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Monday, January 31, 2011

You Could Be Mine

Steven Hyden has a pretty solid look back at being a teenager in the 1990s on the A.V. Club's site. Dubbed "Whatever Happened to Alternative Nation?," this ongoing series is right up my alley because I lived it. Even though it was from the window MTV provided every day, I got the sense that people my age were seeing something drastic and cool changing before our eyes.

His second entry, focusing on the rise of Nirvana and the slow wane of Guns N Roses, provides a context that seems like distant history today. You couldn't really find a more popular rock band in 1991 and 1992 than Guns N Roses, Metallica, Pearl Jam, or Nirvana. Maybe for reasons of how Axl Rose has carried the brand name over all these years and spending all that time on Chinese Democracy, history doesn't seem to be kind to GN-f'n-R.

Forget all those millions of copies Use Your Illusion I and II sold. When it comes to talking about GNR these days, it's all about how stunning a debut Appetite For Destruction was and oh yeah, they put out a few more records before everybody but Axl and Dizzy left. That's sad.

The time I spent in front of MTV during those first few years of the '90s, all of the videos produced for GNR's double album got airplay. From "You Could Be Mine" to "Don't Cry" to "November Rain" to "Estranged" and everything in between, those guys shared air time with a constant rotation of Metallica videos, Nirvana videos, and Pearl Jam videos, as well as stuff by Naughty By Nature, Salt-N-Pepa, and En Vogue.

As sad as how history has treated the band, I've slowly come to realize why Appetite is considered a hard rock classic and the others aren't.

While working with Teddy Andreadis at Rock N Roll Fantasy Camp, he mentioned his touring days with Guns N Roses. He mentioned how the band received some flack by going from a rip-roaring, two-middle-fingers, guitar rock band to a rock band with a lot of piano. The grit was still there, but even angry songs seemed to not pulverize your ears.

As I listened to the band's greatest hits collection on a recent trip to Houston, I heard the transition Teddy was referring to. But I also remember being a teenager and not minding.

Maybe it was the awesomeness of the videos ("Hey, look, the band is playing on top of a tower!" to "Man, Slash's solo in front of a church is stunning!") but I never cared about the differences between "Paradise City" and "Yesterdays." Axl still had that sneer, Slash always played great solos, and the rest of the band kicked a lot of ass too. What more did I need?

I applaud Steven for taking something like this on. The underdogs tend to get documented, but the overachievers sometime get lost in the pile too.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My first show

This week's edition is with Beau Wagener, someone I saw play bass for Macavity a few times and have seen play guitar for The Crash That Took Me many times.

The more times I do this column, the more I hear about how people my age saw "Weird Al" Yankovic as their first show. It makes sense, given Yankovic's appeal to kids and adults and his popularity in the 80s. Alas, I have yet to see him rock the house. But you're never too old for his stuff, so who knows, maybe I'll see him one day.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

You're lucky to be alive

Finding out this piece of news was quite a surprise this morning: Braid has reunited once again, this time to record a new album, due out on Polyvinyl.

In some ways, this is surprising and unsurprising. The guys remain friends and still play music to a certain extent. Damon and Bob most recently played together in a band called Certain People I Know. I'm not sure Todd has played with any bands while Chris has worked on solo stuff. That said, I had no clue Braid was going to write and record another album.

I think reunions for the bands I covered in POST are great, but as I've said before, I'm not one to long for them. None of these bands are resurrecting a brand name and excluding founding members because of money or bad blood. For bands like the Get Up Kids, Hot Water Music, Jawbox, and the Promise Ring, they've all reunited for the right reasons.

I am curious to what the next Braid record winds up being, but I think it's very safe to say it's incredibly hard to top Frame & Canvas.

Monday, January 24, 2011

There Are Rules

Last night was a very late one for me because I was asked to cover the Get Up Kids show.

