Spring Sunshine Playlist

I try and sing along with this because the high note is incredibly hard to hit, nearly impossible. Myself and the lead guitar player in my band try to harmonize on it as a means to practice doing vocal harmonies. Obviously, the results are not perfect but it sure is fun. I also love thecomplex production of this song because the little percussive noises really make it snap.

I can’t stop singing “Under the Boardwalk” and I don’t even like going to the beach. True Story: It always involves sand getting into everything and I am extremely pale so I can’t enjoy the sun the way most people do. After one hell of a long winter with various ups and downs and a way late season snowstorm a few weeks back, springtime is finally here. The Drifters really captured the feeling of sunshine and milling around on this track and I have had it on repeat in my head and on my PA in the band’s jam room. I am incredibly happy for the season to change and I can’t wait for summer.

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Quick Post: Recent Acquisitions

While my brother waits for kegs to be delivered, I go on periodic music binges. I can confess this without guilt because I know that it is the first step towards healing. I get frustrated with my music library or irrationally exuberant about something I have heard and then I just start downloading. It is the internet I blame—before iTunes I used to troll through Amazon buying CDs with the justification that the used ones were cheaper. Now, even though I know the quality isn’t what it should be, sometimes I just can’t contain myself.records

When I was young(er), before the internet turned us all into more efficient and obsessive consumers, to buy an album was an event, a pilgrimage along back-country roads without shoulders and to one of the few places where new CDs could be purchased. It was momentous, as well, because it also seemed like an investment: I earned $4.25 an hour in my first job making pizza at Little Caesar’s. CDs, irrationally, cost between $12 and $18.00.

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Waiting on the Keg

I have a very cool Cheers mug that I use so even if my bucket had a hole in it, I could still partake.

Some readers may remember a while back when I wrote on receiving a free half keg of Oatmeal Stout from one of my home state’s finest breweries. Afterwards, I gave up alcohol for Lent and tried to gain some clarity which I definitely found. Just yesterday I got another free keg, this one being a Rye IPA that is easily one of the best beers I have ever tasted and definitely worth the entire afternoon we spent waiting on getting it.

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Female Artists and Audience Subjectivity

The recent post by The Only D which emphasizes new music by women came (serendipitously or not) just around the same time I had a conversation with my brother about the fact that we don’t talk much about female performers. If that weren’t enough, my wife has been telling me for years that I don’t really listen to or like to female performers and that this is an indication that my dedication to gender equality is shallow at best.

So, a month after Women’s History Month and not much wiser, I want to redress the issue. Of course, I won’t do this without some kind of elaborate and defensive explanation. While I do suspect that seeking out artists because they happen to be female is almost as problematic as avoiding them because they are, I cannot dispute some simple facts. I do, insistently, disagree with my wife about why I don’t seem to listen to many female artists. I cannot, however, disagree with the facts when my music collection is at least 90% male dominated.

A shameless opportunity to post a They Might Be Giants song.

This post will consist of two lists: first, my weak explanation for my gender-bias; and second, a list of the female artists I do love.

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Dance Music?

My band has gotten into what I would consider our first serious argument. We have been doing the covers thing to decent results and are pushing to finish our own  music while still accruing fun shows for the summer to expand our skills and social network. The only complaint we’ve had is that we need to play more dance music so people will want to get out there and shake their booties. I think we play some jamming tunes, but we decided to brainstorm as a band for some other covers we could throw in there to get people moving. This was the first suggestion by my esteemed lead singer and best friend:

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Breeders’ Last Splash: A forgotten classic?

Hey, there’s nothing in my heart.
I’d rather be cool than be smart.
Hey, What I’m thinking of.
I’d rather be cool than be loved.
Here’s what I feel, Ba ba ba ba.
Just want a girl, as cool as Kim Deal.
–The Dandy Warhols, “Cool as Kim Deal” (1997)

Sure, start off a review of one band’s album with somebody else’s song. That’s rational.

 

I started out on this blog writing some reviews of albums that I considered classic with the intention of trying to explain what makes them timeless and not just tied to their trends and historical context. Recently, but without regret, I have focused a little more on contemporary releases. This doesn’t mean I have forgotten about some older albums—I have just been letting them ‘age’.

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Tame Impala: There’s one in my Yard

I have already broken my commandment of writing a long post and a short post each week, but it’s not due hardly at all to procrastination. In fact, I only recently got a real job where I have to be consistently engaged and no choice but to show up everyday, but I am sure the Elder is still sour with me as he should be. I will get into the details of my new job later since I think I could write volume on it at this point. Instead, check out this song that I know my brother mentioned at some point and I heard last night on a commercial.

