Springtime? Nope. Winter is Coming: Game of Thrones is Back, A Song List

TyrionLast year around this time I confessed (ok, reiterated) my own geekiness when I was hyperbolically excited about the fact that Night Riots has a song named “Berelain” after a character from Robert Jordan’s recently (and posthumously) completed Wheel of Time series. I must add, however, that my geek credentials are the real-thing: I get paid to teach about mythology and to write about ancient poetry.

(Well, the credentials are spotty. I mentioned earlier that I actually played a bard to the 21st or 22nd level in a role-playing game. At one point, I actually tried to write music for the fictional character to perform. I am so ever grateful that I don’t remember it and that the internet did really exist to record my follies back then.)

This week? I have been eagerly awaiting the return of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Now, as readers of this blog know, my brother and I occasionally get excited about television, but not too often. We both used to like The Walking Dead. We both really loved Breaking Bad. He gets into things like Doomsday Preppers while I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which he will not watch). But Game of Thrones is something that we share. And there is an important reason.

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Pets Playlist

I had to put down my golden retriever Remy on Wednesday because lung cancer had sprung up out of nowhere and taken over his body. I’m incredibly broken up about it and it’s taken all of me to just keep going to school and practicing music. It was our Dad’s dog that I inherited when he passed. Like this post says, he had a rough time following his death and I should consider myself lucky to have had the three plus years that I did. I’ll write a smaller post about this soon, but now the wounds are too fresh.  One thing I am sure of is that Remy has found my Dad and I’m sure the reunion was a happy one.

(Note: This post was composed after my brother told me about his cat)

My brother had to put down his cat today and I feel terrible for him. He never gets real emotional about things which is why I feel so bad because I know this kills him. Personally, no one liked or was liked by the cat except him which is why I feel so bad for him. It would routinely scratch me when I tried to pet it back when I was a freshmen in high school and would visit my brother at his undergraduate college. The fucking cat survived more than a lot of people I know can, including two big moves, a house fire, and multiple trips to the vet in.  She was tough, just like my big brother, and we should all mourn her.

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College Radio: The Dying Art of Quality Musical Programming

I heard this song on the college station at my alma mater, The University of Vermont. I heard it twice in one semester as I made the long trek from Burlington to Bristol where I did my teaching internship. The first time is etched in my brain because it was a very snowy morning and the wind was causing drifts of the white stuff to float across the road. I skidded a little at one point and as I slowed to nearly a stop, the music kicked into high gear towards the end of the song and my love affair with progressive rock began in earnest.

My brother’s post about college radio struck a chord with me and I had to write something further on the subject. Just last night, while coming home from dinner with an old friend from high school, I spent most of the car ride telling her why I listen to the college station from the University of Maine or the NPR rather than any of the major radio stations. First and foremost, after years of listening to the radio while landscaping, I feel as if I’ve heard all of the popular songs. If I  hear “Don’t Stop Believing” one more time, I’ll probably lose my mind.

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Yes. And why you should say the same to Prog rock.

I don’t believe this song has anything to do with that crappy science fiction movie which is a good thing. I think the outro riff, those three chords, is one of the coolest yet simple licks in rock and roll. Its been used countless amount of times in as many songs, but perhaps it is most useful here. Steve Howe’s guitar licks continually amaze me and I’ve been a hardcore Yes fan for years at this point.

I’ve talked of my love for progressive rock numerous times and have kept making the threat of writing a whole post on it. Here it is. I got into hard rock as a young man when Led Zeppelin was my first real love in the genre. The Mighty Zep was a blues rock cover band at its onset and always had that tinge to their music. Many bands did, from Cream to Ten Years After to The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Therein is the big difference between what I’d call standard English Rock of the late 60’s and early 70’s and Progressive rock. Prog rock comes from Europe and owes more to the classical music tradition of that continent than that of the blues from the Mississippi delta.

