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Thursday, June 30, 2005

The One That Started It All

I held out with getting onto MySpace for the longest time. It looked like a silly way of wasting time by posting poorly-lit pictures of yourself and making friends with people you'd never meet in real life. Well, I signed up a few months so I could in touch with a lost friend and I've been hooked ever since. As of last night, I'm incredibly glad something like this is around. Why? Because I found the guy who pretty much started me rolling on my book, all the way back in 1987.

Here's the story: when my family lived in New Orleans, my sister and I went to a private school about 45 minutes away from where we lived. I didn't really have any neighborhood friends and having schoolmates from all over the city presented problems with hanging out. Sometime in second grade, there was this new kid in my class named Andrew that came late in the school year. Andrew didn't have the best of times with our teacher and he once he had a total meltdown in front of the class. I felt bad for him, but I didn't really know what to do.

Fast forward a few weeks and I'm at recess. I go inside to get a drink of water and my teacher stops me in the hall. She asks me to sit with Andrew while he ate lunch. I had no problem with doing this and I got to know the guy. Turns out we were interested in a lot of the same things. Namely, skateboarding. I knew very little about skateboarding but I was very curious to know more. He knew a lot about it and we just talked and talked. We became good friends from that day on. He gave me some old copies of Skateboarding and Thrasher and I was blown away by what I saw. This was one of my first introductions to a different world outside of the suburbia bubble.

I had finally found somebody I could really connect with. The problem was, I moved to Houston after the summer of second grade.

Andrew and I hung out at my house one last time before I moved. It was a great time but I felt I would never see him again. We exchanged numbers and addresses but we never kept in touch.

One year later, my family and I went back to New Orleans Mardi Gras. I don't remember how many parades we went to but I noticed familiar face at one of them. It was Andrew. Of all the parades you could go to and all the people that go to them, I find my old friend. We hung out once again as we watched the floats go by. It was awesome to see him again but once again, I thought I would never see him again.

Flash forward to last night and I just typed his name in MySpace's search engine. Bammo: there is his profile.

The reason why this stuff is important to bring up is that thinking differently and making friends with thinking differently is a huge theme in my forthcoming book, Post. Sure, the sub-titles are music-related, but instead of talking all about music, these two kinds of things are all over the place.

Fall Out Boy can complain all they want about MySpace, but I'm a believer in it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Hated the movie? Here's your money back.

The Wall Street Journal has this article about movie theaters offering a refund to those disappointed with Ron Howard's Cinderella Man:

Hate the Flick? Some Theaters Offer Refunds
By KATE KELLY
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
June 29, 2005; Page B1

Faced with sagging box-office revenue, studios and theater chains are
testing out novel strategies for getting the public back into movie
seats.

Those tactics will be in full force during the coming Independence Day
holiday weekend. Continuing a promotion unveiled last weekend, AMC Entertainment Inc.'s theaters plan to offer full-ticket refunds to moviegoers who don't like "Cinderella Man" -- a flick that opened to disappointing attendance.

The no-hassle money-back guarantee is a rarity in the business, where fans who sit through awful flicks usually leave with little more than bad memories.
But AMC's results are encouraging enough that CinemarkInc., another big exhibitor, is planning a similar promotion for the three-day weekend.

To boost this weekend's attendance of "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith," News Corp.'s Twentieth Century Fox is offering a buy-three-get-one-free deal -- an obvious gambit to cram families into theaters (and maybe even lure them back for a second viewing). Fox is also hoping to compete with "War of the Worlds," a joint release from Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures, which opens today. Fox's tongue-in-cheek slogan: May the Fourth Be With You.

That campaign follows one from Walt Disney Co., which promoted its family comedy "Herbie: Fully Loaded" by offering free sneak-preview tickets to anyone whose name was a derivation of Herbert.

The moves illustrate some of the pressures Hollywood is facing this summer. Compared to last year, weekend box-office receipts have been down for 18 straight weekends, the longest stretch recorded in at least two decades. So far this year, according to the box-office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations Co., box office revenue is down 6% domestically, and movie attendance has slumped 10% compared to last year. For a theatrical industry already beset by competition from videogames, video-on-demand, DVDs, and piracy, it's a worrisome time.

The attendance-goosing efforts notwithstanding, some movie-business
veterans are skeptical that the latest tactics will work. Tom Sherak, a partner at Revolution Studios, says that in his experience, money-back guarantees can backfire. Mr. Sherak, the former distribution chief at Fox, says that studio tried such a gimmick for a 1994 remake of "Miracle on 34th Street," which resulted in people demanding refunds because they were late to a movie or couldn't afford to pay for tickets in the first place.

When it comes to the moviegoing public, "giving it to them for free, or
giving them the ability to get their money back, it's just not a driving force" to boost attendance, he says.