This song, by Tame Impala, is badass. It’s like a dirty sounding T. Rex with all the fuzz and buzz one could want from a seriously righteous sounding garage band. I had to applaud the band for making the song and my brother for catching some thing cool before me. I can’t even remember what I was doing because I don’t know what the commercial was for.

Luckily, I heard the same song the next day on the weekly Psychedelic Breakfast on the classic rock station that I listen to every single Saturday morning even if I am up the whole night prior. True story is that the only thing that keeps me from listening to this show is geographical and apparently one can listen to it online so even if I am out of the state, I can still jam to this amazing set of music.

Naturally, they have a song called “Led Zeppelin” which almost sounds like a psychedelic version of one of that huge band’s song but with like a techno backbeat. Pretty cool.

After hearing the song and then getting the name from the DJ, I immediately remembered my brother talking about the band. These Australians describe themselves as a psychedelic band so it’s excellent I heard them on the aforementioned show. The song above grabbed my attention because of the name and ended up being very cool.  I have been scanning through their songs on the YouTubes and find them to be consistently awesome. They have this classic late 60’s, early 70’s feel with some sick riffs and the psychdelia of middle-era Beatles and early Pink Floyd but with more cohesive songs. Clearly, there’s a little prog rock in there too which I obviously love. Nothing insane for guitar solos so far, but give me some time!

After numerous mentions of the word Apocalypse, I still can’t spell with the word without spell check.  

To wrap up what is supposed to be a short post, I do in fact have a tame Chevy Impala in my backyard. Over two years after his passing, my father’s P.O.S  sedan with over two hundo on the engine still remains in the vacant spot where I should have heirloom tomatoes or some shit growing.  I finally have gotten the paperwork and enthusiasm to get rid of it and hope to sell it within the month and clear up the garden space and my mind because I know the old man would want it gone if it wasn’t running. I need to reboot my iTunes account and buy the whole album by Tame Impala and figure out more songs that rock while doing my spring clean up. This one definitely sounds like the Beatles.

This sounds so much like “I’m only Sleeping”.

This sounds to me a lot like the Revolver era of the Beatles that I probably like more than any other era and a heavier dose of psychedelia then they were into at the time.  This song, with the title of “Feels like we are going backwards” makes me think about my new job in education and almost every aspect of my life right now but I feel alright about it. Sometimes life does push you backwards which really just prompts me to push a little harder and try to think of how to do things differently. Spring is here and the glass is half full so let’s get on it!

Angry Music

“You guys should play more angry”

–The Mixtape Girl’s Brother

“Goddess, sing the Rage of Achilles, the son of Peleus / the destructive rage that sent thousands of Greeks to their doom”

Homer, Iliad 1.1-2

(We never took time on this blog to note the passing and commemorate the memory of the Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch. It is always a loss when a good man dies young. Coverage of his passing made me think of this subject.)

When I was younger I had the peculiar experience of dating a girl a few years my senior. Now, as far as the dating goes, there was really nothing unexpected or abnormal (indeed, it was a formative and not atypical adolescent firestorm); the peculiar part was that her (the Mix Tape Girl’s) younger brother was my age and in my classes at school.

Perhaps that is not all that strange—it was, however, a bit awkward. At the beginning he and I were not friends or really all that friendly. (In fact, I am sure he was not all that happy to have me around.) But, by the end of the relationship, we were friendly enough—we actually ended up in a related network of friends. We went to at least one movie together. He farted around me openly.Where the Mix Tape Girl was a little ‘alternative’ (but still close enough to the in-crowd), her brother started out a little nerdy without being a geek—that is, he took AP Physics and Calculus, but definitely wasn’t into Dungeons & Dragons or They Might be Giants. He was a bit of a clown, atypically kind in private, and charmingly goofy outside of school.

One day, when the two of us were working together at a convenience store, I was inflicting another conversation about my band on him.  I am sure he heard me sing and play the guitar more than anyone not dating me or related by blood should have had to. But he never complained. Instead, he seemed to try to understand the maudlin lyrics, the prog-rock harmonies and the attempts to imitate TMBG on one day, Nirvana on the next, and bad folk music on the third.


I think I was complaining about how no one we knew would come see my band play. And then, he said it: “Why don’t you guys play more angry? You know, like Rage Against the Machine or something.” He impressed upon me the value of letting people feel pissed off, the adrenaline sparked by angry music.


