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Monday, July 31, 2006

The neutering power of iTunes

With as much time I spend in front of my computer, I'm now understanding why I should not listen to music on it that often. Why? iTunes through standard issue computer speakers are no match for CDs through bookshelf speakers, car speakers or even boombox speakers.

I love listening to songs that I have yet to burn onto a CD on iTunes. I love the vast library of music I have at the click of a mouse. I love making mix CDs on iTunes. I love the 'shuffle' options if I'm feeling adventurous. I love the fact that the files don't take up a hard drive and a half for all the music I have on there. What is not cool is the playback sound: unless the song is by Michael Jackson, I have to crank up the level to hear a decent amount. Why is this a problem? Because this takes the juice out of so many songs, especially those considered in the "metal" genre.

A few weeks ago, I took a listen to a few Slipknot tracks from their second album, Iowa. I was looking for a certain part of a song that had been stuck in my head for a few days and I thought it was by Slipknot. Since iTunes has the trusty fast-forward/rewind feature, I decided to pull the CD up in iTunes rather than my boombox. As I listened to the first track, I was reminded of how heavy this band is on CD, but they sounded like wimps on iTunes. The same can be said about bands like Converge, Dillinger Escape Plan and my new favorite metal heroes, Killswitch Engage.

I'm not somebody that wants to "feel" recorded music at a loud volume. If the bass lines and kick drums are making my stomach and t-shirt move, then the volume is too loud. I'm a fan of hearing a full representation of the song without any neutering of the sound itself.

My enjoyment of music comes from a variety of CD players and one main MP3 player/program. I wouldn't say I listen to one more than the other, but I like having all of them available in places that I frequent. If I want to listen to a non-remastered Tom Waits song, I'll pull it up in iTunes because the sound quality isn't that much different than on CD. If I want to listen to Killswitch Engage, the boombox, the den stereo or the car stereo are the places that I'm going to hear it.

The point of why I bring all this up is this: I'm not about to become a listener of music through the computer all the time, so the personal and car stereo companies have nothing to worry about with me. MP3s are convenient for some computer use or a walk with the iPod, but that's it for me. I'm a CD fan first and foremost, so all those music industry people crying foul about MP3s taking over should not point the finger at a user like me.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

This Town's Disaster

Blackpool Lights paid a welcome visit to Dallas last night in what I believe was their first trip here. Featuring Jim Suptic of the Get Up Kids on lead vocals and guitar, the band could be best described as straight-up, forward rock in the vein of the Replacements' Tim-era and Paul Westerberg's early solo records. Unlike the Replacements' reputation for dodgy live sets, Blackpool wasn't sloppy, drunken rock 'n' roll. They had a blast playing, despite the fact that twenty people were left in the venue by the time they played.

I missed the first band due to various factors, but I caught openers Days Away and House of Heroes. Days Away plays a pretty interesting mix of funk, chilled-out rock while also having a poppy, emoish side. However, this wasn't nasal screamo or fluffy posturing. This was good (their drummer was fantastic) albeit a little too jazzed out for my tastes. House of Heroes was good but something about them felt too calculated. When I mean calculated, I mean their songs, playing and what they wore all sounded/looked like they came from the school that over-tries to get on a major label. Not that this is an inheritantly bad thing, but they came across as a band that wants to appeal more to your teenage sister than anyone else.

With Blackpool Lights, all I knew was "This Town's Disaster" via their MySpace page and through Eric's blog. Plus, I heard they did the great Get Up Kids track, "Forgive and Forget" live. Well, they played both songs and a whole slew of other prime tracks from This Town's Disaster last night. The audience had dwindled considerably after House of Heroes played, leaving a number of older Get Up Kids fans (including me and my friend Jeremy) to watch. The band made the most of it, but I started to think.

In my time of doing interviews with ex-bandmembers of the bands I'm spotlighting for the book, none of their new bands have played to large crowds at the shows I've seen. Maritime played to maybe 30-40 people at Hailey's two summers ago. The Firebird Band played to puzzled young 'uns at the Door while they played to decent sized-crowds at the Gypsy Tea Room and Rubber Gloves. It's not like I expect all of the fans of bands like Get Up Kids, the Promise Ring and Braid to follow their ex-members in a live setting, but the carry-over seems way less.

As I thought about this, something hit me as Blackpool was finishing up their set: even the Get Up Kids played to small crowds once, so last night's sparsely-attended show was nothing new for Jim. I think the same can be said to the ex-members of Braid, the Promise Ring and others. They remember what it was like to play for thousands of people, yet they aren't throwing a fit when not a lot of people show up at their current shows.

For me, I think the most I've ever played to was a couple hundred people at the Aardvark in Fort Worth with Voigt. I played plenty of shows before and after that to far less people. Playing to small crowds is a test to see how much you really want to play. Yes, it is a lot more fun to play to a crowd that is of a decent size, but you never forget the shows to two people and members of the other bands on the bill.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Disco for Daisies

In my short time of seeing shows at the Cavern, I have seen two-piece bands (ie, the Lord Henry) all the way up to six-piece bands (ie, SOUND team and Pegasus Now). After last night, I can now say that I have seen eight- and nine-piece bands play on the Cavern's tiny stage.

Austin's Golden Bear and the Channel came into town to spread some good tunes for us Dallas folks. I didn't get to see all of Last Picture Show and Belafonte, so I can't really describe what I saw. I was there to see Golden Bear and the Channel as they play a friendly mix of layered chamber pop without feeling like kids' music.

With eight members onstage, there wasn't much room for moving around during Golden Bear's set. Three guitars, one bass, one rather large vibraphone, one regular-sized drumset, a saxophone and two keyboards stacked on top of each other is really pushing how much you put into the Cavern's space. Josh was doing sound and gave every instrument enough volume to hear them all without over-powering (though the sax sounded a little too loud from where I was standing, but that's no reason to say that was a major drawback).

The sound on Golden Bear's self-titled album is rather hazy and psychedelic, so I wasn't expecting to hear that live. Well, I didn't, but what I like about their songs are the hooks, especially on songs like "Ten Thousand Orchestras." The band was understandably cramped onstage, but by the middle of the set, they were moving around. All the while I'm watching them, I kept thinking of seeing them in a larger venue, like the Backyard or Stubb's outside. Their sound is big, so I hope they do get to play bigger places that accommodate this.

With the Channel, they had nine people playing (seven of them were playing in Golden Bear), but the set felt a little more fun. Golden Bear kept getting better with every song they played, but the Channel was fun the whole time. More bouncy and country-fied than Golden Bear, this felt like two distinctly different bands, but that was fine by me. Despite the line-up similarities, they put on some different vibes that were great and engaging.

The good thing about this show was that a decent amount of people came out despite the lack of "known" names on the bill. I've seen the Cavern be filled to the brim and completely empty on prime weekend nights regardless of who was playing. Yes, I know more people go out to bars to hang out and drink than see bands, but I always wonder why the massive fluxuation. Sure, a band like SOUND team may attract more than the bar's usual crowd, but what about the bands that don't get that kind of publicity? I'd like to think that every major bar in town has a regular crowd, but you never know. Regardless, I had fun and that's why I go out to shows so often. I can only handle so much reading, writing and dog walking at home before I go nuts.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Your Generation

Chris Dahlen has a great Get That Out of Your Mouth column on Pitchfork today. Here's a tidbit:
We don't have a new Bangs or Thompson yet because pop culture today is primarily a technology story. And we don't know how to write about technology.

I couldn't agree more, but I'd like to throw in my two cents about the topic.

I've never read Hunter S. Thompson and have only read snippets of Lester Bangs' work. I read the Bangs biography, Let It Blurt, by Jim DeRogatis and found the story of Bangs to be rather interesting. However, at several points in the book, I was asking myself "What the hell is going on here?" with a lot of Bangs' writings and interviews (especially the ones with Lou Reed). I felt like I was missing something or not in the loop of an inside joke. Plus, I would not be satisfied with a fan saying, "You either get it or you don't. No explanation needed." With reviews and interviews that sounded more like tangents than conversations, I was just clueless as to what was trying to be expressed.

Of course hard drug use is still around, but it's rare to find its influence on writing these days. You're more likely to read something that's fueled by Red Bull or Starbucks than pot. For us that grew up in the '80s, maybe the "Just Say No!" campaign really did work. Or maybe we find computers, iPods and the disposable nature of pop culture way more stimulating. For me, I've never been drawn to smoking, drug-taking or excessive drinking. They've never been something I've wanted to do and have never seen any long-term positive effects with doing them.

I like talking about my iPod shuffles from time to time, but I don't care about reposting the latest Snakes on a Plane trailer. Stuff like that and the stuff I see posted on Defamer is amusing, but that's not the stuff I live for. I like reading stuff like Dahlen's Pitchfork article and many of Chuck Klosterman's articles. That kind of stuff is well-written and clear -- not some drug-induced puzzle.

We live in this culture that likes to talk about the quickly disposable with a strong sense of the now, now, NOW!!! Forget yesterday and who the hell knows about tomorrow. The way so many people talk and write about this whipped cream of life is that it is stable, when they know it is not. That episode of such-and-such show is not really "the best episode ever" and that new movie is not really "the worst movie ever." Have we had our minds hacked and re-programmed? I doubt it, but since technology is such a major part of our lives, what else do people want to talk about? Plenty, but for so many people talking about this technological stuff, it is the beginnings and ends, not just the beginnings.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

History's Stranglers

In addition to magazines like Rolling Stone and Punk Planet, I enjoy reading Alternative Press on a regular basis. Yes, I'm fully aware that I am not in their target demographic, but I get some good stuff out of each issue. I do get very annoyed at plenty of things I see in each issue, but I've recently realized some yins and yangs about life in the last few months.

