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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Now available in physical form

The day has finally come: you can purchase POST: A Look at the Influence of Post-Hardcore 1985-2007. Here are the links:

Amazon

Amazon U.K.

Barnes & Noble

Target

Books A Million

Borders U.K.

Powell's Books

AbeBooks

Alibris

If you're interested in carrying the book in your store, click here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Good in Everyone

With power pop fans, I've often found this kind of grouping. If you like Teenage Fanclub, you also like the Posies, along with Matthew Sweet, Jellyfish, and Fountains of Wayne, to name a few. Another one is Sloan, a band that, for some reason, has only now clicked completely in for me.

Other than the enjoyment of One Chord to Another's "The Good in Everyone" and Never Hear the End of It's "Right of Wrong," I had yet to find the band's material worth checking out. Something rubbed me the wrong way when I listened to the A Sides Win singles compilation, and felt unmoved by my first listen to Never Hear the End of It. I thought I was supposed to like these guys since I liked all of their sonic power pop brethren. Where was the disconnect?

I'm still not sure, but a light came on in my head right before I headed over to Ryan's place yesterday. I believed he had all of the band's material in his iTunes, so I loaded up on blank CD-Rs. When I left, I had copies of Smeared, Twice Removed, One Chord to Another (coupled with the Recorded Live at a Sloan Party bonus album), Between the Bridges, Navy Blues, Action Pact, and the 4 Nights at the Palais Royale double-disc live album. And I still have a few more to listen to. But I want it all because Sloan is that good and that prolific.

Maybe I should thank Noel for the mention of the band in last week's Popless. Maybe I should thank the screensaver program on Ryan's computer that shows album covers from iTunes, and constantly seeing various Sloan covers come up. I don't know, but it's like forces converged and moved me to jump in the deep end. Now that I have plenty of material to wade through and an appetite for their material, this stuff is sinking in very well.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Type Slowly

It's not like it wasn't going to happen, but I wondered when this was coming out. Well, details on the double-disc reissue of Pavement's Brighten the Corners have finally surfaced. I'm glad that it's set to come out in a couple of months, and I don't mind essentially re-buying an album I already own.

Make no mistake, other than the Slanted and Enchanted reissue, the digital remastering was not why I got Matador's reissues. The extensive liner notes are nice, but the whopping amounts of extras have made every Pavement reissue worthwhile. Just having "Painted Soldiers" back on CD for the Wowee Zowee reissue was justifiable for me.

I must admit, I haven't gone through every single reissue track by track, but it's nice to have way more material to sort through. Heck, I'm excited just to finally hear "Westie Can Drum," a song I read about in Rolling Stone while they were making the album, and I think the song was called "Westy Can't Drum." (Yes, I know the song was released as a B-side, but I never got to dig very deep into the band's B-sides when they were back together.)

This is the way remaster/reissues should be done: take the time to release a lot of good extras instead of re-releasing an album a year after it first came out and tacking on some fluffy extras.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

That's Entertainment

At times in the last forty-eight hours, when I haven't wondered whether my parents have electricity again or felt woozie because of my Monday night food poisoning, I've thought about something Jason Heller wrote on From the Jam. Who's From the Jam? Well it's a band comprised of Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler, formerly of the Jam, with two other guys, playing songs by . . . the Jam. Whether or not to call this a tribute act, cover band, or just a bad idea is not really my call. What I've thought about is this comment I left:
I have no problem with Journey continuing without Steve Perry and Steve Smith. However, in the case of From the Jam, this is like Creedence Clearwater Revisited. Something about having the rhythm section from an iconic band with note-perfect hired hands replacing the still-alive-but-still-bitter-ex-members is a tad off.
The Creedence Clearwater Revisited, not Revival, reference is to the band that bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford formed in 1995 and continues to this day. Playing Revival favorites, the band did the right thing and did not bill themselves as Creedence Clearwater Revival. For whatever reasons John Fogerty refuses to play with Cook and Clifford, Creedence Clearwater Revisited is, as it was bluntly put to me once, "a cover band with CCR's rhythm section."