The exhibitors offering "Cinderella Man" refunds disagree. "We just really believe that 'Cinderella Man' is a special picture," says Dick Walsh, film group chairman at AMC, the nation's second-largest theater circuit. "It's first class up and down, almost certain to be nominated for Academy Awards, and we just wanted to do whatever we could to
help."

Mr. Walsh remembers just one other time when his company undertook such an offer: 1988, with the movie "Mystic Pizza." As the first leading role for Julia Roberts, who would later become a huge star, a money-back guarantee for that movie was a prescient move. Still, it was an isolated one: while the promotion bore "good results" at the box office, says Mr. Walsh, AMC didn't consider doing it again.

That is, until "Cinderella Man."

Based on the true story of Jim Braddock, a down-on-his-luck boxer who rose to national prominence after winning an underdog championship match in the depths of the Depression, the movie cost roughly $90 million to make, before marketing expenses. But with director Ron Howard and actors Russell Crowe and Renée Zellweger starring, Universal Pictures, a unit of General Electric Co., had high hopes for its success.

Over a steak dinner around the time of the movie's June 3 opening, Mr.
Walsh and Peter Brown, chairman of AMC, told executives at Universal Pictures that "Cinderella Man" was one of the best movies they had seen recently. But the film took in just $18 million during its crucial opening weekend, and in the days that followed, it was eclipsed by the behavior of Mr. Crowe, who was arrested for hurling a telephone at a New York City hotel employee.

Stung by the movie's disappointing box-office performance, Mr. Walsh called Nikki Rocco, president of domestic distribution at Universal, to suggest the money-back guarantee.
"This is your call, Dick," Ms. Rocco remembers saying. But she was thrilled with the idea. "It's just their innovative way of trying to
get a message across," she says, "and 'Cinderella Man,' I think, will be a
film...that people will remember."

Since AMC and Universal share movie-ticket revenue, the decision to proceed was ultimately a joint one. But Mr. Walsh says he's pleased with last weekend's turnout for "Cinderella Man," which has taken in $50 million since its opening. "The drop it experienced from the preceding weekend was the least out of all the top-ten pictures [currently playing]," he says.

AMC plans to press forward in the coming weeks, and says that consumers so far are not abusing the offer. In rare cases, people did request their money back -- with no questions asked. Cinemark, the third-largest U.S. movie chain, decided yesterday to offer the "Cinderella Man" guarantee as well. Texas-based Cinemark is in heavy competition with AMC in some big markets. "We'll try it in some select markets and see if it works," says a Cinemark spokeswoman.




Man, I wish this plan was in effect when I saw Meet the Parents and There's Something About Mary in the theater. (Yes, There's Something About Mary.) Maybe this is why I'm so choosy with the films I see (especially in a theater) . . .

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Major or Minor Threat? (update)

Dischord released this statement about Nike's usage of Minor Threat's album art for an ad:

To longtime fans and supporters of Minor Threat and Dischord this must seem like just another familiar example of mainstream corporations attempting to to assimilate underground culture to turn a buck. However it is more disheartening to us to think that Nike may be successful in using this imagery to fool kids, just beginning to becoming familiar with skate culture, underground music and DIY ideals, into thinking that the general ethos of this label, and Minor Threat in particular, can somehow be linked to Nike's mission. In any regard, we would like to thank the many people who have written to us in the last several days to express their outrage, support and encouragement.

Punknews.org scooped Nike's response:

Nike Skateboarding sincerely apologizes for the creation of a tour poster inspired by Minor Threat's album cover. Despite rumors being circulated, Wieden & Kennedy and Odopod had nothing to do with the creation of this tour poster and should not be held accountable. To set the record straight, Nike Skateboarding's "Major Threat" Tour poster was designed, executed and promoted by skateboarders, for skateboarders. All of the Nike employees responsible for the creation of the tour flyer are fans of both Minor Threat and Dischord records and have nothing but respect for both.
Minor Threat's music and iconographic album cover have been an inspiration to countless skateboarders since the album came out in 1984. And for the members of the Nike Skateboarding staff, this is no different. Because of the album's strong imagery and because our East Coast tour ends in Washington DC, we felt that it was a perfect fit. This was a poor judgment call and should not have been executed without consulting Minor Threat and Dischord Records.
We apologize for any problems this may have caused, and want to make very clear that we have no relationship with the members of Minor Threat, Dischord Records and they have not endorsed our products.
Every effort has been made to remove and dispose of all flyers (both print and digital). Again, Nike Skateboarding sincerely apologizes to Minor Threat and Dischord Records.