I cringe when I read that line in the Cartel article about how they don't want "to put out records that are only gonna sell 50,000 copies." I cringe when I read about how Eighteen Visions are trying to be rock 'n' roll stars. I cringe when I read about how many young bands laugh at the notion of paying any sort of dues. Yet in the same pages of this same publication, I read about bands like the Bronx, the Format and Head Automatica, aka, bands that are not strictly for the fans of mall-ified versions of music. I don't know exactly how these three bands will be thought of in the future with this younger generation, but they definitely won't be thought of as Winger, Overkill and White Lion are to my generation.

The Bronx aren't cute mush, but they aren't unlistenable garbled trash either. Instead of acting like they don't give a fuck, they sound like they truly don't give a fuck about how they are perceived. Parts old-school punk and hard rock, the Bronx's new record sounds like they are being their true selves despite being on a major label. The major label funds helped them make a great-sounding record; not the stuff of marketable cheese.

On Dog Problems, the Format sound like they are coming from the cloth of great '70s pop rock. Yes, those are horns and a clarinet on the title track and yes, they work incredibly well in the context of the song. Pianos and strings also have an important role and work really well too. This might sound like circus music or AM gold to those that want their music homogenized and lifeless, but to me, this is some of the best pop I've heard all year.

Head Automatica's Popaganda does owe a debt to bands like Squeeze and Elvis Costello, but that's not a drawback to me. Yes, vocalist Daryl Palumbo tends to curl his words just like the former Declan MacManus does, and yes, there are some keyboards that sound tuned in the key of Steve Nieve, but still, I don't mind. In-demand producer Howard Benson helped craft a record that is big on hooks and, most importantly, substance. Yes, these are some ultra-poppy songs, but when there's a smile on my face instead of a scowl when I hear them, there's something going right here.

The idealist side of me wishes that I could overlook all the crap that pisses me off and just focus on what I like. Well, I'm too curious to overlook the bad stuff. A part of me wants to read about clowns like the Rocket Summer and Panic! At the Disco so I can laugh at them. To take a cue from something Henry Rollins said years ago: get to know your enemies well so you can build up your supply of ammo. Plus, I can't help to get sucked in by what pisses me off. Trying to read about a band that I will probably like requires treading through swamps of terrible bands. Such is life. There is always hope, but sometimes hope gets a little too cloudy to see.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The World Has Turned and Left Me Here

With yesterday being a day off, I took in an early afternoon screening of Clerks II. As someone who's had my fill of the cheerleading and mudslinging of writer/director Kevin Smith over the years, I wondered if I was seeing this flick out of some sense of loyalty. Well, shortly into the movie, I understood why I wanted to see this.

I was someone who didn't really get into Kevin's films until college, roughly a year before Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back came out. I had seen Clerks and Mallrats in high school, but didn't understand their brilliance until I saw Chasing Amy and Dogma. Make no mistake, the five movie posters signed by Kevin that hang in my room are a testament to my fandom. Now I'm at a point where I still really enjoy Kevin's writing (especially his Darth Vader piece in Rolling Stone last year) and all of his films, but I've had enough of Kevin Smith, the dodgy stand-up comedian and target for arguments among fanboys. Trying to speak of the merits in all of his films (including Jersey Girl) usually results in catty comments, eye-rolling and general immature warfare. I just don't have the desire to be around that stuff anymore.

When I heard there was going to be a sequel to Clerks, after much ballyhoo that the View Askewniverse was finished with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, I felt this was pandering to the crowd that attends his Q&As. So there was a definitely large degree of trepidation on my part to skip out of the theatrical release of Clerks II and maybe rent it on DVD later this year. But, the word from Kevin and a number of reputable critics said that this film was about what happens when the world leaves the aging angry young man behind, I felt like this was right up my alley.

I can safely say Clerks II is right up my alley, in addition to the sidewalk and fire escape. While the vulgarity in the film feels like it's being vulgar for the sake of being vulgar, the heart of the film is what really makes this film work. Dealing with deeply-rooted friendships and romantic love may make immature fanboys squirm, but this is stuff that I, along with plenty of other people, often think about. This shows the kind of maturity Kevin showed in Jersey Girl, but works better in this film.

Something that was used effectively in Jersey Girl is used even more effectively in Clerks II: music montages. I'm talking scenes where no dialogue is spoken and it's all action. Jersey Girl features fantastic scenes with songs by Aimee Mann, Ben Folds and the Cure. Clerks II ups the ante with songs by Talking Heads, B.J. Thomas, the Jackson 5 and Smashing Pumpkins. To be honest, the go-kart racing scene with "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" is one of the most genuine scenes Kevin has put to film.

Genuine emotion has a major part in this film. Forget the stylized dialogue that Kevin has been known for -- all of the main characters in this film give the kind of convincing emotion last seen in full display in Chasing Amy. While a donkey show may gross most people out, the sincerity of other scenes, like serious conversations between Dante and Randal and Dante and Becky, are what makes this all worth the while.

Why something like Clerks II hits close to home is because of this theme: we know we're not kids anymore, but we're not too hot on the idea of bending over backwards to society's norms. We may look foolish as angry young men/women in the bodies of twenty- or thirty-somethings, but we can't help it. We don't want to become pawns of society, but whether we like to admit it or not, we're already are in some form or fashion. Clerks II doesn't have the answers and doesn't try to sugar-coat matters, but it doesn't beat you over the head with negative or overtly harsh realities.

Clerks II is a film that couldn't have been imagined in 1994 by Kevin. This film comes straight from the heart and from a lot of growing in the twelve years since the original Clerks. I know hardcore fans will always hold flicks like Clerks, Mallrats and Chasing Amy closer to their hearts, but I look forward to more of the growth Kevin has shown in recent years. Sure, he panders to the "Snoochie Boochies!" crowd at his Q&A's, does hammy skits for The Tonight Show and merchandises his soul for big chunks of change, but there's still plenty of genuine emotion and feeling that translates for me. I don't know how much longer I'll have those View Askewniverse posters up in my room, but I'll never forget how much his films and his writing have meant to me.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Robo-greeting

Whether I'm entering a bookstore, grocery store, buffet pizza place or Chinese food restaurant, I keep hearing these stock greetings with some variation of "Hi" and "Welcome to [insert name of business]." While it may be nice to be recognized, I've become annoyed with these kinds of faux, stylized greetings.

I don't mind when the cashier at Taco Bell says a spontaneous "hello" and takes my order. The "hello" is genuine, even if it's for the sake of ordering some Mexican fast food. I do mind when I enter a place that makes excellent, inexpensive Chinese food and the attendant taking the orders says, "Hi, welcome to [insert name of business]," the same way to every customer. They say this in a way that sounds like they have been brainwashed into saying this.

Now these kinds of robotic greetings have sprouted up in my favorite bookstore. I don't know if this is at all of the bookstores in town, but one in particular I frequent has a stand set-up in the front for a greeter. I've seen the same guy the few times I've been in there since this new set-up has been installed. He has this very dry tone and says "Welcome to [insert name of business]" in the same way that the Robot from Lost in Space would say it.

I know these businesses are trying to make their atmosphere a little more customer-friendly, but I'm finding this to be a deterrent from going into these places. As someone who's worked in retail before, I hated doing those stock greetings to anyone and everyone. I never minded whenever people would look for me and ask a question. I took (and still take) the attitude that people like to shop on their own time with the least amount of hassle or interruption. When part of my greeting extended into becoming more of a salesman trying to sell stuff that people didn't really want, I had to get out of that place.

I think about how many times this greeting has to be said at these places. Not only would saying one long-ass sentence over and over wear me out, but after the first hundred times of saying it, it would probably turn into one long-ass word. Sounding more like gibberish than English, I wonder what the advantage is. An attendant at a sandwich shop once said to me, "wouldyouliketomakeitabananamalttoday?" Um, what?

Can anyone show me statistics that prove that people actually like to hear robotic, formulaic greetings over and over again? Probably, but we're humans and humans aren't machines, even if we place more of our lives into them, be it cell phones or computers. I'd like to think we interact with other humans when we don't want to interact with cold machinery. So, turning humans into sounding more like machines makes me wonder about where our culture is going. If this is meant to service every customer, then sincerity is getting thrown out the window.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Why blogging matters

Ryan over at Good Hodgkins has a great essay about the importance of blogs. He states his reasons concisely (complete with statistics!) and this gets me to thinking some more about blogs in general. Most notably, I think about why I have way more blogs on my blog list than any other websites. This leads me to think about why I blog in the first place and why I read blogs more than anything else.

I started this blog strictly out of necessity. At the time I started (October '04), almost every single website I read talked about the World Series and the upcoming presidential election. Not to say I wasn't interested in those matters, but I didn't care to read about this stuff everyday. I like reading about music and movies, but at the time, I didn't really know of any websites that talked about music and movies the way I liked to read about them. In college, I would read sites like Pitchfork, Punknews.org and Ain't it Cool News for music and movie news and reviews, I would always get annoyed whenever a cheapshot would be thrown. Be it a nasty review that seemed incredibly uncalled for or just a little catty comment tagged at the end of a news story, I disagreed with what I saw.