Now, the purist in me thinks that a band's day in the sun should remain when it was. On the other hand, it's not a bad thing to hear classic songs done live again. I can't fully slag former members of an iconic band who want to play those old songs again. But you can run the risk of tainting a great band's legacy that way, especially if this new lineup decides to record new material and release it. So far, I don't think CCR's or the Jam's legacy has been tarnished for me.

The notion that has made me wonder why I am willing to pay to hear the post-Steve Perry/Steve Smith version of Journey while I really have no interest in seeing From the Jam. I thought I'd break it down:

--Journey's current lineup features two original members, along with a longtime member when they were a blockbuster act in the 1980s. Their current drummer has been in the band for ten years, is as good as Steve Smith, and can sing his head off on top of that. Their newest member, the singer, can hit those tenor high notes with ease, and well, makes me believe.

--From the Jam features two original members of the trio. The iconic frontman/guitarist still plays Jam songs live, but just not with the Jam's rhythm section. The difference between Paul Weller and Steve Perry is wide, and I think that's a key distinction. I don't think anybody considered Steve Perry the voice of a generation back in the late 70s/early 80s.

--Journey has issued new material since the departure of Steve Perry and Steve Smith. To me, Arrival, Generations, and especially Revelation, all have worth because there are great songs on them. So, it's not like the band is just doing the hits that the fans want.

--From the Jam, as far as I know, only does songs from the band's original run.

So, that's where I stand. As much fun as From the Jam might be, there's something that seems less-than-enticing for me as a Jam fan. As cooler as it is to like the Jam and poo-poo on Journey, I hold both bands' material in high regard. Whether or not I'll pay to see the latest incarnation/permutation of them is another thing.

Monday, September 22, 2008

E-book details

If you don't want to wait for a physical copy of POST, or just prefer e-books, the e-book version is now available. A release date for the physical copy is any day now. Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

New Orleans in the fall

I'm not usually one to blog and just say, "download this, now!" but this is a major exception. Plus, it's not by some young, emerging artist that has yet to release a full album. So there will be no tremendous praise quickly followed by a large backlash in the next few months.

This week's edition of Popdose's Basement Songs features one of my favorite ballads by Tom Waits: "Kentucky Avenue." Scott's writeup on the song is pretty strong and very well-said. All I will add is that this song really touches me whenever I hear it. Even though none of the childhood stories Waits describes in the lyrics were nothing like what I experienced, I think about random scenes from my youth. The final line about "We'll slide all the way down the drain to New Orleans in the fall" especially resonates with me, being born in New Orleans and living there until I was eight years old.

Like Waits's other ballads, like "Tom Traubert's Blues" and "Ruby's Arms," there's something about how his ragged voice, the lonesome piano, and the swirling strings complement each other so well. It's the same combination that blew me away back in 2005 when I heard "Tom Traubert's Blues" for the first time. I never knew of this side to Tom Waits since I thought he just made loud, atonal blues. Hearing "Kentucky Avenue" for the first time a while later helped solidified my fandom of his stuff.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

We live like astronauts and our missions never cross

With Best Buy announcing they are acquiring Napster, I present a personal timeline:

Mid-1990s:
Growing up on infrequent trips to Sound Warehouse, Sam Goody, and Camelot for CDs and cassettes, I went out of my way to go to Best Buy once the first store opened in Houston. They had a better selection, and the average price of a CD was $11.99.

1997
Best Buy was the place that I bought CDs, along with video games and VHS tapes, once the store in Humble opened. 1997 was the year I started working for them in their media department. I proceeded to work there off and on for the next four years. I learned a lot about myself in the process, and I can say without any cynicism that it was a good job for me at the time. I also realized that working retail is not something I should consider as a career.