My opinion: apology accepted.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Everybody's Working for the Weak

Friday night was a great bill at the Barley House: Horses and Chatterton, both from Fort Worth. Neither band was a disappointment and I thoroughly enjoyed them. Following Horses' proper set was the debut of the Lewis Morning News, a band featuring all of Horses' members and their friend Miles on lead vocals. They only play Huey Lewis & the News covers and this set featured "The Heart of Rock & Roll" and "The Power of Love." Hearing those songs brought back great memories of DeLoreans, bassists with sunglasses and combed-back hair.

After the show, I went straight home and took a shower. As I'm brushing my teeth, I hear Jason and Cari coming in. They tell me that a certain person from a certain band might be coming over to our house. The person comes over about 15 minutes later with a friend, so we hang out for a while. Who is this person? Well, I hate the word "rock star," but this person is in a band that a lot of people in the indie rock/hipster/indie yuppie world know. If I told my mom who he is, she wouldn't know. My point is this, he is somebody I've read articles about, heard his band's music and have seen pictures of him. However, he is a human and he was a guest in our house so I treated him like a friend. I didn't dish out too many music journalist-like questions on him. I figured he deals with that stuff enough.

Saturday, thanks to my friend Seth's recommendation, I checked out Troubled Hubble at the Gypsy Tea Room. Even though I knew only a couple of songs beforehand, I was blown away by their set. They are yet another great rock-band-that-you-can't-easily-pigeonhole on Lookout!, so I can't say anything more than they rocked hard. They bounced up and down, had fun with the audience and they rocked out with power and conviction. I'm now a fan. They're from Illinois and I wonder if they'll be in Chicago in the middle of October . . .

Following Troubled Hubble, I checked out the Smoke at Arts Avenue. The Smoke is the moniker that DJ Jason Harris uses when he spins '60s Big Beat, Mod, R&B and Northern Soul from both sides of the Atlantic. He plays a lot of obscure stuff, but it's the kind of stuff you like after one listening. The songs keep going and going and you can't stop tapping your foot. I heard some great stuff and now I'm searching for them online . . .

This weekend was a nice alternate to the usual staying-in-and-watching-movies weekend.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Major or Minor Threat?

Punknews.org posted the following story (first scooped by Pitchfork):

According to this story, multi-billion dollar shoemaker, Nike has stolen the legendary artwork of hardcore pioneers, Minor Threat. Destined for a campaign called Major Threat, the style and iconic imagery was used for the advertising and done so without the permission of Washington, D.C. based indie Dischord. The label owns the copyright on both the recording and artwork.

OK, it's one thing for Rancid to pay homage to Minor Threat's album cover with their artwork for . . . And Out Come the Wolves. It's a whole other (and incredibly insulting) thing to do this.

Yes, Dischord is a part of the broad view of punk rock; just like how SST Records, the Ramones, the Clash, the Sex Pistols, Green Day, Bad Religion and the Bad Brains are lumped together. However, Dischord is not synonymous with big corporations and the kind of games big corporations play.

Say what you will about Ian MacKaye's personality traits, but he is still a voice of inspiration for doing things your way. "I'm from the punk underground," he told me last year. "I'm still in the punk underground." While I don't agree with everything he has to say or how he feels or how he acts, I give him credit for sticking to his principles. So when I see something that Dischord is a part of be taken without MacKaye's or Jeff Nelson's authorization is wrong. What if a beer company used an image of Charles Bukowski for an ad?

This is a sign of how far removed independent culture is interpreted in a world where ideas from the 1980s DIY underground are considered mainstream. The important thing to point out is that while these terms are household terms, they don't necessarily mean they taken seriously. People can mold anything into something else when it is out there in the public. But as Ian told me last year: "How do you let people know about your work without pimping your work?"

Nike serves the purpose of comfortably covering feet. Dischord serves the purpose of documenting a regional sound, time and place. We're not talking apples and oranges here. We're talking apples and clocks.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Book Update (6.23)

Time for a progress report.

Five chapters are done and there are seven more to go. Here is the chapter run-down (the ones in bold are the ones that are done):

Intro
Dischord Records
Jawbox
Jawbreaker
Sunny Day Real Estate
Braid
The Promise Ring
Hot Water Music
The Get Up Kids
At the Drive-In
Jimmy Eat World
Epilogue

Right now I'm in the middle of writing the Get Up Kids chapter. I have no idea when I'll be done with this whole thing, but my guess is this fall.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Breakin' and (Usually) Makin' Up

From MTV.com. Update at 6:20PM EST on 6/20/05

Billy Corgan Says He Wants To Re-Form Smashing Pumpkins

Last month, Billy Corgan scoffed at the notion of the Smashing Pumpkins ever reconciling and regrouping, but now he is singing a different tune. In a full-page newspaper ad, the alt-rock leader declared plans to bring back the band.

(and just a few headlines below . . .)