Roughly six months after I started writing and researching Post, I wanted to spread the word in some fashion. I was a regular reader of Are You Wearing a Wire? and decided to model my blog after that. After a few months of reposting links with commentary, I kept thinking about why I said the things that I would say in the comments. That, in a nutshell, is what inspired the blog to be what it is today.

In my time of blogging, I've found a whole treasure trove of blogs (most are listed on the right sidebar). I still read sites like Pitchfork, Punknews and Ain't it Cool, but they are just the beginning of my daily reading (as compared to when I was in college, where those were the beginnings and ends). Blogs are a really great asset to me as a reader, fan and writer of music and its culture, but I can understand the downsides too.

I still have the same gripes about music blogs, but I've learned more about them in the time that I've been blogging. I am someone that, when it comes to listening to music, I tend to go with something I already know rather than something I don't. For example, if I'm feeling in the mood for some Converge, I'll take a listen to You Fail Me or Jane Doe right away. This is much more timely than spending hours scouring search engines for bands that may or may not be of my liking. I don't mean to imply that I'm not open for bands to be introduced to me, but whenever I'm not in the mood for exploration, I go with what I know.

Finding music and listening to music are two completely different animals. I don't explore as much as other people I know, but that's the way I go about my ways. If a song like "Kentucky Ave." by Tom Waits moves me every time I hear it, then I want to listen to it on a regular basis, but not to the point of overkill. I'm not a huge fan of trial and error (especially when it comes to stuff that eats up hard drive space) and I can be rather impatient. I try to not pass judgment on something on my first listening pass, but I'm guilty as everyone else. Some bands wow me and some don't. Sometimes they get more chances, but sometimes they don't.

Blogs are crucial to me because of this: it is the sharing of what we like and dislike in an open environment. The world of blogging has enabled me to post what I think without people cutting me off mid-sentence. Nobody is sitting in the back of my room laughing at what I'm saying. There is no middleman telling me, "Nobody cares about this!" Nobody is telling me that what I write about isn't for a target demographic. The fact there is nobody else blogging on this blog makes this a lone endeavor, but I'm not alone in speaking my mind. Yes, the number of blogs out there is staggering, but I find comfort in knowing that I'm not talking to a wall here.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

No Idea Records interview (extended edition)

I'm totally stealing the idea of posting extended editions of interviews/articles from Kyle, but as someone who wants to know more, the more the merrier. Here's an extended version of my interview with Var Thelin from No Idea Records that ran in Punk Planet #74:

The roots of Var Thelin’s Gainesville, Florida-based label were planted by the kind of desire that is always there: a necessity of expression. Starting first as a zine in '85 with a friend who had done a DIY comic and having “no idea” what to call it, No Idea was born. Thanks to the help and encouragement of their graphic arts teacher, Thelin and his friends learned how to start from scratch and have a finished project in their hands. After releasing a few issues and reading about a zine up north that came with a 7”, the same would be incorporated with No Idea. Releasing its sixth issue with a 7” with local band Doldrums, No Idea Records began to slowly take shape.

After releasing 7”s featuring bands like Radon, Crimpshrine, Jawbreaker, and Bim Skala Bim, the label released its first CD by a local band called Spoke in '94. Though the zine would eventually cease operation due to a lack of time and personal energy, Thelin has kept going with the label. Still pressing vinyl even in a day and age where recorded music takes up more hard drive space than shelf space, No Idea keeps its feet in the now with a respect for the past. Always featuring a kaleidoscope of colors with their vinyl (from gold, purple, orange and so on), No Idea has released nearly 200 records on CD and LP by various acts like Hot Water Music, Less Than Jake, Against Me! and I Hate Myself.

As a zine, a label, a mailorder house, and a distributor, Thelin has been doing No Idea in some form or another with a variety of people for twenty years now. Caring about the whole musical package and not its mass market viability, No Idea’s passion comes as a breath of fresh air. Not worn out by how punk rock has or has not changed over the years, Thelin has plenty to say.

Interview by Eric Grubbs

Was skateboarding your introduction to punk rock?
I don’t think it was, to be quite honest. If anything, the two went hand in hand. The kids that were the most into hardcore also skated. There was a lot of cross over. My friends and I were all pretty terrible at skating, but I was by far the worst! We’d hang out together on the weekends and sleep over at one of their houses, skating from one side of town to the other all night ‘cause there was nothing else to do. Cruising down the middle of the main drag at four in the morning with not a car in sight is still one of the most liberating, triumphant moments from that time. Tying it together, somebody would hopefully have a jambox and play tapes.

Any bands or records that stick back when you were skating or around that time?
Just a lot of the traditional stuff on Dischord, BYO, Touch & Go, Bacteria Sour, etc. But at the time too, especially looking around say, '84/'85/'86, it wasn’t just hardcore; it would have been all over the place. It would have been Bauhaus, Cocteau Twins, The Cramps, as well as Minor Threat, Dead Kennedys, Mutley Chix and a lot of smaller, more local bands.

You know, the first actual “hardcore” that I had was from a dubbed tape with Black Flag. On the flip was Roach Motel and the We Can’t Help it if We’re from Florida comp on Destroy Records. So, that was my first experience really sitting there being like, “I have a punk rock tape. What am I getting myself into?” I literally sat next to my bed at night with a blanket pulled over my head, headphones on, trying to put it in perspective. It was forbidding and a little bit scary, but it was also really intriguing. I’m also really proud of the fact that some of the first stuff I got into was local. I mean, I’m serious: Roach Motel/Black Flag, I heard them at the same time. So, even though it was obviously a really funny joke right there with the related band names, at least I got into a Gainesville band at the same time.

Your friend Ken Coffelt, was he somebody that had his own comic book when you were in middle school?
Yeah, he did a comic thing with some friends called Rats Magazine. They did around a dozen issues in junior high.

That was a huge influence on me, being fifteen at the time. “Oh wait, kids can do this?” Up until then, I always assumed that if you saw a magazine, a big company did it. If you saw a record, a big company did it. It was never me. It was never people. And so it was very empowering. It was this whole new attitude of “We could do something now.” And so we did. We restarted the magazine and changed its name to No Idea Magazine.

Was getting a local band’s recording on vinyl, not cassette, a big deal for you?
To an extent. The last local vinyl that I was aware of was the second Roach Motel 7”. So from there until we put out a record, no local bands put out any records for a good four years. In terms of a “scene,” that’s an eternity. But people just didn’t realize that you could do a record yourself. The thing was, bands would be around for four or five years and they would write a lot of songs, scrap a lot of songs, keep playing shows and over time, usually they’d turn into something. But then about the same time that it really all gelled, they were gone. They’d graduate college and leave town and at best, you’d be left with one demo tape that they’d recorded in someone’s bedroom.

The big local band in '86-'87 was the Doldrums, who mixed the hardcore energy of Government Issue and Naked Raygun with the rock of Black Sabbath and ACDC. At a point, they could draw 250 people. They were the band who brought in diverse kinds of people, but they were still “the punk band.” At the time, I happened to learn about how to make records by writing a couple of labels and they told me, “Here’s a couple pressing plants to use. Here’s what it costs.” Again, another time it blew my mind that anybody could make a record . . . So from there, we just got determined to do it.

The idea of not doing contracts with the bands that you release, was this in any way inspired by Dischord?
Probably. We have a funny parallel with Dischord. We’ve had open communication with them this whole time. Sometimes we’ve come to and realized there’s these bizarre parallels and similarities that just happened simultaneously. They were one of the first labels that we sent a zine to who wrote back. They were one of the places that I asked questions of and, who always gave advice that made sense. They’re a big influence on me as far as how I try to be able to treat other people who ask for advice. “Hey, Dischord took time out to give advice to me; I better take some time out to give it to others.”

I think our “no contract” path came from the older punk rock ideal that “bullshit is not necessary.” Contracts were bullshit, so I didn’t want to have anything to do with them. I needed to be able to shake somebody’s hand, look them in the eye and say, “This is what we’re goin’ to do,” and that’s the end of it. That’s how we do things to this day.

Now, an asterisk with a note at the bottom of the page says, “We’ll see what happens from here on out.” Six months from now, you could call me up and I could say, “Yeah, we’re doing contracts now and here’s the reasoning behind it.” And depending on how you felt about it, you might say, “Well, I respect the reasoning, but I still don’t think you should have done it.” And I think if the time ever comes when we do have contracts, I’ll be that same person saying, “I understand why I did it, but it will never sit well with me.”

Contracts “protect both parties.” I don’t know, maybe that’s where it’s headed. Maybe that’s where it needs to be, like “Hey, everybody needs to watch their ass.” If anybody fucks up then they can pull up this piece of paper and say, ‘Looky here.’ But at the end of the day, we have only had one or two situations where a contract would have legally bound a band to us that wanted to move along. The bands with longevity have generally met or far exceeded the typical commitments of a “two or three record deal.” Hot Water Music is a strong case in point on that one.

I found your comments about album artwork not having bar codes on the back very inspiring.
From really early on, I really didn’t like getting records that had barcodes in the artwork. They were always gross. I’d get some Cure record, with all this obvious time and energy put into the artwork, and then there’d be this hideous computer blot in the middle of it!

Simply put: barcodes were not punk rock. “This is the mark of the beast. They suck, period.” So there was a lot of resistance to using them at all. I think it was right around when Hot Water Music did Fuel for the Hate Game and Less Than Jake was getting huge that I was just like, “If people want to buy this in a chain store, then screw it, we’ll just put UPC stickers on the back. Then people can take them off.” Dischord and a bunch of other labels had done it, so I was like, “That’s obviously the way to go.”