As much as I like the band (and I obviously liked the show), I approached with some trepidation due to when the show would probably end and when I had to wake up this morning. Add in that I drove from Houston to Dallas during the midday and it was a very long day.

But when I got a 50-yard-line view of the band by the time they took stage, I started to really feel happy that I went. The band played very well and I got to spend some time talking with a few of them before I had to jet. I brought home a vinyl copy of their new record, which is technically not out until tomorrow, but they were selling it at their merch table. That's what having your own label let's you do.

I'm thankful that I'm not asked to cover late shows every week because the exhaustion does catch up with me. I can handle a great show during the week and write about it in a lucid state. All I can hope for tonight is an early bedtime.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Flops

All of yesterday was spent on jury duty. From 8 in the morning until 4:30, there was, as expected, way more waiting than anything else. Since I like to over-prepare for things that probably might not happen, when things do happen that way, the over-preparing continues.

No matter what, with jury duty, I bring plenty to read. Always.

Two years ago, I had to report for city and county only a few weeks apart. I decided to start a book with the first one and didn't pick the book back up until the second one. Thankfully I was able to finish the book and not fall asleep.

Yesterday, I decided to bring the book I'm currently reading, The Dark Tower III: The Wastelands, as well as Nathan Rabin's My Year of Flops. In hopes of reading something that would probably make me laugh early in the morning, I decided to read Nathan's book. I ended up never opening the other book all day.

My Year of Flops features a number of essays that originally appeared on the A.V. Club's website, along with new essays and interviews. I must say, I'm glad I read these essays in book form because my mind is not wired to read lengthy essays on the Internet.

The Internet is great for quick blurbs, but when there are so many quick blurbs to read on a computer that I do a lot of things with already (like listen to music, work on the next book), Nathan's column is easy to overlook. Couple that with new blurbs added almost every hour with the websites I read on a daily basis.

I half-kid that my job requires a high percentage of ADD mixed with intense focus (yes, it's possible) and that parlays into how I do things when I'm not sitting in my recliner with a book.

While I didn't finish My Year of Flops yesterday (I spent the whole afternoon listening to prosecuting and defending council ask questions), I'm happy to say I got 100 pages into it. And I'm happy to say the book is even more enjoyable than a certain other book I have on a similar topic: The Worst Movies of All Time. Way more personable and funnier, I'm glad I spent the day not trying to remember what exactly a ka-tet is, the full meaning of a jawbone used as protection, and whatever the hell happened to Detta Walker. Given the criminal case I might have been picked for, I needed a laugh.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My first show

This week's edition of My First Show revisits with one Jim Suptic of the Get Up Kids. It was great to chat with him again, even if it was over e-mail. The Get Up Kids chapter in POST was one of my favorites because almost all of the original members participated and were very gracious with their time.

And I previewed the show in the print edition.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Vinyl Edge

As I started collecting Stephen King hardbacks last year, Matt started collecting old vinyl records. Nuggets from his youth, on wax, for roughly five dollars a pop. Since he listened to these records at his parents' house and not our house, I suggested to his girlfriend that she get him a turntable for Christmas.

Now there's a turntable in the reading room and Matt has played plenty of his records. From a Genesis live record to an obscure Frank Sinatra record, the needle has received plenty of use.

I've found plenty to marvel about with vinyl, but I have my reasons for not building up my own collection. Since I stopped writing for Punk Planet, I have not added any more. Sound quality and availability have been big reasons why for me. And the only reason why I bought 7-inches by punk bands was that the B-sides never appeared on CD. Plus, when a record was given to the KTCU music staff and I was the only one interested in it, I'd get it and find a proper home for it (usually, my stash).

A recent realization I had going through Matt's Sinatra records was the abundance of songs that have never appeared on CDs, aside from box sets. I don't know how many people are hankering for Old Blue Eyes' version of "Both Sides, Now," but it's sure nice to find deep album cuts. Especially when it comes to cover songs. Besides, for an artist like him, you're more likely to see greatest hits compilations on CDs than individual albums.