1999
Hearing about a free program where I could find hard-to-find/unreleased material by Jimmy Eat World and Coldplay, I downloaded Napster and loved it. A few weeks later, I introduced the program to one of my roommates who was having a hard time looking for a Britney Spears song. His face widened once he saw what he could get online fast and easy. A few weeks after that, I hear one of my other roommates and his lady friend (whom I would describe as very passive music fans) talk about how cool Napster is. I realized how quick something spread. The last time I ever saw anything spread that fast was Nirvana's Nevermind.

2000s
While purchasing a Jimmy Eat World CD from Best Buy, I noticed a sticker placed on the cover about downloading exclusive non-LP songs from the now-paid/legal version of Napster. I was an iTunes fan early on, and wasn't so hot on downloading another program. As much as I liked Jimmy Eat World (and still like them), I didn't have the same strong love for their post-Clarity material. So, no Napster for me.

When I later heard about all the caveats to Napster's program (less-than-CD-quality sound, your music library could be zapped instantly if you don't pay the monthly subscription fee), I found the metaphor of making music as disposable as toilet paper very apt.

2008
I'm still an iTunes user and I still buy CDs. I most recently purchased Death Magnetic at Best Buy on Friday. I download a lot of stuff from various places, including blogs, because I want to see if I really want to own the whole package. Sorry, a burned CD-R of Death Magnetic just doesn't cut it for me since I really, really like the album.

Whatever becomes of this Napster/Best Buy merger, I'll probably stick to my ways, and just remember being in college and witnessing history in the emerging love/hate affair between the music industry and the Internet.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Better Than the Movie

Last Saturday the Tah-Dahs played their final show (or Roy's final show as a Dallas-ite before he and Laura move to Chicago), thus ending one of my favorite local bands' tenures. I can't say that I'm sad that the band is no more -- but I don't mean that in a negative way. I saw them play over twenty times in the last five years, so it wasn't a situation where I just found out about a great band who just broke up.

Since the first time I saw them (Red Blood Club, when Ashburne Glen opened for them) to last Saturday at the Amsterdam Bar, I was never let down. Using terms like "nervy," "spastic" and "tight" only give a glimpse as to what it was like to see them play. Something about the mix of smart, albeit random, pop culture banter with these songs always made for a sight to see.

Now, not to sound like some scene codger that says things just won't be the same, but things will be a little different for me. As great as Le Fun and Mein So-Called Kampf are, there was just something special about the live show. Since there won't be any more shows, there is something lacking here in Dallas, but I'm glad the band was around long enough to play so many times. All too often a band gets something really special going, and then they split for various reasons. Frankly I'm thankful I did get to see them.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ike update

Well, even they lost power for a few days, my family came out of the storm unscathed. Plenty of trees fell down and debris was all over the place, but no major damage. Haven't heard anything from my friends though.

UPDATE: Heard from my friends, and they are fine. Whew.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ike

Regular blogging is on hold at the moment because of Hurricane Ike. Because its projected path, I've got at least twelve reasons to be extra anxious for the next few days. Not only do I have family in Galveston, but Matt and his family are nearby. Plus, there's my immediate family, my brother-in-law's family, and over a handful of friends and their families, further north of the area.

I hope the most I hear about is a lot of rain. As a result, we're due to get a lot of rain this weekend in Dallas. Regardless of the rain, the Tah-Dahs will play their final show. Anyway, here's to hoping for the best despite hearing about the possible worst.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

When your mind's made up

I find it hard sometimes to get a full sentence out when someone interrupts me with his or hers negative feelings about an album, book, or movie. Be it a groan of displeasure or a bunch of harsh words, I tend to get sidetracked when trying to say something. Of course, this all carries over into internal conversations, and things can get very nerve-wracking. Why can't I say what I want to say and not be interrupted by a naysayer?

I've long thought that why I love blogging is because people don't interrupt me when I talk about something that I like. I know there are plenty of people who absolutely despise Jersey Girl, St. Anger, and Journey (pre- and post-Steve Perry). But I don't have to worry about someone coming into my space, knocking my keyboard out of my way, and turning off my computer when I blog about how much I love these bands, albums, and movies. I have all the time and space to think and write what I want, but is this really conquering my difficulty?