I still don’t like barcodes being permanently inserted into the artwork. Even though some people have found tricky ways to put them in there, make them real small, it’s just ugly.

It’s kind of the commerce slapping the art.
I’m not a religious nut. I wouldn’t even call myself religious, but they are definitely the mark of the beast. That’s how I see the barcode, but they’re functional. As a label, we tend to be some of the last people to do whatever the new thing to do is. Taking credit cards is one of those things, using barcodes is one of those things, and doing downloads is one of those things. We definitely were freaked out by it and not too into it, but in the end these things have their advantages and their uses. In a pure sense, they are tools and you can use them for whatever you like.

How important is to for you to still release records on vinyl?
It’s just the aesthetic of the vinyl format. That, and most of the people who work here are in bands and are into vinyl, so that’s what we like to make. Any time that you see us put out something that’s CD-only, you can be fully assured that there was a solid desire to do it on vinyl even though we didn’t.

I used to go along with the argument that analog recordings had a round sonic waveform, versus the square “sampled” digital waveform, but 99% of our bands record and are mastered digitally now, so I’m not sure if that argument holds water. That said, the natural compression that comes from cutting to vinyl often improves a recording. We have definitely received LP test pressings and liked how they sounded so much that we re-mastered the CD to match. Grabass Charlestons's Ask Mark Twain, for example.

Was there a certain record or label that inspired you to release vinyl with various different colors on them?
I don’t think there was one label in particular that got the idea going. In the late-'80s to the early-'90s there started being so many more people doing records, it became part and parcel. A lot of times, you would get 7”s in photocopied sleeves that were colored vinyl. It seemed like fun. So when I started doing records, it was like, “Well, I don’t know if we’ll ever press another record.” So we went crazy and made 200 on red, 200 on green, 200 on blue and 1000 on black or whatever. That was just because we wanted it for ourselves, for fun. At the time, it was not the intention to make a collectible record. It was more like, “Well, I can afford to do 200 or 300 on color and then maybe after that they’ll be black.” It was just the only way we could afford it. So, we’d do the color ones for mail-order and stuff like that.

What keeps you going, doing No Idea?
Probably just insanity, if nothing else. Being compulsive, partially. There’s a flow to it. When you’re involved in something for long enough, it drags you with it. I think that’s sort of the case with No Idea. There are definitely days where I get dragged into the office because that’s the flow of how my life works. You know, get up in the morning, get here, do some work. Other days, it’s the other way around. My inspiration is driving me to get things done. It’s like the way some artists work, where they paint x-number of hours a day, day in, day out, because otherwise they’re not going to get as much done. It doesn’t matter if I’m doing good work or bad work or feel like I’m getting anywhere, I absolutely have to have that work ethic.

The other thing is simply being involved with a lot of the people and all the music that is happening around us – that’s enough to keep me involved and thinking, “This band that just recorded again has blown me away. I want to get this out to the world to hear it.” I hear something new and I immediately want to pass along to a friend. “Dude, check this out.” It’s the same thing with us releasing records; it’s doing that a thousand times over.

A night with the Lost Generation

I can't remember the last time I saw a six-band bill, but this was the case for last night's Lost Generation show at the Double Wide. We played first to a decent-sized crowd at around 9. Thankfully nobody cried foul about us playing the same set we've played at our last three shows. Thankfully nobody threw eggs at me when I completely lost the beat at one point during our first song. I think it's safe to say the night started off well.

Record Hop was up next. I had seen them play a few times before and enjoyed them, but wasn't bowled over by them. Now with a different drummer from when I saw them last, they really impressed me. Yes, their guitars sound like something that is perfect for stoner rock or greasy rock 'n' roll, but they are neither. They rock with a smart sense of dissonance, dense melodies and pure riffin'. I had the pleasure of talking with Ashley and Scott following their set and found both of them incredibly kind and genuine. For me, these are the marks of another band to check out whenever they play live.

I missed part of Jack with One Eye's set, but did catch a few songs. One that really impressed me paired My Bloody Valentine-like swirling guitars over a delicate slow-dance feel. I can't say I was as impressed with them as I was with Record Hop, but I wasn't turned off by what I heard or saw.

With half of Jack with One Eye's line-up also in the Falkon, the change-over wasn't long. The band has morphed over many years led by Wanz and this was a one-off reunion show. I had never seen the Falkon or the Falkon Project from back in the day, so I had no real idea what to expect. I had seen Wanz go apeshit with the Black Arm Band and go out there with Mazinga Phaser II, but again, I had no idea what to expect with the Falkon's set.

Well, the Falkon's set was more like the Black Arm Band (complete with Wanz going into the audience) and that was a good thing. Yeah, this could be seen as loose and sloppy rock 'n' roll, but it's fine with me. I can't think of another band that could cover Nick Cave and make it sound like a KISS song.

Despite being a sight to see, I was pooped by the time the Falkon was finished. Blame it on the lack of a proper dinner or just general tiredness, but I headed home. I missed the Strange Boys and Pleasant Grove, but I hope I'll see them sometime in the near future.

Overall, the turnout for the show was very good. The whole place (including the patio and both bar areas) was packed. With a $5 cover charge, a six-band bill was a pretty sweet deal and I'm glad so many people came out. I don't know how the Double Wide is fairing with their money issues, but I'm so happy that it's still around.

Friday, July 21, 2006

La Lucha Libre

I still watch a small amount of TV on a weekly basis, but a large number of that amount is devoted to programming in Spanish. Secretos Houston and Jose Luis: Sin Censura are still some of my favorites as they make zero attempts to hide how fake the storylines are. Plus, there's something really funny about watching really bad acting by non-actors. In so many ways, this is like watching WWE with its staged-but-entertaining appeal. In the last few weeks, I've found matters to be very funny with how "sports entertainment" is not just devoted to Raw, Smackdown and Saturday Night's Main Event.

I recently watched an episode of El Show de Maria Laria which featured masked luchadors talking about their problems with one another. Just the mere idea of masked luchadors sitting and discussing their problems with one another on a talk show is hilarious to me. Since these wrestlers were rivals in and out of the ring, they had quite a few fights on the set. Watching them fight made me think that the regular kinds of guests on Jose Luis and Maria Laria have a lot to learn from them. There is a definite science and formula to fake fighting that can pass as being real and that comes straight from the world of pro wrestling/sports entertainment.

Now I've become hooked on WWE matches dubbed in Spanish. Yes, the WWF/WWE has always been a sort of male-driven soap opera aimed at boys and men, but it's always been fun for me to watch. With its announcers doing play-by-play and translating the spoken dialogue in Spanish, I can't stop laughing, especially with the guy that has the wild sidekick role that Jerry "The King" Lawler has on the English version. This guy's voice is so high-pitched and overdramatic that this has become a main reason for me watch. Probably my favorite line from him is whenever Lady Jane is onscreen, he pronounces the name like "Layydee Jayyyne!" Something is just so funny about the tone and pitch of that voice of his.

Yes, I know this is silly television. I know this isn't stimulating my mind as much as writing a book, reading a book, watching a great movie, taking a walk, listening to music and so on does, but I know what's going on. It's easy for me to just watch and laugh, but I think that's one of the main points of these shows. This is not something I put full faith in or seek answers with. This is entertainment that is flimsy in nature but pretty fun in its intentional and unintentional ways.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Lay your armor down

I've blogged about Dashboard Confessional before, but I want to talk about them again since I've been listening to their new album, Dusk and Summer, a lot lately.

To recap: I like this band's music, own all of their proper albums, have seen them play live and I say all of this with zero irony. Since I was a Further Seems Forever fan at the time when I heard a couple of tracks off of The Swiss Army Romance, I was pulled in by what Chris was doing with this quiet little side project. Well, after the second record, The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most, was out for a couple of months, I noticed how fast the now-a-band's popularity spread. Some friends of mine really loved this stuff, but a ton of others just hated this (and continue to hate) this stuff.

I have my theories as to why certain people are so attracted to Chris and why other people are so repulsed by him, but let me get to the bottom of how I feel on the matter. Yes, watching the audience be so mesmerized by Chris on the MTV Unplugged is still weird. Yes, there are plenty of lyrics that can be read as being strictly for the middle/high school crowd. Yes, being around members of their core audience at shows can make me feel old and a tad guilty. Yet the music has always been good, even with the latest, Dusk and Summer.

I like a number of tracks off this album, but I have some misgivings about what I hear in the presentation. A big glaring aspect is the drumming. The band's secret weapon has always been Mike Marsh's drumming. There are drummers that play ahead of the beat and then there's somebody like Mike who speeds over it. However, his playing has always been a great little piece of flair while also complimenting the song. On Dusk and Summer, his playing is as simple as simple drumming gets. There are barely any fills or any fancy playing, so there's this wide open space in the sound.

When I hear this album, I get the feeling these songs were labored over so much that they lost their zest in the process. The beats and feels are simple and so are the melodies, but that doesn't mean there are some memorable songs. The majority of the album is very same-songy, but songs like "Don't Wait," "So Long, So Long" and "The Secret's in the Telling" are really great. In the spots where they take some mild detours from this formula, they are more distracting than welcome.

Overall, Dusk and Summer is a good album for Dashboard fans, but an album that will not make their staunchest critics change their tune. The album feels too safe and restrained whereas their previous record, A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar, was not. That said, I'm not about to toss the record aside as I can't get a number of its songs out of my head.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Foul Weather Clothes

We used to have a political reggae one called "Equality Street."