And what's also interesting about the recent addition of a turntable in our house? I have not once pulled out any of my records to play. I'm not against pulling out my records, but I don't have the hankering to do it yet. These days I'm too busy testing out Genius mixes on my iTunes library.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My first show

This week's edition of My First Show is with T.J. Prendergast from Maleveller. I had known T.J. for a few years before I knew he was an emo/post-hardcore fan, and then I found out he and his brother were metal fans. It's amazing what happens when you go to a guy's birthday party. Oh, and I was introduced to Richard Hawley's music for the first time.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Counterparts

Waiting for Diana to get off work so we could go to dinner, I killed time the other night by browsing a nearby Movie Trading Company. If you don't have a Movie Trading Company in your town, you're probably saving a lot of money. For me, it's a goldmine worth going back to with all of their used CDs, DVDs, and games.

On my most recent trip, I struck paydirt with a CD clearance sale. Almost all of the CDs were no more than $3 and I stocked up on past bestsellers. Coming out with seven discs and $30 less than I before, I was quite happy.

There's something about a low risk factor when CDs are over half off. I keep thinking of people offloading what they once cherished simply to save space and maybe earn back half of the investment. What's even stranger is seeing CDs that I used to constantly stock at Best Buy now simply collect dust, waiting to be removed for more inventory. Hitting up the Best Buy around the corner, I see less and less CD inventory for understandable reasons. Digital is way more convenient, so why have CDs? I have my reasons and I'm glad used media stores stick around.

Two of the discs I picked up really surprised me. I knew Oasis' Be Here Now was a bloated rock record, but I've always enjoyed songs like "Don't Go Away" and "All Around the World." While I'm not about to start any arguments about this record's validity over the band's first two records, I'm happy to say it was worth the two dollars I spent.

Correcting a wrong I committed in college when I sold my original copy, I purchased Rush's Counterparts. This version was the 1997 digital remaster with slimmer liner notes which actually fit into the jewel case. Popping in "Animate" on the way home, I was struck by how good the record still sounds, especially Neil Peart's drums. Plus, despite its opening riff sounding like an Alice in Chains throwaway, I think "Stick it Out" is fantastic. Even though that was the first Rush song I ever heard, nostalgia can only go so far. I'm glad there's way more to the band all these years later.

Maybe because I fear hard drive crashes, I remain the physical archivist. Hence my continuing patronage of used record stores.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I've saving for a custom van and I've been playing in a cover band

A follow-up to something I mentioned in my Rock N Roll Fantasy Camp experience.

Literally after I got off of the stage playing with the Shotgun Brothers, a friendly fellow camper asked me if I'd like to join his blues cover band. Had Dave not been a nice guy (and not a hell a guitarist and singer, as I would find out later that night), I probably would have said no. I made an exception and I'm glad I did.

My first practice with his band was over the weekend and it went swimmingly well. There is a lot to explore with the blues and I'm enjoying playing a style I've never really played before. And I'm glad I'm playing songs that I'm not really familiar with.

There's something off-putting to me about playing in an average cover band. I have these bad memories of seeing guys playing on thin-sounding Fender Strats and cheesy synthesizers playing songs that you hear enough of on the radio. Whether it's playing funk versions of Britney Spears songs or playing a biker bar where the band members' spouses comprise 90 percent of the audience, I've found a sense of resignation in doing that. I'm not really the right fit, probably because I'm such a purist and anal about being a purist. I have to create some kind of music even if I'm solely the drummer in the band.

Luckily, my current band situation allows the best of both worlds. I have a band with Ryan and Diana, along with my friend Jon, that is literally a bedroom project. All of our music is original even though we have no idea what our style of music is right now. Our schedule is casual and almost anything goes in terms of musical ideas.