Alter Bridge's Tremonti Says Forget About A Creed Reunion

Bad news for any diehard Creed fans out there waiting for a reunion: According to former Creed/ current Alter Bridge guitarist Mark Tremonti, it's never, ever, ever going to happen.



I find this funny: bandmates will talk and talk about how a band will never, ever get back together or how they will never have some member back in the band. Then when they do get back together, they make light of what they said in the past.

I remember when Jimmy Chamberlin was kicked out of the Smashing Pumpkins. Billy Corgan said, "He's out of our lives. 110%." Just a few years later, Billy and Jimmy reconciled and Jimmy was back in the band. Now Billy calls Jimmy one of his best friends in the newest issue of Rolling Stone.

My point is this, as much as Mark Tremonti denies there will ever be a Creed reunion, don't completely cross it out. I'm not waiting for a Creed reunion (they were never my bag) but you never know.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Batman Begins Again

I have not seen Batman Begins yet. My excuse: I've already seen a great dark Batman movie: Tim Burton's Batman.

My excuse sounds lame, but I don't really feel compelled to rush out to see Batman Begins. Not to discount director Christopher Nolan or the actors involved (especially Christian Bale), but Batman is hard to beat. Even though certain never-satisfied fanboys don't think highly of Batman, I think Batman still holds up. It's dark, it's humorous, it's well-acted and it's well-made.

How many shades of dark do we really need? Dark, but with extra dark? Dark with lighter dark?

I've heard that Batman Begins effectively tells an origin story. Sounds very interesting and tempting but in a summer filled with remakes, is there anything new or interesting at the big box office?

Maybe my tastebuds have changed too much over the years, but why should I bother seeing a remake of something that's rather fresh in people's minds? Remaking something that came out in the last twenty years doesn't make sense.

A good question: has Hollywood really run out of ideas for blockbusters?

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Wicker Man

I watched a literal cult classic Saturday night. The Wicker Man came out in the early 1970s but I don't think the movie's central theme of Paganism vs. Christianity is outdated. Not a horror movie per se, but it's definitely a head-trip.

The reason why I rented this movie is interesting: technically, I rented the wrong movie. Here is the story: I like Pulp's song, "The Trees." The song samples a simple, but very effective melody played by an orchestra. I checked the We Love Life liner notes and thought the sample was from The Wicker Man soundtrack.

Turns out, "The Trees" contains no sample from The Wicker Man. "The Trees" samples a song from the movie, Otley (with Tom Courtenay) but I didn't find this out until I finished watching The Wicker Man. Another song on We Love Life, "Wickerman," samples "Willow's Song" from The Wicker Man.

I goofed, but I really enjoyed the movie anyway. I'd love to see Otley, but it is unavailable on DVD.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Body of Song

I like Bob Mould's music (solo and his work with Husker Du and Sugar). However, after all the talk about how he was retiring from loud guitar rock following 1998's The Last Dog & Pony Show, I was skeptical about the word that he was returning to loud guitar rock with his new record, Body of Song.

Well, the skepticism is gone.

Interestingly, this skepticism was wiped away after listening to only 30 seconds of one song. The song, "Paralyzed," is available for download on iTunes and I took a listen to the free 30-second clip. Sounding more pissed-off and more immediate than anything he's released in a long time, I'm excited about Body of Song.

Adding fuel to excitement is the word that Body of Song has some of Bob's best stuff since his Sugar days. Funny, people were making the same comparison when The Last Dog and Pony Show came out. Regardless, I look forward to the new record.

I will admit, I was not too hot on his electronica-based stuff on Modulate, but I don't blame the guy for branching out. He had played loud guitar rock for so long that he needed a change. I just didn't like what I heard on Modulate.

My verdict on Body of Song will come in the next few weeks following its July 16th release.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

A Makeshift Peter Sarsgaard Film Fest

By pure chance, I rented three movies featuring this guy all at once. Garden State, Kinsey and Shattered Glass were movies that I was interested in simply because of their stories. After my Peter Sarsgaard film-trifecta, I have to say I'm impressed with Mr. Sarsgaard's acting.

I thought his performance in Shattered Glass was the best out of the three. As Chuck Lane, Sarsgaard plays a tough, but fair editor who was part of the uncovering of Stephen Glass' made-up stories/articles. Sarsgaard walks a very fine line between ball-buster, family man, professional and hero. Not an easy part to effectively pull off, but it's pulled off very well.

After some researching online for Sarsgaard's film history, turns out he is yet another person to add to the list I'm compiling called, "Seinfeld Guest Stars That Went On to Bigger Things." This list already includes Jon Favreau, Courtney Cox, Peter Krause, Kristen Davis, Michael Chiklis and a whole slew of others. Sarsgaard was in "The Pony Remark" episode from Season 2. I'll have to watch the episode again because I don't remember his part.