-David Brent, The Office

---

I can tolerate a degree of what I consider traditional reggae. I'm talking Bob Marley, Desmond Dekker, Peter Tosh and so on. I have no problem with hearing a little bit of a style that is so laid-back in cut-times, but too much can be aggravating and tortuous. Like my frustrations with the Tejano music I hear blasting out of cars around my neighborhood, the beat is at the forefront while limp melodies are there somewhere in the back.

When I was in college, I knew some people that were really into reggae. Yes, some were potheads, but some were not. The point is, I just couldn't understand how people could listen to those repetitive beats for hours at a time. Then again, I'm sure there are people that wonder how the hell I can listen to the fractured beats found in post-hardcore or the rocket-fueled beats found in pop-punk for hours at a time. But I argue there's more to the story than just the beats and rhythms in those styles of music. Something tells me that the people that actually like reggae, Tejano, rap and so on aren't just into it for the beats. Well, that's what I hear more than anything else.

With the brief explosion of ska-punk in the '90s with bands like Rancid, Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake and Goldfinger, I heard plenty of chicka-chicka guitar upstrokes and half-time drumbeats to last me a long time. While I really ate that stuff up at the time, I can only really stand to listen to a few songs at a time these days. What's interesting is that reggae stylings were found in a lot of punk rock at that time, but hardly ever in indie rock. As a matter of fact, I had never really heard them in indie rock until I received a record by a band that Nick helped put out a few months ago.

The band is called Pontius and they are from Chicago. Listening to their new record, Foul Weather Clothes, I hear a lot of traditional indie rock with a pretty successful infusion of reggae in a number of their songs. Rather than sounding like a band with diverging directions, these guys have put together some impressive sounds and feels. Sure, there are points that may make the flip-flops and dirty shirts crowd raise a beer and bop their heads, but this record doesn't sound tailored for them. This is more indie rock at its core than Exodus regurgitated.

I'm not implying that different makes something infinitely better, but when a band takes a style that is not traditionally kosher for indie rock and takes it on a nice melodic spin, I think that's cool. Pontius really makes me think that as does Tapes 'n Tapes. Here you have a band that has no real defined sound but that's a plus for these guys. I love their single "Insistor" with its fast, galloping country feel under a twisted ascending melody. As great as something like lush indie pop is, I can't listen to that all the time, so bands like these are a nice change of pace.

With that said, I'm reminded of legends like the Clash, the Specials, My Aim is True-era Elvis Costello and the Police. These acts embraced the chopped-up feels of reggae, but made them their own with plenty of other stuff going on at the same time. Reggae can be incredibly restricting as the focus is almost always on the upbeat. So whenever bands that aren't closely leashed to the boundaries of the music that they came from, the chances are better they can make something a bit more unique.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Anonymous

Even if you visit just a few blogs on a daily basis, the chances are very good that you're going to see a comment left by a person who leaves no name. Since many blogs via Blogger require at least a username to post, some people will create a profile, but not a blog. There are plenty of other blogs, including this one, that allow anonymous comments to be posted. Usually, people leave their names, but sometimes they don't. I know blogging isn't for everyone and I think it's fine to have non-Blogger users post their feelings, but comments from anonymous users have become a cowardly shield of sorts.

Around here, a prime spot for catty anonymous comments is We Shot J.R., a Dallas-based blog devoted to local and national music. In hopes of voicing an opinion in the blogosphere without burning bridges in real life, its writers do not reveal their real names. I can understand this motive but I don't agree with this approach. On here and in real life, I'm not into hiding behind a curtain so I can say what I really think. When I blog, I choose my words carefully; I really think about what I want to say and how to say it. I say what I actually think and I may offend or annoy people this way, but that's a natural part of speaking my mind.

That said, some people that comment anonymously on We Shot J.R. love to blurt out cheap shots. Whether the shots are supposed to be funny in a twisted way, they are often immature. Here's a sampling from Monday's post:

im going to pretend it's 93 and listen to samiam albums

what a bunch of repetitious, poppy horseshit. this is music for people who don't know how to play music. or listen to it, for that matter.

Yes, I know opinions are like noses, but what's the deal with hiding behind a mask when giving one? Are we that afraid of our opinions offending people? I know I've said some things before that offended people that I didn't mean to offend. Those repercussions have made me think harder about what I say and how I say it, but still, what I say is really what I think. But for some, tact gets thrown out the window when they speak their minds. Some claim that's giving an honest opinion, but to me, that's not the way.

Sometimes people fly off handles and post laughable nonsense. Let me repost an example from something I wrote last month:

how can u possibly appriciate the green day concept album but not coheed and cambria or the mars volta? just because they have more complex storylines than the burned out ninties puke/punk of green day doesnt mean they should be under valued... seriously, maybe you should look up the story for the mars volta on google and go to any hot topic or newberry comics and buy the good apollo graphic novel

I have no problem with this person disagreeing with me, but the way the person wrote the comment (complete with major spelling and grammatical errors) shrinks the comment down to an eye-roller for me. Plus, this person's comment doesn't make much sense compared to what I wrote. I never said that I appreciated one album over the other; I discussed what I liked and disliked about concept albums by Green Day, Coheed and Cambria and the Mars Volta and that was that.

Am I being a little harsh and asshole-ish here? Maybe, but I really have no use in posting my opinions anonymously. Yes, if I were to harshly criticize a local band on a blog and then run into one of their members someplace, I'll probably be put on the spot and have to explain myself. That's not a problem for me, but for some, the thought of this happening is terrifying. Maybe these people want to spit out the initial cries of blasphemy because they think too many people think before they speak. Maybe this is an attempt to come across as unbiased, but come on, we're humans, not soul-less robots. I know I'm talking via a virtual channel here, but that doesn't mean I'm a robot myself.

Monday, July 17, 2006

(The Gym is) Neutral Territory

So Eric and Amy saw Lifetime over the weekend (review and photos here). As I ponder how envious I am of their experience, I think about how much this band has been name-checked in the last few years. Without running a laundry list, I think about what usually happens when popular bands name-check relatively obscure bands. Some may cry foul about such, but why is that a bad thing, especially in the case of a band that has been broken up for a long time?

One of the most cross-referenced bands of my generation is the Pixies. I think the main reason why is because Kurt Cobain once claimed that "Smells Like Teen Spirit" sounded like a Pixies song. For us listening to White Lion and Vanilla Ice when Doolittle and Bossanova came out, we probably wouldn't have understood the hoopla about the Pixies. Yet for us who went through the filter that Nirvana showed us, we would understand in due time.

With Lifetime, bands like Saves the Day, Fall Out Boy and Taking Back Sunday have sung praises of the band. Hell, Saves the Day's first album was an intentional nod to Lifetime's rip-roaring melancholy punk rock. With these bands paying homage to the band in print and on record, the possibilities of introducing younger people to Lifetime are pretty large. Of course there are the people that are just into the bands of the moment and don't really care more than just the music. However, for those that are curious about who the younger bands are inspired by, they are more than likely going to hear about a band like Lifetime.

At South By Southwest this year, Lifetime played a free show with My Chemical Romance. There were plenty of teenagers there, but there were plenty of people my age too. Sure, there is percentage of people my age that just don't get My Chemical Romance and I'm sure there's a percentage of young people that just don't get Lifetime. Regardless, hearing about the show made me really happy. People my age and younger music fans were having a great time as Lifetime kicked out several gems from Hello Bastards and Jersey's Best Dancers. As weird as it would sound to have both a skinny teenager dressed up like a glammy vampire and a 28-year-old with a Hot Water Music tattoo on his arm wanting to see Lifetime, I think that's awesome.

I won't lie: seeing sold-out shows with a large number of young people acting like they are there to hang out and be seen can be a bummer. That's what happens when a large crowd is attracted to a band at a point in time, but I gotta remember that not everyone is there for the scenery.

I remember when I first saw face to face in '97. I wore my Foo Fighters shirt and I received a rather nasty little look from a guy. While that guy's expression stands out to me more than anyone else's, I must remember that so many others at that same show could really give a rat's ass about what I was wearing and what music I listened to at the time. There is a sense of territoriality with fans of music that has somewhat of a limited mainstream appeal, especially in punk and hardcore. You may see some jazz geeks roll their eyes at Kenny G fans at a Charlie Hunter show, but they aren't about to flip them off as they talk about how music was so much better in '84.

The point is, I understand people not wanting mainstream influences to come into areas they find personal and sacred. However, when the ticket says, "All ages," that doesn't mean "Only for fans of this music that understand the history of the band, their music and what to do and what not to do at a show." The door is open for anyone that wants to come in (save for shows that are 17+ or 21+). With the beauty of hearing music on record or MP3, anyone can hear this music. Not to sound like a tree-hugging hippie, but having a crossover with a band where a wide variety of people "get" who the band is well, awesome.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

It's a hundred degrees and you've got a sweater on

With temperatures topping the 100 degree mark in the last few weeks, I think about something I saw two years ago while I stood in line at a show in Houston. As I waited for the doors to open to see Braid for the second time on their reunion tour, something very odd caught my eye.

As a resident of Houston for twelve years, I know how intense the heat and humidity can be. However, something I'm still in the dark about is why anyone would ever wear wool slacks and a thick sweater-vest in this weather. Well, I saw a pudgy guy in this get-up as I stood in line. I was sweating profusely despite being in a T-shirt and shorts, but not as much as this guy was. I understand someone bringing a jacket or a sweater to where he or she works because of the indoor temperature, but not to a show in the summer.