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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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Game of Thrones is Back: A Song List

TyrionA few weeks back I admitted (ok, reiterated) my own geekiness when I was hyperbolically excited about the fact that Night Riots has a song named “Berelain” after a character from Robert Jordan’s recently (and posthumously) completed Wheel of Time series. I must add, however, that my geek credentials are the real-thing: I get paid to teach about mythology and to write about ancient poetry.

(Well, the credentials are spotty. I mentioned earlier that I actually played a bard to the 21st or 22nd level in a role-playing game. At one point, I actually tried to write music for the fictional character to perform. I am so ever grateful that I don’t remember it and that the internet did really exist to record my follies back then.)

This week? I have been eagerly awaiting the return of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Now, as readers of this blog know, my brother and I occasionally get excited about television, but not too often. We both like The Walking Dead. He gets into things like Doomsday Preppers while I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which he will not watch). But Game of Thrones is something that we share. And there is an important reason.

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Why I love the guitar solo.

One of my favorite solos ever, almost certainly the favorite for the mighty Led Zeppelin. I’ve loved this one for over a decade which is not the same I can say for those old Foo Fighters records. Just listen to how he keeps building the solo until there is a climax, not unlike a sexual experience. Many people, including an interview I can now not find with Jimmy Page, have ascertained that songs like  “Stair way to Heaven” are modeled like this for that exact reason.

The Elder and I talked about Mumford last week and he commented on my post after some back and forth that he thought most guitar solos are “superfluous ostentation” which I think is the equivalent of tail fins on a car. They look cool and add to the overall picture but don’t really do much for the ride. (He continues the debate here.)

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What the fuck?

What the fuck?

What the fuck? This is a question I find rolling around in my head far more often than I’d like and I don’t think I’m in the minority. Anything can trigger this, from a stoplight taking too long to odd developments in personal relationships to learning that the whole country is running out of orange juice due to a hard frost in Flordia. It is hard to define as it’s so universally applicable, but its safe to say everyone has their own “what the fuck” moment. Many are associated with music due to the cathartic nature of listening to your favorite tunes to relieve stress.

What do I mean specifically? Those times when you feel like the world is out to get you and your response is “Well, what the fuck?” In times of more clear thought, most of us realize that shit happens and this is the way of the world. It’s almost certainly not a personal thing, but rather the randomness of existence. This can be easy to say but hard to actually accept all at once. In time though, at least in my case, I calm down and realize you have to roll with the punches.

One of the biggest uses of music is therapy in whatever form helps you the most. I can say from experience that listening to music and playing it is one of the healthiest ways to deal with stress of any kind.  This is why we can be listening to something and say,“This is exactly how I feel”, like whoever created the music just built a door to your soul.. I know I have a lot of these moments and everyone else does too. Ideally, we would have other people contribute these types of essays to really show how music helps so I will try and offer a good model for future contributions.

Moment: It’s the beginning of spring and nearly everyone I know is either not working or working very little. Gas prices are shooting up and from my observation, if this continues, the economy will tailspin right back into the shit. I have a Master’s degree that is doing me more harm than good as I live in a rural area that doesn’t value my field and will gladly take someone with less education so they can pay them less.

Thus, I work four part time jobs that are all on vacation or super slow this week so I’m at home. I have been doing yard work but mostly seeking more real jobs and lamenting the state of the world and my lack of female companionship. Again, this has to do with my location and conceivably my financial situation: I am in my mid-twenties where it really does matter how much money you’re making for romantic purposes. Basically, what the fuck? Here’s what I’m listening to.

1. Aenima-Tool: This has been a song I’ve listened to almost every day for probably six months now. I always knew of Tool but didn’t KNOW Tool until this summer when I spent some time reading about them and what they are all about. My verdict is that they are a truly amazing band with a sound philosophy and not a whole lot of obvious rock star bullshit. Their name is literally meant for the purpose of people using their music for whatever purpose they see fit and the reason their lead singer Maynard doesn’t explain the lyrics to their tunes.