Now that I know who Peter Sarsgaard is, I don't confuse him with this guy anymore.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

In Your Honor

Dave Grohl and his Foo Fighters clan released their fifth album, In Your Honor, yesterday. 20 songs are spread across two discs and one disc has all rockers and the other disc has softer, mostly acoustic material. Though I've only listened to the whole album once, I think it's pretty strong.

My biggest complaint about the band's previous album, One By One, was that it was all rawk. Even the slower songs are big rockers. As evidenced on all of the other Foo Fighters records, the band showed that they could also be pretty and melodic. This softer side was jettisoned on One By One and I missed it.

Dividing up the softer and rockier material for In Your Honor sounded like yin and yang before I heard it. I thought you could make one solid disc of material. However, after actually listening to the whole record, I think the album works as two discs.

One main dynamic per disc may be a test of the listener's patience, but almost all of the the material is strong enough to go beyond this base. If you tried to combine tracks from both discs on one disc, the flow would be all over the place and inconsistent. Both discs are rather short (10 tracks per disc) and they feel like two separate albums.

Congrats to the Foos for creating another solid record. Also, congrats to the band for not changing their line-up for this record (like almost every record before).

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Reunited and it feels so . . .

With all sorts of bands reuniting these days (Gang of Four, the Pixies, Dinosaur Jr, the Raspberries) it looks like these bands are on the same path that X has been on for the last few years. X has not released a new record in years and ever since they reunited with original guitarist Billy Zoom, no new material has surfaced. They only tour here and there as each of its members have their own projects going on at the same time.

I think this type of reuniting is a good thing.

A lot of bands think that when they reunite, they have to write and release new material. Well, considering the fact that the majority of the audience wants to hear the material they fell in love with (the older material), playing new material is a little useless. When people see Paul McCartney, they want to hear Beatles songs and some of his stuff from the 70s. He plays a few new tracks from his recent solo album but as far as I know, he doesn't play any older solo material from the 80s or 90s. This makes sense; he's playing what people want to hear.

Reuniting is a good thing: it gives people a chance to see a band that they may have missed when the band was first around. However, playing new material is often a futile exercise. A lot of the time, bands' post-reunion material isn't up to the snuff of yester-year. People want the stuff that is up to snuff. There are exceptions of course (Mission of Burma comes to mind), but most of the time, just stick to the material that people know you for.

I'm not somebody that sits around and wishes for bands to get back together. As long as their music is documented onto tape, their music sticks around.

Monday, June 13, 2005

The Bloody Basin

Seeing the debut of "The Bloody Basin" (aka, a joint project with [Daryl] and Black Tie Dynasty) at Sons of Hermann Hall on Friday was a trip.

Starting off with an opening act consisting mostly of '90s cover tunes transposed to piano ("Big Empty" by Stone Temple Pilots, "Fake Plastic Trees" by Radiohead, about three Pearl Jam songs, including "Black") was an amusing sight. I felt nostalgic hearing songs from younger days as lounge music fodder but it was a funny experience though.

Black Tie Dynasty was up next and they did not disappoint. Yes, they have the dark look and sound ala Interpol and Echo and the Bunnymen, but these guys aren't mopey clones. Their songs are really punchy while being atmospheric at the same time. All four members had great stage presence, making the visual experience just as fun. Overall, I was very impressed.

[Daryl] slayed as usual: they even played a few new songs to boot. Once their proper set was over, here came "The Bloody Basin." All of the members of Black Tie Dynasty and [Daryl] came up on stage and played together (thus making the total number of ten people). The song, "The Bloody Basin," is a titantic barnburner. Hearing the song's main riff played by four guitars at once was a trip. The sound was huge: it sounded as big as My Bloody Valentine. By the end of the song, there were all sorts of people from the crowd up on the stage. This was a controlled riot.

You don't usually see these kinds of shows.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Why I still don't have an iPod

"These men have helped design the most beautiful object art in music culture since the electric guitar. That's the iPod."

That's what Bono recently told Greg Kot in an interview for the Chicago Tribune. I don't know about you, but I think that line is hilarious. Anybody remember the Walkman?

Since I'm on the subject, my "devil's advocate" voice wonders why I don't have an iPod. I am not knocking the iPod here, but for my own personal use, I have a lot of reasons why I don't have one.

1) Too expensive
-From $100 to $400, that is too much change for something I don't think I would use very often. If you want more music stored in your iPod, you have to pay up. Besides, what I want to hear changes from hour to hour (sometimes from minute to minute), so I'm not sure if even 60-gigs of space are enough.

2) The annoying two-second gap
-A lot of albums do not have gaps between tracks (especially live records). The listening experience is enjoyable when the transitions are seemless. Since each MP3 must stop before the next MP3 plays, there is a gap. While I believe there is a fade-in/fade-out option between tracks, the transition is not the same. I know that's very picky, but I want to let the tracks play and not worry about glitches or pauses.