A few years ago, Goose, Nick and I talked about an imaginary emo band called the Crying Sweaters. They never actually practiced or played any shows; they were just a figment of our imagination with all sorts of goofy emo cliches at the forefront. Why the name? Because we took notice of a few people wearing warm clothing in warm temperatures at shows and in videos. So when the Promise Ring released "Stop Playing Guitar" with that lyric, "It's a hundred degrees/and you've got a sweater on," we had a good chuckle. Sure, this was funny in our imagination, but this wasn't in real life.

I know there's a tendency to dress up a little when you play a show or attend a show, but there's a line between sane and insane too. At our last show, we played with a band whose bass player was decked out head to toe in a vintage suit (ala, Panic! At the Disco). Despite two large fans going at full speed in the venue, we were all sweating like crazy. I wonder how much weight this guy lost that night.

I'm not telling anyone what to wear here, but I ask: what's the deal with the over-dressing at shows? What kind of statement are you making when you're sweating like a pig? I dress for the occasion and environment neither under-dressed or over-dressed. That's just me.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Danse Macabre

Years ago, my friend Steve thought a great live pairing would be [daryl] and the Faint. At the time, the Faint had just put out their second album, Blank-Wave Arcade and [daryl] was just getting started (I think their first EP was out). The sole link between the two bands was that they used vintage keyboards circa the '70s and '80s. I never thought the pairing would work but I think I saw something like this last night at the Double Wide.

Sparklepussy Barbie is not a Faint knock-off, but they could be compared to them. Featuring members of the Deathray Davies (including one who used to be in [daryl] years ago), the band fuses live instrumentation with loops, keyboards and electronic drums. They don't sound doomy, but they aren't really richly melodic either. All throughout their set, I kept thinking about my conversation about the Faint with Steve all those years ago.

With [daryl], after six years of seeing them play with various line-ups, I have yet to tire of them. I speculate I've seen them at least thirty times and I've rarely been let down. Last night was no different, but like previous sets I've seen at the Double Wide and Sons of Hermann Hall, this was more like a wild party. Longtime friend and fan of the band DB was up in front with me the whole time. I didn't really mind all the beer he spilled on me and all the sweat he flung onto me and others. At this point, I'm used to it.

My memory might be escaping me, but I think last night's show was the first time I saw a show at the Double Wide since they closed and then promptly reopened. Yeah, the trailer trash design is still kitschy, but the layout of the place is still one of the best I've ever seen. With two bars and a patio, there's plenty of space for those that want to see the bands and those that don't. I'm thankful that the place is back.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Tricked

I make no secret that I'm a slow reader. However, whenever I read something in record time, I wonder what's the deal. Last year, I read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in a week. Earlier this year, I read Jim DeRogatis's Staring at Sound in less than a week. This week, I set a new record as I read something in less than 48 hours. What book was the one? Alex Robinson's graphic novel, Tricked.

David posted a nice little write-up on the book earlier this week in his ongoing "Book Notes" series. Reminding myself of Robinson's previous book, Box Office Poison, some major urges came to me with wanting to read Tricked as soon as possible.

Without ever having read a single page of Box Office Poison, I put the book on my Christmas list a few years ago. All that I knew about the book was that there was a storyline about comics and movies. With a name like Box Office Poison, I thought I was getting a harsh satire/ribbing of the movie industry's development of comics into movies. Instead, I found the book to hit really close to home with me and my post-collegiate relationships. Sure, there's plenty of bitter, cynical stuff about the comics industry, but the core of the book is about friendship. With what I was going through at the time (the erosion of a couple close friendships), Box Office Poison really spoke to me. The book still speaks to me as I can still relate to the story.

With Robinson's latest book, Tricked, this is a whole other animal. Yes, there's plenty of everyday relationship stuff in it, but this plays out more like films like Short Cuts or Magnolia, sans an ending with a natural disaster happening. While I'll say I enjoyed the book overall, I can't say I really enjoyed most of the main characters turning a little too dark. There's room to care for these characters but not a whole lot of room to cheer for them. That said, this isn't a retread or a miss-step.

You could say that a graphic novel is not a book per se, but if the thing is bound like a book, then it's a book to me. Tricked is 300+ pages long and is a real page-turner. I had a really hard time putting the book down and now I'm having a hard time putting down Stephen King's On Writing. Jason from the Happy Bullets recommended the book to me earlier this year and I finally got around to reading it two nights ago. As of today, I'm 90 pages into it and there's no stoppage in sight. Regardless of the fact that I've never read a King book before, I'm really enjoying reading about his process in writing. So much of what I've read so far is funny and insightful, just like another book I read a few years ago: Bruce Campbell's If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a "B" Movie Actor.

As much as I love reading and writing, reading books can easily put me to sleep whenever I read in my recliner (Jason can attest to this as he's seen this happen plenty of times). Maybe I relax my eyes too much, but I'm pretty alert when I try to read after one nap. I don't mean to imply that the books' subject matter are sleep-inducing; I'm pretty sure the action of reading in a relaxed position will almost always do this to me.

People like David are doing a whole "52 books in 52 weeks" project while Jason is doing a "52 books in a year" project. I don't think I could do that, but hey, I have yet to try. A few years ago, I tried to watch 365 movies in one year just like Bob did back in '99. The most I saw was something like 85, well below my goal. Ah well, there's always next year, but there's still plenty of time left in this one . . .

Thursday, July 13, 2006

What matters most is how well you walk through the fire

Does anybody have a particular time of the year when a major change in your life tends to happen? For me, they tend to happen in the mid-summer or early fall.

Four years ago this month, I was informed by my roommate that a friend of his was moving into our place -- implying that I had to move out. Scrambling, I found a nice and inexpensive apartment in north Dallas and have lived in the town ever since. Almost three years ago, I felt like my relationship with one band had ended and I would find myself let go from the band just a couple of months later. Almost two years ago, as I was moving into the place I live in now, I had to leave one of the companies I worked for. I couldn't put this change off any longer and when my other job offered me a full-time job, I bolted. And this all happened as I was moving in August with no fear that this was the right move for me. So why am I bringing this up now? Well, this feeling has come back.

I'm not moving to a new place to live, but I'm ready to find a new job sooner rather than later. Where this job is has yet to be determined. I know people tell you that the ideal situation is to find a job while you already have a job, but this change can't keep getting put off. Finding any job is a job in itself and I'm tired of making excuses for myself. As I've said before, mud may be easy to be in because it's familiar, but it's still mud.

I think feeling afraid of making a change is a natural thing, but a major part of having courage is doing something without knowing what the full outcome will be. That's just the experience of life in itself, so why do people stay at bay with opposing voices in their head and muddy familiarity? The outcome of change is infinite, but people (including myself) tend to think that a negative outcome is more likely than a positive one. Well, I have to remind myself that the chances of a positive outcome are about as equal to a negative one, so I have to choose which perspective to think in.

These kinds of changes in life are not some spur-of-the-moment kinds of deals for me. A lot of thinking goes into why I think such change needs to occur, but that comes with a number of excuses too. When the options to stay have run out, then I think that's when I should move on. Sounds incredibly cut and dry right? Well, living through this is not.

In all of the previous bands I've been in, this feeling has always happened. A fact I tend to overlook is that every band I joined afterwards was a better situation and experience for me. My first couple of bands were just friends who came over to screw around on their instruments, but then I played in a band that wrote real songs and played shows. In college, after I had joined a band that let me go two weeks after I joined, I helped start what would become the 11:30s, a band that really forged the template of what kind of band I like to be in. From the 11:30s came Voigt and after Voigt came my current band, Ashburne Glen. Whenever we play together (whether it's in the practice room or onstage), I feel really happy and have a lot of fun, but I don't think I would be able to appreciate this had I not been in bands before. I think this kind of experience can translate into many other aspects of life (whether in a personal relationship, a job, and so on).

So, the motivation is there mentally, but action is probably the single most important way to make something happen. Don't let the commercials and banner ads fool you, online job listings are probably not the best ways to find something. I think applying a lot of the skills I've learned with doing this book are really finally kicking into gear in other aspects of my life. There were people that I thought I could never reach, but given some time and persistence, I got ahold of most of them. Maybe that explains why I feel so invigorated whenever I do an interview . . .

The point is this, you can lay in misery with what is handed to you. Be it bland Top 40 pop, cookie-cutter star vehicles, shallow game shows/soap operas with "reality" in their description or TV networks with one hour of news and 23 hours of speculation; that's easy. For some, they aren't fine with whatever washes ashore. They have to find what they want, but that takes their own will and desire to do such.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What's taking so long?

Since this blog was created initially to give progress reports on Post, I think I need to address the proverbial elephant standing in the corner. The book is not done as I have a few matters to attend to before I have a draft ready for printing. The timeframe is indefinite, but I'm hoping this situation will be different in a few months' time.

First of all, the interviews. As much as it would be easy to use all second-hand sources (ie, articles and interviews), I have strived for authentic, straight-from-the-horse's-mouth material with my own interviews. A few notable people will not have new quotes for the book, but they definitely get coverage via articles and such. Believe me, I've contacted them for input, but looking at some signs on the wall, they are saying they're not going to participate. While I'd still love to have their input, I have plenty of input already.

I honestly don't know how many people I've interviewed (I lost count after fifty), but doing my own interviews helps me out with my project specifically in mind. Instead of taking stuff a little out of context with an article, this stuff is coming right off of the tape and into a Word document.

