal record of the 90's, this record easily stands up with the best of Husker Du and Mould's solo records.

Sugar - Beaster
Beaster is an EP consisting of songs written at the same time as Copper Blue, but the material was a bit darker than the record, so Mould wisely decided to release it as a 6 song EP. The EP includes the track "Tilted", which is another great Sugar track that had a video made for it. If you can find this EP pick it up, it easily holds up to Copper Blue.

Sugar - File Under: Easy Listening
The last record released by Sugar, F.U.E.L. is a great follow up to Copper Blue. Although I prefer the first record, there were some pretty good tracks released off this record, such as "Gee Angel", "Your Favorite Thing", which is one of my favorite Sugar tracks and got some radio play when it was released, and "Believe What You're Saying". While I do prefer the first record, this one is just as good but with a little lighter, more pop sound.

Sugar - Besides
The final release from the band, Besides is a collection of B-sides from their other records. It's not a bad disc if you are a fan of B-sides and unreleased music, but like most B-sides and rarities discs it does not have a consistent feel to it. The songs seem to jump around in tempo and quality, but if you have gotten this far into Bob Mould's catalog, then I am obligated to inform you to pick this one up as well. The CD also contains the video for the song "Gee Angel", even though the song is from the F.U.E.L. record and is not included in any form on this disc. The first initial pressings of this record included the bonus live disc The Joke Is Always On Us, Sometimes, recorded on November 2nd, 1994 at First Avenue club in Minneapolis.

Bob Mould - Bob Mould
After the demise of Sugar, Mould went back to solo work with the 1996 release of his self-titled album. Having performed all of the instrumentation on this record, it is surprisingly good. It includes the single "egoverride", as well as the note worthy tracks "I Hate Alternative Rock", "Deep Karma Canyon", and "Art Crisis". I still prefer his first solo record, but when this one hits, it's great.

Bob Mould - The Last Dog and Pony Show
This is an interesting record. One minute you're hearing the standard Mould sound ("Moving Trucks" and "Who Was Around"), and then the next minute there is sampling and electronic mechanical sounds ("Reflecting Pool" and "First Drag Of The Day"). This is a prelude to his next record, which was an industrial record. Still, "Moving Trucks" is s great track, along with "Take Everything" and "Who Was Around". Sounds a lot like Sugar, with the obvious exceptions of the sampling tracks I mentioned, but still a great record.

Bob Mould - Modulate
I have to be honest; I rarely listen to this record. Modulate is pretty much what the title insinuates, an electronic record. It's not such a change of pace as Blaqk Audio was to AFI, but its close. Still, there some decent track, such as "Sunset Safety Glass" and "Slay/Sway". The record however is a drastic change of pace and will probably throw off a lot of long time fans. Required listening for die hard fans, but that's about it. I would suggest you stick with his earlier solo work or Sugar.

Bob Mould - Body of Song
A welcome return to form, Body of Song is a mix of Modulate and The Last Dog and Pony Show. The electronic sampling is still there, but the guitars are more concentrated, adding his trademark fuzz to the electronic atmosphere of the record. The record has been reviewed very favorably, and is among his best. I wasn't able to find any videos off of the record, but check out Mould's website for some samples of the record.

Well, that about sums it up. Bob Mould's new record District Line drops tomorrow, and you can listen to the record in it's entirety at his MySpace page. I have given it a couple of listens, and it sounds damn good. Until then, I suggest that you check out his expansive back catalog. Start with Husker Du and work your way forward or vice versa, either way you can't really go wrong. He is also currently on tour so check out his website for dates. I will probably be at the San Francisco show, so if anyone would like to go let me know, I hate going to concerts alone.

You want me to beg forgiveness, tender an apology. It's not my fault and you're not getting one from me.

Technorati : , , , , ,

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Long Road To Ruin

For those of you who have never had to bare the burden of attempting survival in Reno, Nevada allow me to paint you a portrait of nouns and adjectives; Reno is a ruptured septic tank of human vices and temptations. It is the poorly-behaved little brother of Las Vegas, you know the one that always seems to fuck up all the time and always drinks a little too much at Thanksgiving because it wants to be a big city but it knows in it's little heart of hearts that it's nothing more than a state-subsidized adult daycare for alcoholics. In plain terms, this city sucks. I don't gamble, and having actually witnessed it first hand, I now know why. I can see how those with addictive personalities could easily be drawn into debt by the bright lights, free drinks, and the over-bearing presence of strip clubs and all-you-can-eat buffets. Never have I seen a place so dedicated to the typical male hierarchy of necessity; money, sex, booze, and food. It is Hell's waiting room, but don't worry, the room rates are low, the drinks are free, and there's plenty of action to occupy your time. The only upside to visiting this dirt-ridden wasteland was that I got to see a pretty good Foo Fighters concert. So, you know, there's always that.

long road to ruin there in your eyes

Technorati : , , ,