If I were to describe my stopping mid-thought process, it would be like a door slamming in my face or suddenly finding myself talking to a wall. I tend to think that whatever positive things I have to say will not be acknowledged by the person I'm talking to. So I figure stop talking because there's no use in talking about something that the other person won't listen to.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Three random bits

Some updates on stuff I've blogged about in the last few months, weeks, and days:

--The mice situation is still in place at our house. They love Juliet's dog food, and will do anything to get it. We got a plastic container for the dog food, but still, they've tried to gnaw their way into that. So, based on a suggestion from a friend of ours, I took small baggies (smaller than sandwich bags) and put some dog food in them. I also put small shavings of Tomcat rodent poison in them. I placed the bags in the most highly-traveled spots for the mice (the utility room and behind the oven), but away from Juliet's reach. The bags have quickly disappeared, and if I find one, it's empty merely hours after I put it out there. I've had some success so far as our utility room now reeks of a dead mouse.

--Still no release date or any word about the availability of Post. The last time I blogged about the book, I heard something the following day. Let's hope that happens tomorrow.

--Because of the scattered showers today, I did a relatively intensive workout on Wii Fit. Never in my wildest dreams would I think I would get a workout while playing a video game, aka, something that's so synonymous with coach potato-dom.

Monday, September 08, 2008

It's Never Too Late

With a lot of bands, I hope each album they release offers something that affects me. I don't expect each new album to be drastically different than the last. Rather, I like it when a band finds their sound and progresses from there with each ensuing album. So when a band starts to sound like they're not breaking any new ground (or going back to the proverbial well), I usually say no thanks and stick with their records I already like.

In the last week though, two major excepts to this idea have become abundantly clear to my tastes: Metallica and Journey. Repeat listens to Death Magnetic, Revelation, and Generations have enforced this. And yes, I'm well aware I'm talking about one of metal's most respected titans and a reviled survivor of 70s/80s corporate rock in the same sentence.

There's a deeper effect these records have had on me; beyond the question of whether or not these records have pure originality on them. You can argue both bands have thrown in the creative towel years ago, but something about their newest efforts makes me pay attention. I look past the fact that "The Day That Never Comes" reminds me of parts from "Fade to Black" and "One." I don't mind that "Never Walk Away" has a very, very similar vibe to "It's Never Too Late." Or the fact that "The Place in Your Heart" starts out almost exactly like "Chain Reaction."

I don't know if it's the fact that I've been listening to these bands for over fifteen years. Several reasons why that's not the reason why come to mind. I can safely say that I'm not really pining to hear the latest efforts by Aerosmith, R.E.M., or Smashing Pumpkins. Maybe I'm just addicted to a sound that charges me. Isn't that why music fans stay music fans for life?

(E)armageddon

Like the Bulgarian interpretation of "Without You," Jeff posted some rather unique (read, bad, or mildly amusing, or something else) interpretations of Beatles' classics. "Yesterday" is slaughtered quite well . . .

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Judge Not

As I've given Metallica's Death Magnetic a few spins (and plan to do quite a few more in the near future), I must remind myself to judge an album itself, not judge an album based on crappy-sounding video and audio clips that appear online a year before the album comes out.

When a band makes an album, they're trying to make a definitive version of a collection of songs. Of course things are going to sound different live, but bands try to make some sort of studio documentation to an era in the band's life. Even if Metallica did a note-for-note re-recording of Master of Puppets now, it wouldn't be the same as the original recording. Not even the best available technology can recreate and capture a band's past in the present. So the band worked hard on creating something they can be proud of and represents who they are now. And it takes years for them to create something, but I don't mind. As a fan, I'd rather have nine distinct and solid Metallica albums over a 27-year career than nineteen soundalike albums and one definite record.

