Friday, October 28, 2005

Guilty Pleasures?

I was talking to one of my very good friends today. He had been reading my blog and claimed that my iPod never seemed to play any guilty pleasures. Of course, my reaction was that I don’t have any guilty pleasures. I listened to music for my enjoyment, not to impress anyone.

But that might not be 100% true.

We all have guilty pleasures even if they aren’t embarrassing. They are just silly things or out of character. I watch the O.C. faithfully. I am a grown man in my thirties. But the O.C. seems to fill a gap left by Beverly Hills 90210, which I also watched faithfully. Of course, I started watching 90210 with the roommates I had at the time and then continued when I girl I was dating watched it and then, once hooked, I started watching it on my own, much to the ridicule of my other friends and my subsequent girlfriends. But, while silly or out of character, I don’t hide these kind of pleasures.

But in the spirit of full disclosure, let’s examine some of the more "guilty pleasurable" items (of the 9439 songs) on my iPod.

AC/DC – Metal? Maybe. Great. Absolutely. I have If You Want Blood, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Highway to Hell, and Back In Black on my iPod. Nothing wrong with that.

Adam & the Ants – Maybe a bit corny at times, but I have been listening to Adam Ant since 1980. I bought Kings of the Wild Frontier and Fair Warning by Van Halen on the same day (on cassette) and loved both bands. I even got called a "fag" for listening to Adam & the Ants. I love them. I like Dirk Wears White Sox and Kings the best, but I also have Prince Charming and the Ant Box. So there.

The Darkness – Are they metal or simply being ironic? I have trouble telling them apart in the 21st century.

Iron Maiden – When I was in high school, punks liked Iron Maiden. Of course, my wife gives me more shit about this one band than anything else. Oh well.

LL Cool J – I downloaded three songs "I’m Bad," "Going Back To Cali," and "I Can’t Live Without My Radio." LL Cool J is one of the original superstar rappers and has produced some great music.

Motley Crue – Once upon a time, Motley Crue was kinda cool before they got sober. But I like their first two albums. I admit I am kind of bored with them at this point, but I have a few selections from the Too Fast For Love on my iPod.

Naughty By Nature – Before the porn movies and even before their second album and "Hip Hop Hooray," NbN produced a great debut album with a couple of really great songs: "O.P.P." and "Everythings Gonna Be Alright." While "O.P.P." is a silly song, it is a great pop song.

Rush – Hey, rush has some great songs. I’ve never gotten stoned to 2112 or air drummed to "Red Barchetta," but when Rush is good, they are great.

Skid Row – Once again, two songs "Eighteen and Life" and "I Remember You." Everything else sucked but Sebastian Bach was a great front man and had an incredible voice.

So, those are what I guess could be called my guilty pleasures. But then again, you might agree and like these bands too.

But, no entry would be complete without my iPod’s ten latest pleasures:

1. "Everything You Can Think" by Tom Waits
2. "Hey" by the Pixies
3. "What Jail Is Like" by the Afghan Whigs
4. "Alright" by Guided By Voices
5. "Nighttime Gals" by Ryan Adams
6. "I Remember You" by the Ramones
7. "Bring the Noise" by Public Enemy
8. "Arrow To My Drunken Eye" by the Geraldine Fibbers
9. "Search and Destroy" by Iggy & the Stooges
10. "Recycled Air" by the Postal Service.

Monday, October 24, 2005

How's My Eyeliner?

What is wrong with punk rock? I was watching MTV2 this morning, which I know is a bad idea, but I was doing it anyway. And on comes My Chemical Romance and that video where it’s some kind of USO dance and the song is really horrible. You know what I’m talking about. And I’m thinking, why don’t bands like My Chemical Romance and AFI and Good Charlotte and whomever else spend more time writing songs than doing their make up and selecting their outfits. I mean, these bands make Blink-182 look edgy.

But what is up with all these "punk" or "goth" bands that are really just pop bands with some kind of Hot Topic extreme makeover. These bands were designed specifically to appeal to young girls who find Avril Lavigne, while empowering, a little too mellow. They want cute boys singing songs that make them feel that they are not alone when mommy and daddy make them do their homework or won’t let them stay up late to watch Supernatural on the WB. I’m not saying you need to be ugly to be valid, and some great bands have had some great-looking frontmen. I mean David Bowie didn't run from the make-up chair, but when you suck and all you have going for you is some cool looking frontman, then something is wrong.

Punk rock used to be a refuge for geeks and losers, now it has been appropriated by jocks and cheerleaders. No wonder Kurt Cobain killed himself.