3) Too impersonal
-I like to peruse other people's record collections. Always a great conversation starter, you can learn a lot about somebody from his/her's collection. Seeing the album art, reading the liner notes and looking at the tracklisting, there is a lot of information to process. When you have an MP3, you have the artist's name, the track's title and the album it came from. There are no credits listed and there is no interesting artwork to look at. You're basing your feeling off of what you hear (which is not a bad thing at all). Visuals are helpful: it gives you something interesting to look at while you're listening. However, I've found the experience of just seeing the basic information a little cold and impersonal.

4) It needs a battery
-I know Apple is working on the battery situation, but because there is a battery, I have a concern. Thanks to AC power, I don't have to worry about my music player (boombox, PC, multi-disc changer and single-disc changer in the car) going out on me after a certain amount of hours.

The iPod has done great things for others with personal use, but I'm still entrenched in my old ways with personal listening habits. I don't see any major reasons to change them.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Knowing When to Lead

Growing up in the 1980s, my perception of guitarists in rock bands was simple: if a person sang lead vocals and played guitar, he/she only played rhythm guitar. I never saw a singer/guitarist play a lead guitar solo. Solos were played by a lead guitarist who normally didn't sing (not even backing vocals).
So when I saw Nirvana performing in the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video, I was confused. Where was the fourth member that only played guitar solos? A lead singer/guitarist could also play lead? Wow!

After seeing Manic Street Preachers, Pavement and Superchunk in live settings, I realized that this activity is very prevalent. What I think is amazing is that these singers sing their heads off (yes, even in his conversational singing voice, Stephen Malkmus still sang his head off) and play leads at the same time. These leads aren't made up of "liquid fingers," but they are more than bends and single notes.

I wonder how such coordination is possible. Then again, I'm sure there are people that wonder how drummers can coordinate playing a drumset.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Hey, Remember the '90s?

It's finally here: the first major box set to cover music from the '90s. It's called Whatever: The '90s Pop Culture Box and there are a whopping SEVEN discs. Billboard has the story and here is the track listing:

Disc one:
"U Can't Touch This," M.C. Hammer
"Nothing Compares 2 U," Sinead O'Connor
"No Myth," Michael Penn
"Ladies First," Queen Latifah featuring Monie Love
"Ball and Chain," Social Distortion
"Birdhouse in Your Soul," They Might Be Giants
"Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns," Mother Love Bone
"Here's Where the Story Ends," the Sundays
"Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)," C & C Music Factory "Groove Is in the Heart," Deee-Lite
"Right Here, Right Now," Jesus Jones
"New Jack Hustler (Nino's Theme)," Ice-T
"I Touch Myself," Divinyls
"Unbelievable," EMF
"Hard To Handle," the Black Crowes
"O.P.P.," Naughty By Nature
"Walking in Memphis," Marc Cohn
"It's So Hard To Say Goodbye to Yesterday," Boyz II Men

Disc two:
"Silent Lucidity," Queensryche
"Into the Drink," Mudhoney
"Girlfriend," Matthew Sweet
"I'm Too Sexy," Right Said Fred (R*S*F*)
"Calling All Angels," Jane Siberry with k.d. lang
"Only Shallow," My Bloody Valentine
"It's a Shame About Ray," the Lemonheads
"Baby Got Back," Sir Mix-A-Lot
"They Want EFX," DAS EFX
"Jump," Kris Kross
"Walk," Pantera
"N.W.O.," Ministry
"S***list," L7
"Absynthe," the Gits
"Coattail Rider," Supersuckers
"Runaway Train," Soul Asylum
"Little Miss Can't Be Wrong," Spin Doctors
"Dizz Knee Land," dada
"Nearly Lost You," Screaming Trees

Disc three:
"Under the Bridge," Red Hot Chili Peppers
"Unsung," Helmet
"Jump Around," House Of Pain
"Free Your Mind," En Vogue
"Rump Shaker," Wreckx-N-Effect
"Informer," Snow
"Connected," Stereo MC's
"Detachable Penis," King Missile
"Freak Me," Silk
"Ordinary World," Duran Duran
"If I Can't Change Your Mind," Sugar
"Three Little Pigs," Green Jelly
"Start Choppin," Dinosaur Jr
"The Devil's Chasing Me," the Reverend Horton Heat
"Gone to the Moon," Fastbacks
"My Name Is Mud," Primus
"What's Up," 4 Non Blondes