A major stumbling block in doing interviews with musicians is their schedules. Sometimes they're impossible to get a hold of because of being on tour and nobody seems to know their contact info. I've been incredibly lucky with the people I've talked to on the phone, via e-mail and best of all, in-person at a show. Sure, trying to find somebody for input for two years may be a pain in the ass, but believe me, when you get to talk to the person and the interview turns out really well, the feeling is incredible. I have about a handful of people left to interview and then I'll start full-on editing.

Second of all, writing. In my two-plus years of writing this book, I really had to learn to write. I knew how type and write before, but I had to really learn how to write in my own voice. I hope to do book readings with this, so I read aloud to make sure the stuff is flowing well. That takes time and so does the development of what is written. I keep going back to stuff I've written months (sometimes, years) ago and look and see if I still believe in what I wrote. If a line/sentence/paragraph feels stale, it gets the heave-ho.

Third, other things in my life. With my ever-changing work schedule, I've had a lot of time in the last few months to write, edit and research. In that time, I've done a handful of interviews and have my last three chapters finally taking shape. Some days I've spent seven or eight hours working at the computer. Some days I've worked more and some days I've worked less. The drive is there, but that drive gets put off by other things going on in my life. Namely, my mood swings and the current job situation. I'm ready to move onto a different field right now after months of being rather gun-shy about such change. Where I'll end up in the next few weeks, I don't know, but the change is going to happen. Not helping matters is my timid, hard-headed side. That said, I've reached a point where I've run out of excuses.

With the temperature averaging 94-100 degrees everyday and the price of gas being so high, I only go out when I have to. Oftentimes that's for work purposes, dog walking, grocery shopping, band practice and the occasional show. I tend to forget that I should do some things for fun every once in a while.

Lastly, the publishing angle. Nick and I are weighing our options with how we can go about this and part of that is "shopping" the book around to some places. We have some places in mind, but we're open to other suggestions. Whoever puts the book out, I scoff at the thought of bending over backwards for a narrow demographic. I've always maintained that this is a book for anyone that's interested, but it's especially a tribute to people in my age group.

So there's the book update for now. Hopefully I'll have a rough draft ready to edit when I do my next book update. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Music kids love, not kids' music

I may scoff at the labeling of my generation as "grups" and "indie yuppies" by the media, but one of the cool things I see with "indie yuppies" in particular is what kind of music they play for their children. Sure, there might be some Barney and Sesame Street songs in the mix, but that's not even half of the music they hear.

In general, the music that the parents listen to is the music that their children listen to. The kind of music they listen to often sheds a lot of light onto their personalities. So, with people that came of age in the '80s and '90s with the mass appeal of alternative rock, I don't find it surprising that "good" music is being played for their kids.

I in no way ever thought the music I was first introduced to via my parents (big band to soft rock AM gold) was bad. Sure, frequently hearing "The Tonight Show Theme" in the car drove me bonkers for a while, but I still like a number of the artists I first heard growing up. Saying that I like select cuts from Neil Diamond, John Denver, James Taylor and Carole King may very well drive somebody who came from '70s punk rock mad, but I didn't know what punk was in '79. I was learning to talk and roll over at that time. I was not of age to feel cynical about music in general.

My parents have never had "hip" music tastes, but that's not a reason for me to cast stones. They listen to the music that fits their personalities, just like the music that I listen to. They might not understand how I can enjoy a band like Converge, but then again, I don't really understand how my mom can enjoy the Dixie Chicks.

Anyway, the point is that I think about what might happen with children raised on the Replacements and Built to Spill instead of James Blunt and American Idol. I highly doubt I will hear something along the lines of, "When I was a kid, my parents played me horrible music, like the Cure and the Clash."

But the fact remains, certain kinds of personalities, regardless of age, just do not have the mental capacity to understand music like this. I don't find any fault with that, but this can be annoying at times. Sure, hearing an SUV full of tweens sing off-key along to Avril Lavigne's Let Go as I pump my gas annoys me, but I gotta remember where I came from. I came from the easy-to-swallow world of pop music and searched farther out after I had enough. I still really have to search for the stuff that I like as I'm often barraged by stuff I don't like.

I think about people like Eric and Amy, who are my age, and have an 8-month-old daughter. While she may not groove to the apocalyptic sounds of Converge's You Fail Me just yet, Eric tells me that she gets excited and bounces around when she hears the pop-punk of the Loved Ones. Eric and Amy appear to be stereotypical suburbanites on the outside, but they are definitely not Stepford husbands or wives. There is no, "Well, we're here in the suburbs now with a kid. I guess we have to stop listening to Screeching Weasel and Wilco and listen to Radio Disney all the time."

With people I've talked to over the years, there almost always was an older sibling that introduced them to "good" and "cool" music. The music of choice by the parents was not as strong, but now I'm seeing that changing. Was this something anyone could have predicted back when Nirvana broke through in '92? Absolutely not, but I'm glad that alternative rock did break through. Now as far what the mainstream version of emo will do with its audience as they grow up, the jury's still out.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Why You'd Want to Live Here

When I first moved into the place I'm living in now, I noticed some urban renewal was going on around this part of town. Old apartments, restaurants and other businesses were slowly being torn down and posh condo/townhomes/apartments were built in their place. Now this development has reached a point where it's not just in our neighborhood, but almost the entire area slightly north and east of downtown. While I think it's great to clean up certain parts of town, Jason and I are wondering: where are all these new residents coming from? Are the suburbs that bad?

I have yet to meet anyone who has moved or is about to move to one of these new digs. These places are posh, but they are also super-expensive. I do not have the kind of money to live in one of these places nor do I really want to (apartment life just isn't the same as living in a house or duplex). But the average profile of people moving into these places are in their mid-20s to mid-30s. In other words, this is yuppie central.

Still, the crazy thing is that there seems to be millions of people coming out of nowhere that are moving to the uptown/downtown/Lakewood area. A lot of them are married, but not the typical suburban-like couple. I don't think a square high-rise apartment near downtown is the best place to raise a family, but that's just me. Maybe these people don't want kids and just want to live the wild and crazy nightlife 'til old age. Well, in Dallas, the suburbs are not that far away from downtown. If you lived in Plano and wanted to see a band play in Lower Greenville, the commute isn't bad at all. But for some, a 25-minute drive might as well be a day-and-a-half drive.

The strangest thing about urban renewal is what gets changed and what stays the same and rots. A perfect example is a relatively-new apartment/condo complex on one side of the street and a run-down pawn shop with weeds growing around it on the other side. As much as they develop around this place, the more I see spots of unchanged stuff. They stick out like sore thumbs and I'm curious if anyone else notices.

Thankfully, there are plenty of places around here that are protected from this renewal as they are marked as "historical" spots. For me, I like being around homes, businesses and churches that have stuck around for decades and still look really nice. I'm not sure if I could say the same about all these new high-rises. Their designs are very "now" but aspects that are too "now" are often doomed in the long term. Just look at designs from the '70s and '80s now and you may often see stuff that has not aged well at all.

Parts of me think that these new residents have found the suburbs too crowded and too suburban. The suburbs keep developing further north, which is not that different from most places. Maybe a lot of these people come from the Highland Park/University Park area, which is a super-rich area but rather crowded at the same time. Wherever they're coming from, they're not going away anytime soon. I don't think this is a bad thing as I'd rather live next door to straight-laced yuppies than crack dealers.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Let's Go to the Hop

As I watched one of my all-time favorite movies last night (American Graffiti), I found myself bopping to the soundtrack. Yes, I was bopping to songs like "Let's Go to the Hop," "All Summer Long" and "I Only Have Eyes for You." These songs sum up the rock 'n' roll of the day before the British Invasion and still rock. These songs hold up so well despite the fact that most of its lyrics are about teenager/young adult life. So I wonder: why does the Crests' "16 Candles" hold up after all these years when I think a song like Fall Out Boy's "A Little Less 'Sixteen Candles,' A Little More 'Touch Me'" will not?

A line like "'Cause you're just the girl all the boys want to dance with/And I'm just the boy who's had too many chances" does not sound very far removed from the kinds of lyrics you've heard in any part of rock 'n' roll's past. I think several other factors are parts of the big tipping point, but I'm not 100% sure what's the deal.

When I hear a song like "I Only Have Eyes for You," I hear a calm, spacious doo-wop classic. In the vocals department, I hear top-notch singing in a large studio with some slight reverb. When I hear a song like "Sugar, We're Goin' Down," I hear a processed piece of cheese with some semi-catchy melodies. In the vocals department, I hear cleaned-up, computerized singing. Which song can I relate to more? The humans sounding like humans or the humans sounding like robots? You catch my drift. This is just the beginning.

With the doo-wop groups, and even the straight-up rock bands of the '50s and early-'60s, these guys were classy guys. Essentially, they were gentlemen that moved onstage while playing music that made you move and there was no goofiness involved. Now, I love rock 'n' roll that is anything but polished, but when you have these goofy clowns prancing around, how can this be seen as good in the long term?

Maybe I'm too full of myself thinking that these bands are thinking for the future. Was I thinking about how my high school band's material would work now? Absolutely not, but I don't feel embarrassed by our songs or our presentation. I'm not about to play those old songs or even dig out our old practice tapes, but I don't regret living in the moment.