Here is a short list of great punk bands that would never have been noticed if everything depended on how cute their lead singer was:

1. Dead Kennedy’s – Jello Biafra
2. Husker Du – Bob Mould and Grant Hart
3. Minutemen – D. Boon
4. Adolescents – Tony Cadena
5. Descendents – Milo
6. Sex Pistols – Johnny Rotten
7. Germs – Darby Crash
8. The Cramps – Lux Interior
9. Circle Jerks – Keith Morris
10. Fear – Lee Ving

While I go and simmer down, here is the 10 last songs played on my iPod:

1. "Coney Island" by Death Cab For Cutie
2. "Hybrid Moments" by the Misfits
3. "Poison & Pain" by Ryan Adams
4. "I Want To Conquer the World" by Bad Religion
5. "In The City" by The Jam
6. "Brand New Love" by Sebadoh
7. "Date to Church" by the Replacements
8. "Brass Buttons" by Gram Parsons
9. "Portable Men’s Society" by Guided By Voices
10. "Here Comes Sickness" by Mudhoney

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Robert Pollard's Music From "Bubble"

Yesterday, I stayed home from work with what could possibly be Avian Flu, Monkey Pox or just the sniffles. I’m never sure. The high point of an otherwise dull convalescence (other than catching up on season one of Lost) was the arrival from Luna Records of Music from "Bubble" by Robert Pollard.

For those of you who haven’t been keeping up, Bubble is the latest film from Steven Soderberg, who is a longtime fan of Robert Pollard and Guided By Voices. In fact, Soderberg used another Pollard composition over the closing credits of Full Frontal. So, when working on his latest film, Soderberg commissioned Pollard to compose music. And the music has been released as a six song CD.

First impressions, a great post-GBV release. Two of the four tunes, "Boring About" and "Search-light Pickups" are instrumental, both simple acoustic guitar- based pieces that actually scream for some kind of magical Pollard vocal melody. But no such luck.

The release kicks off with "All Men Are Freezing" a great mid-tempo tune that is reminiscent of the last few GBV releases with the great kiss-off lyric "For all you’ve done/I will miss you anyway."

Next is the first of two versions of "747 Ego," the second being "747 Ego (Oh Yeah)." Both start with "Take Me To the River" drums and go into great dirty guitars and could very well be the "big rock" sound Pollard has been seeking for years. The "Oh Yeah" version is the superior version thanks to some great backing vocals.

"I’m No Child," the remaining song from the release is probably the most peculiar with Pollard singing in a high and sometimes uncomfortable vocal register. One gets the feeling that the song could collapse under the effort. But by time you get through to the end, you feel as though you may have witnessed possibly one of the greatest moments in a catalog of songs that has had many great moments.

Music from "Bubble" is further proof of the songwriting prowess of Robert Pollard. With From A Compound Eye scheduled for release on Merge next year, the two new post-GBV releases from Pollard demonstrate that this master songwriter has still got the gift.

And, speaking of staying power, here are the ten last songs my iPod played:

1. "Trampled Rose" by Tom Waits
2. "Henry Lee" by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
3. "Too Tough To Die" by the Ramones
4. "I Let Love In" by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
5. "Simple Stuff" by Echo & the Bunnymen
6. "She Said She Said" by the Beatles
7. "Dead Cloud" by Guided By Voices
8. "I Was a Kaleidoscope" by Death Cab For Cutie
9. "We Are The Dead" by David Bowie
10. "Clampdown" by The Clash

Monday, October 17, 2005

Do You Remember Husker Du?

What is going on with the Husker Du catalog? I read an interview with Grant Hart a while ago in which he said that he believe the SST albums were now in the bands possession and they were thinking about doing some nice reissues through, possibly, Warners or Rhino. His only stipulation was that Greg Norton get his fair cut of the profits.

So what is going on? When I look at what a good job Ryko did with the Meat Puppets catalog, I salivate, knowing what is locked away in the Husker Du vaults. Every album had a handful of outtakes and they did several studio sessions prior to Everything Falls Apart. I mean, Metal Circus was, at one point, going to be a proper length album.

A lot of this stuff has circulated on bootlegs but to have nice, clean sources, as well as nicely remastered versions of the proper albums would be great.

Husker Du was one of the best American bands of all time and their legacy needs to be better preserved. I loved what Rhino did with Everything Falls Apart. Now if only we can see sterling remasters of Metal Circus, Zen Arcade, New Day Rising, Flip Your Wig and Candy Apple Grey and Warehouse. And just to be complete, fix up Land Speed Record for the obsessives. I think I listened to this once and haven’t touched it since.

So many mediocre bands get the reissue treatment, let’s take care of the masters.

And speaking of taking care of the masters, here is what my iPod has been playing:

1. "Let the Distance Bring Us Together" by Bright Eyes and Britt Daniel
2. "St. Andrew’s Hall" by Blind Melon
3. "Rape Me" by Nirvana (Paramount Theatre)
4. "A Circle of One" by Lemonheads
5. "Mild Child" by the Shins
6. "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" by the Breeders
7. "Till the Morning Comes" by the Grateful Dead
8. "Beast For Thee" by Superwolf
9. "For Liberty" by Guided By Voices
10. "High Voltage" by AC/DC

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Heard You Missed Me. Well, I'm Back.