Disc four:
"Thunder Kiss '65," White Zombie
"Whoomp! (There It Is)," Tag Team
"Broken Hearted Savior," Big Head Todd and the Monsters
"Trust Me," Guru with N'Dea Davenport
"Here Comes," Velocity Girl
"Gepetto," Belly
"Eye to Eye," the Muffs
"Gentlemen," Afghan Whigs
"Leafy Incline," Tad
"Dream All Day," the Posies
"Hey Jealousy," Gin Blossoms
"My Sister," the Juliana Hatfield Three
"Whatta Man," Salt-N-Pepa
"Back & Forth," Aaliyah
"If That's Your Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)," Me'Shell NdegéOcello "Freedom of '76," Ween
"Cut Your Hair," Pavement
"God," Tori Amos
"MMM MMM MMM MMM," Crash Test Dummies
"Possession," Sarah McLachlan

Disc five:
"Shine," Collective Soul
"Far Behind," Candlebox
"You Gotta Be," Des'ree
"Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon," Urge Overkill
"She Don't Use Jelly," the Flaming Lips
"m.i.a.," 7 Year Bitch
"21st Century (Digital Boy)," Bad Religion
"Sugar Free Jazz," Soul Coughing
"Mockingbirds," Grant Lee Buffalo
"What's the Frequency, Kenneth?," R.E.M.
"Revolve," Melvins
"Buddy Holly," Weezer
"Here and Now," Letters To Cleo
"Good," Better Than Ezra
"Run-Around," Blues Traveler
"I'll Be There for You (Theme From "Friends")," the Rembrandts
"Tomorrow," Silverchair
"Not a Pretty Girl," Ani DiFranco
"Carnival," Natalie Merchant

Disc six:
"Wonderwall," Oasis
"Birthday Cake," Cibo Matto
"Cumbersome," Seven Mary Three
"One of Us," Joan Osborne
"Caught by the Fuzz," Supergrass
"Sweet 69," Babes In Toyland
"Breakfast at Tiffany's," Deep Blue Something
"Photograph," the Verve Pipe
"In the Meantime," Spacehog
"Woo Hah!! Got You All In Check," Busta Rhymes featuring Rampage The Last Boy Scout
"Who Will Save Your Soul," Jewel
"Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand," Primitive Radio Gods
"Cybele's Reverie," Stereolab
"Capri Pants," Bikini Kill
"What I Got," Sublime
"Kung Fu," Ash
"Virtual Insanity," Jamiroquai
"Naked Eye," Luscious Jackson
"Outtasite (Outta Mind)," Wilco

Disc seven:
"itszoweezee (hot)," De La Soul
"LoveFool," the Cardigans
"Radiation Vibe," Fountains Of Wayne
"The Impression That I Get," the Mighty Mighty Bosstones
"Turn It On," Sleater-Kinney
"Bitch," Meredith Brooks
"MMMBop," Hanson
"Brian Wilson" (live), Barenaked Ladies
"Brick," Ben Folds Five
"Sex and Candy," Marcy Playground
"Walking on the Sun," Smash Mouth
"Tubthumping," Chumbawamba
"6 Underground," Sneaker Pimps
"Lullaby," Shawn Mullins
"Slide," Goo Goo Dolls
"Kiss Me," Sixpence None The Richer
"Steal My Sunshine," LEN
"What It's Like," Everlast
"Natural Blues," Moby

I think Rhino does a great job with reissues and box sets, but I have an issue with this track listing: this is trying to cover everything. Blockbuster Top 40 hits next to college rock hits next to rather obscure acts and everything in between is too wide a range for me. There is too much stuff set aside for the sake of space and time. Sure, seven discs are a lot, but there is plenty more to cover.

This list looks like an iTunes library made by a late-20s/early-30s married couple. One spouse was a big alternative fan and the other was a fan of all things considered Top 40. The sequencing looks like they put everything on 'random' on their shared 60-gig iPod.

I would love to see '90s-era box sets dedicated only to loose genres: from R&B to Top 40 pop to alternative. How about a Nuggets-styled box set of well-known to obscure songs from the alternative era? Now that is something I would buy.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

A Ghost is Born

Almost a full year has passed since Wilco's A Ghost is Born was released. After listening to it all the time for months, I had to set it aside. I decided to pick it up again yesterday morning and it still sounds fresh to my ears.

"Spiders," "I'm a Wheel" and "Company in My Back" are some of the tracks I keep coming back to. Normally I can't stomach hearing a 10-minute track over and over again, but like Television's "Marquee Moon," "Spiders" builds and builds to a great conclusion. The song keeps going on and on and on and it ends without going too long. "I'm a Wheel" is a charging rock track while "Company in My Back" has such a beautiful chorus melody with a mandolin.

Like almost all of their records before, Wilco went through a major line-up change around the release of A Ghost is Born. Now a six-piece, I've heard nothing but positive reviews of their live shows. I'm curious what this new line-up can do in the studio.