In all honesty I have always been a little bewildered by the attraction of the heavier and angrier bands (to the extent that my own affinity for Fugazi is only half-hearted). Moshing, slam-dancing, intentional violence—all these things always seemed off to me. Of course, at the time, the alternatives were to be a full-fledged Lilith Fair supporter, or to dwell somewhere awkwardly between the extremes.


The angry, or aggressive side of rock was not a new phenomenon even then—the heavier sounds that arrived with Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath set the stage for the much later mainstream popularity of a band like Rage Against the Machine which drew on the Hard Core movement of the 1980’s. Punk, especially in its early days with the Sex Pistols, shared the same genes.



Of course, I did not think any of this that day behind the register as we sold 99 cent King Cobras to local drunks. Instead, I tried to figure out what such a kind, often quiet, and altogether ‘happy’ guy like my girlfriend’s brother found to identify with in the anger of Rage Against Machine and the mad noise of “Sabotage”?


The complicated answer I come to years later is that for most of us who lead normal lives, such flirtation with anger acts like an emotional release valve. On a cultural level, our raging musicians, artists (and sometimes crackpots) express the destructive emotions that might just destabilize society if they are given no release.


This is not to say that artists like Rage Against the Machine, Black Flag, or Fugazi have nothing to be angry about, but, rather, that their appeal to those who are not defined by protest and inspired to challenge authority confirms that they are filling a larger cultural need.
Or something like that.

But, when I think about this topic further, this explanation makes sense (although it needs nuance and support). Anger, or perhaps something more basic and animalistic like rage, appears as the central theme of one of the oldest narratives in the Western tradition, the Iliad, where the main character’s rage (Achilles) is so super-human that it not only destroys his enemies but it results in the deaths of his friends. In turn, as Achilles follows his anger to its (il)logical end, it secures his death as well. It is only when he gives up his rage to make common cause with Priam, the father of his enemy Hector, the man he kills and then whose body he disfigures in fury, that Achillles becomes something like a human. He re-enters society. To become a civilized man, he must foreswear his rage.

Led Zeppelin got angry. About a foot.
Yet, the society that tells his tale still ponders the dangers and effects of anger. Why? Because the sub-human, animalistic spirit resides within us—especially within men. I used to think that angry music was popular because anger is a simple emotion that often covers for more complex things. Now, I think that while anger may correlate with many other emotions—loss, frustration, jealousy, to name a few—it is more basic and profound than a mere cloak for tender feelings.

Anger, I could say, is that battle within as we negotiate the balance between our needs and the world that confounds us. Anger, on a larger scale, is the expression of fundamental disappointment in the way things are. Anger, when sampled even vicariously, must be tamed or released for us to live together in something like peace.

Or that’s the answer I have now for why a nice young man essentially implied that my band was too whiny and needed (as he put it later) “balls”. Perhaps this too may explain my brother’s disdain for ‘emo’. Who wants every day and self-pitying emotions  when stronger stuff is on offer, when angry music lets us feel something or express something that we don’t find every day?
Here’s some real angry stuff:

And what do you think my brother?  Does the theory pass the smell test? Did you ever think you’d read about Achilles and Black Flag in the same post?

Impossible Covers: Kurt Cobain and Cole Porter

coleMy brother’s recent post about a fantasy cover describes a conversation we had when I first mentioned our new game–picking an artist and a song for an unsolicited arranged marriage. His version of the conversation is fairly accurate except in the outcome: I think he did a much better job describing the game than I would have and his first proposed cover/artists match-up is better than what I was thinking of.

Let me explain this thing a little bit. As I have made clear before, I am a little obsessed not just with the artistic and philosophical status of a cover but also with the typology of the phenomenon and the criteria that go into song choices. I also suffered a brief obsession with amateurs performing covers on youtube. (Ok, not so brief, I posted three entries about it. Perverse.)

Love this song. It makes me want to sway.

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Covers in Fantasy Time #1

After writing about the Notorious B.I.G. and guitar solos last week, as well as getting some of our highest views for our blog ever, my brother and I spent some time on the phone discussing what was working and what wasn’t. I need to post more because I’m a slacker (and he needs to learn to love Primus.)

As spring approaches, I need to step up my posting because, after this terrible winter, I’ll need to be outside a lot and I have no more excuses to slack off and can even have a beer or two to celebrate now that lent is over. My goal is to write a short piece and a longer piece each week so our collective brothers’ output is more equalized and I can stop feeling like I let down my big brother/best friend. A suggestion he had was for us both to write quick posts on covers, something he’s done in long form before.

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