On the Radio (Flashback): Time Bomb

In the mid 1990s I used to work about 45 minutes away from home at a gas station–much to the chagrin of my parents who couldn’t understand why the hell I had to drive 45 minutes to pump gas when there were perfectly good places to pump gas in our home town.  The long and the short of it was: (1) I didn’t want to be caught pumping gas by someone I actually knew and (2) there was a girl involved (the place was owned by her father).

As with most things, the law of unintended consequences had a powerful showing here.This was the glorious year of the Ford LTD Stationwagon.  First of all, since I was young and driving a lot not only did I get into my first fender-bender, run out of gas during a snowstorm and receive my first, second and third traffic citations, but I also got to listen to the radio constantly at a time when alt-rock was king. During many of my long drives into the cold, I heard songs by the band Rancid.

I can’t listen to this song without getting happy now. What the living hell was wrong with me?

As I mentioned a few months back when I was going through my obsessive phase with Palma Violets, I was dismissive of almost everything in second-wave punk for no good reason. Although I grudgingly acknowledged the quality of Green Day (and who didn’t? the radio played us all into submission), Rancid–with its snarling vocals and stripped down sound–seemed easy to mock and easier to dismiss. And yet, when I listen to it now, it seems so much more transgressive, immediate, and authentic (again, whatever that means) than a lot of the other schmaltz I thought was good. (“Wonderwall? What the fuck?)

I think that a good deal of my suspicion of punk’s second sailing has to do with poorly held and even more poorly defined ideas of authenticity and originality. At 16, I thought that such words had meaning and had no concept of things like appropriation, homage, and metamorphosis. Even worse, when it came to a band like Rancid, I was too fucking ignorant to know that two of the members were old-timers from Operation Ivy who had enough cache and real DIY punk character to make the members of Green Day blush. Hell, Rancid never even signed with a mainstream label.

So, I guess the lesson here is that if you’re worried that someone else is a poseur, you should probably check into their bona fides and, even before that, do the whole monkey in the mirror thing and make sure you’re not a complete fake. I’m trying to make amends for this and many other asshole moments in my youth.  Just today I downloaded the album.  My kids are going to be rocking out with safety pins this afternoon.

And what do you think of all this, my brother?

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’.

Continue reading

Tullycraft Returns

So, a band called Tullycraft, which some of the savvier readers (if I have either readers or readers with savvy) might know about has just released their first single in years. And people are getting excited. Well, I am, and some other people who have much more knowledgeable blogs, too.

(I got a message on twitter from a good friend about it. He found out from a blog. So this is a tertiary reporting at best.)Tullycraft

I’m not going to spend time telling you about the band because I don’t really know that much about them as people, I only know the music. (Anything I told you would be stolen from Wikipedia.) I don’t even know how I heard about the album Beat Surf Fun, but it was a staple in my CD Walkman in the year before I got an iPod. I loved their debut Old Traditions, New Standards (even though I acquired it seven years after its release).

Yet, I haven’t persuaded someone else to listen to the band. My wife thinks the sound is ‘weird’ (and it is stripped down and different from most of what you’ll hear on any radio station). But something about the songs just make me happy. Oh, and confused.

“Pop songs your new boyfriend’s too stupid to know about”

Continue reading

Songs of the Year 1994

Note: Occasionally we will be running posts that look back to the music we remember from certain years.

1994 was a big year in music, for me and for the world. Kurt pulled the trigger and effectively lionized himself for eternity; Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane fame pointed a shotgun at police officers in a drunken stupor. Shotguns seemed to be a motif of the year but for me, it was all Nirvana and little girls in Bumble Bee suits dancing around in a field to neo-hippie melodies. Weezer and Green Day too, with a little bit of sullen Sound Garden thrown in. This year also brought us the birth of Justin Bieber who would begin his unholy reign years later.

As I’ve said numerous times before, I was a diehard Nirvana fan as a youth even though I could barely understand what Kurt was singing most of the time. I’m sure if I’d known the words, I as a third grader could not identify with the kind of personal desolation he appeared to have felt to spurn his suicide. I don’t even think I would have understood if I had heard the words. Let’s face it; I was a lower upper middle class kid growing up in the woods with numerous friends and a seemingly loving family. My main concern was what snacks I would eat on a given day and if I could convince my mom to drive to Ben Franklin’s department store to buy X-Men trading cards.

I stole my brother’s cds and I don’t think I ever gave back the original copy of Nevermind. I had to buy In Utero and I  remember setting up a fake stage with my two friends who were brothers and pretending to perform the entire album. I got the plastic guitar and the giant foam microphone because I played the lead singer, megalomaniac as I was, while my friends backed me up on a broom and various pots respectively. I would lip-sync to songs like “Rape Me” and “Scentless Apprentice”, even then realizing the beauty of Nirvanas arguably best written song “All Apologies”. I was really sad when he died and I vaguely remember crying. Still kind of bums me out now.

I also had a serious fascination with Green Day and their gigantic album Dookie which my sister listened to non-stop. She loved that band and even got the ‘rents to buy her a low cost Harmony electric guitar which now sits in my basement (a piece of crap, although we did pull it out and hook it to a bass amp not long ago to see if we could make it sound cool). All of the songs were good to my young ears and I still love “Longview”. It perfectly epitomizes the general malaise of the young male, specifically “when masturbation lost its fun / you’re fuckin lonely.” Vulgar, but right to the point of the single male.

One time in music class when it was one of my fellow student’s turns to bring in and share a piece of music. She brought in this cd and played “Basketcase”. Our teacher, an ultra Christian whose son I was friends and had attended their Waco-style Church one Sunday, sort of flipped out. She was like “I can’t believe the depravity of these lyrics. Not only are they using curse words but they also talk about being stoned, having sex, and whores!”

Continue reading