There is talk of a new album in the works, but I don't think they're rushing into it. Should be cool to hear but until then, Sam Jones (director of I am Trying to Break Your Heart) filmed a few recent shows for a live DVD. That will be definitely be on my must-buy list whenever it comes out. I couldn't come out to see Wilco at ACL or at some big theater, so I think having a live set on DVD would be the best option.

Let's hope the line-up doesn't change before they start rolling tape . . .

Monday, June 06, 2005

We're puttin' the band back together

This past weekend marked the first time I was in a wedding for a close friend. While I had been in weddings before for family members or friends of the family, this was a first for a close friend. Matt, someone I've known since elementary school, got married on Saturday. Since high school, we realized that we liked a lot of the same music and movies, and we've been close ever since.

As the years passed, we all moved on to other things in our life. Oftentimes this required moving out of town for school or work, making contact a little harder. I won't lie: making the decision to leave town is hard. People say making new friends in a new town is easy, but it's been very hard for me. I do miss seeing Matt and our other friends on a regular basis, but I wouldn't be happy if I stayed in Houston.

Ever since I moved away for college, trying to get "the old gang" back together in one place has been tough. Not because we didn't want to see each other, but our schedules could never work in our favor. Coming together for Matt and Kim's wedding, all of our schedules worked out. Everybody was there and in a way, it felt like old times. However, it felt more like better times. We're all grown up (on paper, at least) and have our own lives. Checking in with each other from time to time is good and it never gets old.

Our time together was brief, but we made the most of it.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Going Mobile

Off to Houston this weekend for Matt's wedding. Should be a great reunion of the old gang from Kingwood. Rain is in the forecast, but before you start quoting Alanis Morissette's "Ironic," understand that the wedding ceremony and reception will be indoors.

As much as people moan about the humidity in Houston, I don't think it's much different than Dallas's humidity. You get used to it after a while, especially after living in Texas for 18 years. At least the wedding is not outside in July.

Kingwood is my old hometown and that's where my parents live, but I haven't lived there for four years. After moving ten times since I moved away for college, I finally feel like Dallas is my home. I dig the town and I'm not itching to move out of town . . . yet. Considering the fact that I moved three times before college, the shifting of dorms, apartments and roommates in college and post-college made me think that home meant "unstable" and "always changing."

I'm very happy where I am now and it would take a lot to get me to move out of town. So far, my record for living in one place is two years. I'm closing in on one year in my current location . . .

Thursday, June 02, 2005

More cowbell!

OK, I've seen the SNL sketch a few times: Christopher Walken plays a producer working on Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper." It's a typical Saturday Night Live sketch: one joke told in a variety of ways to induce laughter. In this case, Walken's character keeps demanding "more cowbell" from the cowbell player, portrayed by Will Ferrell. I think the sketch is funny (especially Walken's stunted delivery of the lines), but I wonder: what causes people to do things inspired by it?

There's a blog named after it (Hi Kyle!), the sketch has been downloaded all over the internet, message board avatars feature a loop of Ferrell hitting his cowbell, people bring cowbells to shows and some variation of "I've got a fever and the only prescription is, more cowbell!" is a common phrase.

Not to knock the humor of this sketch, but I want to know why there is a bridge to action. Is it because Ferrell is so goofy as the hairy cowbell player? Is it because Walken gives his trademark stunted line reading? Is it because of the rather useless addition of cowbell on a track?

Thoughts? Ideas? Theories? Feel free and leave a comment below.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

MacArthur Park

As I've blogged before, I don't pay close attention to lyrics when I listen to music. The vibe of the song is more important, so this is why I often miss some rather silly lyrics. Case in point, the lyrics to Jimmy Webb's "MacArthur Park." Here are the lyrics to the first part:

Spring was never waiting for us, girl,
It ran one step ahead as we followed in the dance.
Between the parted pages and were pressed
in love's hot, fevered iron like a striped pair of pants.

MacArthur's park is melting in the dark
All the sweet green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain.
I don't think that I can take it
Cause it took so long to bake it
And I'll never have that recipe again!
Oh, no-o-o-o!

I recall the yellow cotton dress
Flowing like a wave on the ground around your knees.
The birds, like tender babies in your hands,
And the old men playing checkers by the trees

MacArthur's park is melting in the dark
All the sweet green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain.
I dont think that I can take it
Cause it took so long to bake it
And I'll never have that recipe again!
Oh, no-o-o-o!

Writing lyrics can induce silliness for the sake of rhyming. In the case of "MacArthur Park," you have a great, aching melody over some lyrics that don't really make sense. A literal interpretation: a park is scary in the dark and a cake was destroyed by rain. What? Is this about regret? Is this about nostalgia? I think it's about lost love but with some humor implied. Your thoughts? Feel free and post them in the comments forum . . .