With the blues band, there is a different structure, but it's as fun. We have a lot of songs to choose from, and I look forward to practicing more and playing shows. Even though all of the songs are covers, I don't mind one bit. Aside from a couple of the tunes, none of these songs have been drilled into my head by the radio or TV. And I like the people I'm playing with, which is a huge reason to keep doing so.

For the past four years, as I've worked on my next book, my head's been in the mindset of remembering my high school and college days behind the drum set. Maybe it's time I start thinking more about my current days behind the kit.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

My first show

My First Show returns with an interview with James Porter from Drawn By Jaymz, the Tah Dahs, and the Happy Bullets. Back when I was with Ashburne Glen, my first show with them included the Tah Dahs on the bill. I'd see the Tah Dahs numerous times over the year and we've kept in touch. Here's my chance to return some of the thanks.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Better Call Saul

Since the holidays, I've zoomed through the first two seasons of Breaking Bad on Blu-ray. As I finish up the second season and patiently await AMC to replay the third season, I must say this is quite a rewarding show.

Praise for the show is hard to escape. Donna and Noel have covered the show for the A.V. Club, but I had never read any of their reviews because they delve into major spoiler territory. As much as I think spoilers shouldn't spoil the enjoyment of a show if it's actually a good show, Breaking Bad is so unpredictable that you don't want to really know what's coming next.

All this said, without going into spoilers here, I must say I'm pretty reluctant to own the series on DVD.

Shortly into watching the first season, I kept thinking about my feelings on Six Feet Under. I don't regret for a second investing into the show's first couple of seasons. But once I saw another episode, it was hard for me to rewatch the same episode. It's easy for me to coast through a show in order to follow the various plotlines. Yet, aside from BSG and LOST, I'm not really one to go back over various episodes of hour-long dramas. (Matt has been my housemate for over a year and I've never really had the urge to go through his copies of the Six Feet Under series.)

There is something emotionally exhausting at play in these shows. I applaud the show's creators for going there and giving viewers something way more than mindless entertainment. But how many times do I repeatedly want to see a husband lie to his wife, watch people throw their lives away with drugs, and suffer in general? Not really much, frankly.

As I've collected DVDs over the years, I've been a little hesitant about collecting an entire series of a great show with a low rewatch factor. I can watch episodes of Seinfeld, The Cosby Show, or Dinner for Five over and over again, and I reserve the right to revisit a random episode of LOST or BSG at any point in the near future.

Of course, all of this could be null and valid depending on how I feel about Breaking Bad when I finish the third season. But the way things are going, I think I'm going to feel the same.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Coming up roses

I rarely talk about sports, but there is something to say about the TCU victory at the Rose Bowl. There's actually plenty to say, but let's not turn this into junior sports talk.

For me, I distinctly remember when Dennis Franchione took over the head coaching job. It was my first semester at TCU after completing my freshman year at Kingwood Community College. Though my head was in the clouds with many other things beyond football, I was aware how Franchione turned things around for the Horned Frogs from his first season on.

I remember when Gary Patterson got the job after Franchione left the Frogs hanging before a bowl game. I was working at KTCU at the time and heard soundbytes from Patterson's speech to the team after they lost.

Aside from seeing TCU play a couple of home games, I didn't really follow the team. In my nine years since graduating, my knowledge of their seasons has been very small. If it weren't for my dad mentioning their bowl placement or college friends posting about the team's accomplishments on Facebook, I would have been completely out of the loop.

Football was something I used to follow quite closely. But after seven years of high school football, coupled with a few years of following the Oilers and Cowboys, my fandom was reduced to watching the Cowboys play a good game. Since that hope has been unpredictable since I moved to the area twelve years ago, I've been very reluctant to go further than casual watching.

Yet there was a sense of pride and a nice post-script on Saturday night. When that two-point attempt was swatted away in the final minutes, I cheered. When the victory had been reached, I found this to be a logical conclusion to a memory I had from college. And I look forward to hearing more in the coming seasons. Thinking about my immediate future, I also hope to have a nice post-script to things that were planted in college.