This song is pretty clear though as it takes some of its lyrics from a Bill Hicks’ album called Arizona Bay. Youtube that shit right now for sure so I don’t ruin it for you! To sum up without ruining it, it is a sketch about the idea of a massive earthquake breaking off California into the Pacific which would now wash up on the shores of Arizona. From my interpretation, the song mostly outlines how Hollywood culture has pervaded every aspect of our modern lives–the chorus states: “the only way to fix it is to flush it all away/learn to swim/see you down in Arizona Bay”. This is all done over a clever combination of looping bass and guitar lines backed up by Danny Carey’s pounding drums. ( He is probably the best rock drummer in our day.Just to clue you in, the rest of the band will be in 4/4 time during a song and Danny Carey will be playing around them in like 6/8, which to me as a novice musician is mind blowing.)

Anyway, I am feeling this song right now due to my own frustration with the economic situation and the fact that you can’t turn on the TV without seeing another shade of this “reality” bullshit. You want reality? How about paying bills and struggling for health insurance? How about borrowing money from a complete stranger to pay for milk for your kids which is  a scene I just witnessed? Bleak, I know, much like the song, but maybe the only way to fix this whole thing is to flush it all away.

2. “The Ballad of Jim Jones” –The Brian Jonestown Massacre: I discovered this band, or rather rediscovered it, through the show Boardwalk Empire HBO. The theme song is another ill BJM tune, who are pretty awesome overall by the way, but this one just popped up when I was searching for different tunes by them. It sounds like a drugged-up Bob Dylan circa The Times they’re changing but actually able to hit the high notes. The song is a musical tale of the band’s namesake, the Reverend Jim Jones himself, his journey to his utopia and eventual mass suicide south of the border in 1978. He made everyone drink poison-spiked kool-aid in an attempt to  prove to the world you can refuse capitalism and embrace socialism. Yeah I know, it makes little sense to me too.

Oh yeah, Jesus was in on it too, which only further twists this lunatic philosophy and created a nice verse for this song:

“I prayed to Buddha, to Allah, and to Jim
I turned to Jesus and I stayed there with Him
I fell in deeper and I learned to swim”

Now I don’t condone mass suicide or extremism of any kind, but I do suggest an exploration of all faiths as this has worked for me. I got it from my old man who used to read from the Koran, Bible, and the Torah on a daily basis, saying “They all got some good shit to say”. Jim took this the wrong way and I think it’s an example of the crazy things people will do when they are down on their luck. This why it occurs to me now as I routinely witness Pyramid schemes at the banquet hall where I work part time and the general sense of desperation it what an apparently failing economy. Also, it connects back to Aenima with the swimming line and I didn’t realize that until right now as I am writing. That’s fucking cool and deepens the links between the songs.

3. “Indoor Games”-King Crimson: I’ve been on a prog-rock kick for a solid couple of years now and it doesn’t seem to be waning. It all started with an afternoon spent in a Subaru Outback driving slowly around a field and listening to Emerson, Lake, and Palmer’s greatest hits. Although also a huge Yes fan, I think King Crimson is the most badass of the prog-rockers and the most eclectic. With the lead guitarist Robert Fripp being the only constant member, their sound rarely stays the same for long and their third album Lizard exemplifies this. From the more pastoral epic sound of their first two albums, this one is almost like jazz metal and is unlike anything recorded before it.

My crazy neighbor Fred, whom I will describe in a later entry, told me to check out this song and he’s never led me wrong. He also has tinfoil in his hat but, again, that story is for another day. “Indoor Games” means little to me lyrically as I can’t understand many words and even less as I just glanced at the lyric sheet. I like it more because of the wide variety of sound, even just the multiple uses of guitars from distorted dissonance to simple strumming. I listen to this tune everyday as of late and I keep hearing different stuff which is something I look for in music. Lastly, during the late nineties, King Crimson toured with Tool as they are a very clear influence on the band affirmed by the bandmembers. So yes, everything does link back to Tool….or does Tool link everything? What do you think?