My point is that when a couple of new, in-the-works songs were performed live last year and earlier this year (and were quickly found on YouTube), I wasn't expecting much. The songs sounded kind of rough mainly because of the sound quality. Ditto when the band debuted the studio version of "The Day That Never Comes" online. Rather than posting a high quality version of the song, instead was a very low quality version that sounded like a demo being played through your neighbor's wall. I really wanted to make a decision on whether or not I would devote a lot of time to Death Magnetic until I heard it on CD.

Now that I have made my decision, I think about another instance where people I knew judged an album many months before it came out based solely on rather poor-sounding live clips: Radiohead's Kid A. A number of its songs were performed live, but if I remember correctly, a number of the songs sounded much different live than their studio renditions. So I ask why people say an album is great (or not great) even when the album isn't even done?

I guess my bigger point is this: judge an album based on the album itself. Judge a live version of a song on what you hear in concert or on MP3 or YouTube. Even though the band is the same band that recorded these songs, many factors make the distance between the band in the studio and the band onstage very, very wide.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Permanent Bedhead

I'm thankful that I have never had any part of my head stitched up. No bad cuts because of childish antics or bar brawls -- just a round head. However, a rather peculiar spot on the right side of my head between my forehead and scalp looks like a long, straight scar. And I've wondered how long I've had it.

As silly as it sounds, but I believe all of my twenty-nine years of sleeping on my right side caused this. Call it permanent bedhead if you like. Well, since I've slept many a night on my left side as well, I wonder why I don't have anything on there. And there's nothing on the back side of my head since I've never been able to sleep for more than two hours on my back.

On top of this, the only time the mark is really noticeable is when I wake up in the morning. Every time I look in the mirror, there it is. It's not like I want it removed or anything. I just wonder how in the world I got it.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Shell Beach

Up until a few weeks ago, I had never seen Rufus Sewell in a movie or TV show. Matter of fact, I had never heard of him. Since I watched him in Alex Proyas's Dark City, his face has popped up randomly in various spots and at random times. Not only is he in a new CBS TV show called Eleventh Hour, he was in a movie I'm sure would not be mentioned in his bio if he was a guest on Dinner for Five: Extreme Ops.

CBS has been running a lot of spots for Eleventh Hour in the last few months, but I never took note of its lead. I never took note of Extreme Ops other than the fact that it was critically-massacred and it had Pete Sampras's wife in it. While reading an old issue of Rolling Stone at my parents' house over the weekend, I see a small ad for the movie, and there's Rufus.

In some ways, this feels like what his character in Dark City thinks throughout the film: what's going on here?

If you haven't seen the movie, I won't spoil the plot, but I'll say this: a man wakes up in a hotel and realizes mysterious people are out to get him. Since I only watched the Director's Cut, all I can say that the rest of the film is him trying to understand why he's on the run, why his memory has been tampered with, and why there is all this crazy stuff going on with the city itself.

The film is quite visceral, with a incredibly distinctly black, brown, and green look akin to Blade Runner. Despite a poor showing at the box office, it has a very dedicated following on DVD. Plus, Roger Ebert has been a major fan of it since its release. I believe the first DVD commentary he ever recorded was for the film's theatrical version. (He recorded some new comments for the new edition of the film as well.)

For the longest time, I knew Jennifer Connelly was in it (it was the other movie, next to Requiem for a Dream, where a long pier in the sun was used as a motif), as was Kiefer Sutherland. Sewell didn't have the kind of marquee value, so I'm not surprised he didn't get the highest of top billing. No matter; now I know who he is.

As I watched Dark City and kept watching Sewell, I could help but think of Jon Finch in Frenzy. Something about the "what's going on here?" facial expressions, along with a plot that doesn't finally click until the final scenes, I thought Sewell was a pretty correct casting choice.

All I'm saying is, it's strange how actors and actresses you've never heard of suddenly seem everywhere you look. Or maybe it's the lasting effect of Dark City itself.