I think there are several good reasons why songs from the '50s and '60s still hold up. Of course they were sold to teens and made their elders crazy in the day, but I still get a good feeling with these songs. Hearing a song that's about such a flimsy action like going to a sock-hop dance doesn't bother me. I still get something out of a song that's about crying over losing someone, only having eyes for someone else and so on. Now I don't mean that all pop music has sucked since this era, (there have been plenty of great songs from the '70s, '80s, '90s and '00s), but I highly doubt that pop music from the '50s and '60s will cease commanding a large audience in years to come.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Jesus and Tequila

Here's another Saturday post on what I did last night at the Cavern. Chris DJ'd upstairs while Sean Kirkpatrick played a set downstairs. Though there were two other acts playing downstairs, I skipped out on them to spend more time upstairs. Yes, I was one of those guys, but I couldn't help be drawn to where my friends were.

Sean plays in the pAper chAse, a band I'm still really just now discovering. With his solo shows, I'm already a big fan, especially after last night's set. Playing by himself with a full, 88-key keyboard/piano, the sound was spare but that wasn't a drawback. Similar to his stuff with the pAper chAse, there is an almost constant flowing in and out of major and minor keys. Sometimes this happens in just one chord progression. Now, that may sound more like lazy playing, but I disagree. I think this is more of the approach akin to a quote I once heard Page Hamilton say: music theory is a good thing to learn and then forget about.

Sure, angular rhythms with dissonant notes aren't as easy to swallow as simple beats and warm melodies, but when used effectively, they can really work. Sean's solo material is more upbeat than the pAper chAse's material, but they don't sound like half-baked, rejected songs either. I hear traces of Nick Cave, Lou Reed and Tim Kasher in Sean's voice, but I don't think he's apeing anyone's else's voice. In other words, this isn't faceless, saloon balladry.

Seeing the Cavern stuffed to the brim with SOUND team last week, I liked the fact that the last night's downstairs audience was very sparse. Plus, they were respectful: they weren't chatting so loud their voices drowned out the music. Sean was conversational between songs and the audience was responsive. He even made a mention of how he began watching the fabulous documentary, We Jam Econo: the Story of the Minutemen earlier in the evening. As someone who's watched the doc twice in the last week, I could understand the awesomeness that Sean was referring to. In honor of this, Sean covered "Jesus and Tequila" from the Minutemen's Double Nickels on the Dime. Very choice cover.

Once Sean was done, I headed back upstairs to listen to the tunes Chris and his friend Adam were spinning. I also spent some time with Garrison Reid, who runs the weekly podcast, Indie Interviews. He's yet another great guy that I have on my mental list of people who run helpful resources for underground music. Between questions of "who sings this song?" we heard some really cool mash-ups. Most notably, the backing tracks of Radiohead's "Karma Police" under the Beatles' "A Day in the Life" and the backing tracks of the Cure's "Close to Me" under Snoop Dogg's "Drop It Like It's Hot." Like last week, there were plenty of people dancing to the hip-hop tracks. Unlike last week, there was some PG-friendly rap played too. Hearing Positive K's "I Got a Man" was a nice stroll down memory lane.

At some of point of my time upstairs, I felt like I was hearing and seeing the Gorilla vs. Bear blog live and in living color. Instead of pictures, hyperlinks and comments, this was people, loud music and fun. My timid side wasn't stopping me from hearing the music, so this was rather freeing. Though I wasn't really that familiar with all Chris was spinning nor was I that familiar with what Sean's material, I was glad I stepped out and had some actual fun.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Journalism 101

Rather than continue the bloggers/fans and SOUND team vs. Pitchfork debate from earlier in the week (full round-up here), I have to shed some more light about who I am and who I am not.

I did not major in journalism in college; I majored in radio-TV-film and minored in advertising/PR. I have never written for a daily newspaper or a weekly paper. I have been blogging here since October 2004 and had never blogged before then. In addition to writing an article/interview on No Idea Records for them, I have written music and DVD reviews for Punk Planet for almost a year. I have written some concert, movie and music reviews for various online places (from Doomed Moviethon to Jeff's blog) in my time and am currently writing a book of my own, Post. So why am I showing all my writing cards here? To explain why I didn't understand a comment made about "Journalism 101" on the Life of a Zane blog earlier this week.

The "Journalism 101" example was about identifying one's self before publishing someone else's words. Apparently, this action is brought up in almost every introductory class to journalism, but I had never heard of it. I had to take a journalism introductory class in order to be get into advertising/PR, but that was the extent. I never worked at the school's newspaper or magazine. The most writing I did in school was about film and TV criticism for my RTVF classes.

Do I think I missed out on basic rules because I didn't major in journalism? To an extent, yes, but that hasn't stopped me from learning how to write and publish stuff. I argue that there is nothing common about "common sense," so there's going to be some trial and error regardless of one's background in any field.

I pose this hypothetical question: did Ian MacKaye, Jeff Nelson or Nathan Strejcek ever think that because they weren't business majors in college, they couldn't start a record label? I doubt it as their educational backgrounds didn't hinder them from starting and running Dischord Records in 1980. The same can be applied to a long history of musicians. Did any of them, especially the ones that picked up instruments because of punk rock, say, "Well, I didn't learn this in school, so I guess I'm not a musician"? I highly doubt that, but that example is often brought up when one identifies him or herself as a musician or not.

These days, anyone who has the drive to write something online and an e-mail address can start up a blog via Blogger, Typepad, MySpace and so on. I know some people in the professional journalism world are annoyed that a blogger could be considered as legit as what they're doing, but I see blogs, satirical newspapers, fanzines and reputable newspapers and magazines all as parts of various forms of information. Sure, untrue gossip in a newspaper or magazine and poorly worded/written blogs don't have as much legitimate strength as others, but that doesn't stop people from reading and writing them.

My point is this: there's identifying yourself as something because of your actions and then there's just doing these actions without waving titles around. I could be considered a journalist or a critic, but I'm not really focused on what my title should or shouldn't be. I'd much rather write and learn along the way. Call me a writer, hack, blogger, or whatever. Sure, my credibility may be subject to suspicion because I never had a formal education in the world, but that's not stopping me from writing and wanting to write more.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Weight

When I was a sophomore in high school, Henry Rollins really spoke to me and my friends. Thanks to MTV's constant playing of Rollins Band's "Liar," I felt like I was hearing a song by a guy who could really tap into my teenage angst. Sure, a band like Nirvana supposedly spoke to more people with abstract lyrics, but when I was in high school and was very angry about various matters, "Liar" was intensely personal and explicit. Now when I listen to the song, I really can't get into it. Not that there is a lack of anger in me, but I can't into this kind of expression of anger. That said, I can't underscore enough how important certain other works from Rollins are to me.

After hearing "Liar" so many times, me and my friends were open ears to whatever else Rollins had cooking at that time. Released a short while later, Get in the Van is a collection of journal entrys from Rollins' time in Black Flag. Releasing a book and audio CD with Rollins reading passages from it, my friends and I clung to almost every word Rollins said. My friend Jeff got the CD and dubbed cassette tapes for me and our other friend Drennan. We constantly listened to those tapes on band trips and frequently quoted lines from Rollins. Sure, those were good times in high school, but why are they important to me now? Well, after watching We Jam Econo again last night, I've begun to realize how important Rollins has been to me as a music fan.

In Get in the Van, Rollins describes hanging out with Ian MacKaye, the music of Black Flag, touring with the Minutemen, hanging out with Nick Cave, playing with Bill Stevenson and the Stooges' Funhouse. Prior to this, I had never heard of any of these guys. In the almost ten years after of hearing about them for the first time, I'm just now realizing what all Rollins was talking/raving about.

There was a point in high school where, after listening to Get in the Van so many times, my friends and I decided to listen to some of the stuff Rollins was talking about. I picked up Black Flag's Everything Went Black collection at the local Best Buy and a few months later, Drennan found a copy of Black Flag's Damaged in a small record store when he was on a band trip. Keep in mind, this was well before the Internet could help us obtain any record, so finding stuff like this was a true hunt.

I'll never forget when Drennan (with his copy of Damaged, a portable CD-player and a car cassette converter all on him) played for me "Rise Above" and "Spray Paint" in my car as I drove him home one night. I had heard some punk rock before, but the sheer rawness of Black Flag was way more intense than anything I had heard before. (Yes, this was even more intense to me than Minor Threat.) Since then, I've read Punk Planet's oral history of the band and the band's chapter in Our Band Could Be Your Life. I have yet to hear any of the band's stuff post-Damaged, but I'm sure I'll eventually hear it.

I may now cringe at the sight and sound of "Liar" and many other Rollins Band songs, but I cannot thank Rollins enough for opening me up to so many great bands and records. In my stage of life, I have to remind myself that this kind of introduction is still going on. I'm sure there's a teenager somewhere that's really into Fall Out Boy right now and he/she may be reading a lot of interviews with the band. Somewhere down the line, if the fan is that interested, he/she may very well check out a band like Lifetime or the Get Up Kids. Since the band has spoken highly of those bands, there is a curiosity factor and this is a good thing. I may not agree with this fan's thoughts about Fall Out Boy's music or how cute bassist/lyricist Pete Wentz is, but if this fan later finds a band like Lifetime a life-changing band, I see no problem with this.

Yes, seeing great music that changed your life be watered down to embarrassing levels still sucks (recent example, Cute is What We Aim For), but I can't stop this from happening. I argue that in certain aspects, music for a mainstream audience has to be watered down to a pathetic, brain-washing level. That way, the better the chances are of someone to realize, "Hey wait, this really sucks" and finds something denser. Of course this doesn't happen to everyone, but I look forward to meeting more people like this.