Okay, it’s been a few days, five days to be exact, since my last post. But while I have been idle, I have not been lazy. I had a three-day weekend. Spent most of my time catching up on some television and setting up my new computer and just enjoying some time.

(While I’m thinking about my computer, can anyone explain how to install Mafia? I insert the second disc and it won’t even read it. Apparently, a lot of people have this same problem, but if anyone out there can help, I would like to play.)

So, anyway, my birthday is coming up and I was thinking of some reissues I would like.

1. Children of Nuggets – I have the other two editions of this series and have been mighty impressed and look forward to hearing the next generation. I have already asked my wife for this release.

2. Talking Heads reissues – While I wouldn’t mind have the boxset set of the complete remastered works of the Talking Heads, all I really need is the first five albums. I have very little interest in Little Creatures, True Stories or Naked. But the first five are amazing and everyone should own them. The only problem is the box is out, while the individual albums won’t be released until the new year. What is one to do?

3. Sonic Youth Goo deluxe edition – What can I say? I love Sonic Youth and love these deluxe editions. Dirty was a great start, but I really look forward to deluxe reissues of Daydream Nation and Sister.

See, the problem with shopping for me is that I buy most things I want as soon as they come out, especially new releases. I’ve already got the new Death Cab For Cutie, and the new Fiona Apple, and the new Franz Ferdinand, and the new Guided By Voices box set should be waiting on my doorstep tonight, and the "Bubble" soundtrack is on it’s way, and I am horrible to shop for.

That is the long and the short of it. In the meantime, here is what my iPod is playing:

1. "Breed" by Nirvana
2. "Lime House" by the Breeders
3. "Retard Girl" by Hole
4. "I Got You" by Jeff Tweedy (Lounge Ax 2/20/99)
5. "Be My Angel" by Mazzy Star
6. "Look Back In Anger" by David Bowie
7. "Round the Bend" by Beck
8. "Been a Son" by Nirvana (Paramount Theatre)
9. "Blinding Sun" by Mudhoney
10. "Give Me Some Truth" by John Lennon

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Comparing Apple to Apple

Without being one of the privileged who downloaded the Jon Brion version of the third Fiona Apple album, I will have to judge the release (as released) on its own merits.

Extraordinary Machine is a great album! With a campy playfulness, the title track kicks things off wonderfully. Immediately evident is the fact that, while the acerbic wit of the artist remains intact, the simmering anger has dissipated. The title track is self-deprecating, smug and giddily transcendent with a buoyant and carnivalesque sound.

Apple has grown a lot in the six years since When the Pawn…, but has lost none of her punch. "Parting Gift" is a dark and brooding as anything of her earlier releases and just as satisfying. "Window" is a telling vision of the search for perspective while "Better Version of Me" is an exultant ode to personal growth. And, to the critics of the Elizondo mixes, "Please Please Please, may just be the artist’s response.

On Extraordinary Machine Apple takes chances unheard of on her previous albums. Her vocal flourishes do nothing to diminish the power of her voice, which has always been her most rewarding instrument. It may not be her masterwork, and maybe the Jon Brion mixes are preferable, but this album proves that Fiona Apple is an artist with a unique and compelling vision.

And speaking of extraordinary machines, this is what my iPod is playing:

1. "Office of Hearts" by Guided By Voices
2. "Fast As You Can" by Fiona Apple
3. "We’re Desperate" by X
4. "I Would For You" by Jane’s Addiction
5. "Claudine" by the Geraldine Fibbers
6. "Success" by Iggy Pop
7. "Green Arrow" by Yo La Tengo
8. "Dream Scream" by Daniel Johnston
9. "Rollover D.J." by Jet
10. "Devilock" by Misfits

Monday, October 03, 2005

Good Enough, Mr. Adams

I first fell in love with Ryan Adam’s music when I heard his first solo album, Heartbreaker. It was immediately on the top of my playlist. It was one of those perfect albums that makes you wish you could create something worthwhile. From the jubilant barn-burner "To Be Young" to the painful "AMY," it was a masterpiece.

And ever since then I have eagerly looked forward to each new release from Mr. Adams, only to be disappointed. Maybe it was the thrill of the first exposure to his music, but everything since pales in comparison. And maybe that isn’t fair. Does previous greatness, invalidate future accomplishment? How do you transcend a masterwork?

Gold was a decent but middling follow-up; a little too Van Morrison by way of the Counting Crows. Demolition was nothing more than it was billed: a hastily assembled collection of songs from various recording sessions. Love Is Hell was a little too morose, and Rock n’ Roll was a little too trite. Cold Roses was okay, especially if you like Working Man’s Dead/American Beauty-era Grateful Dead. All of these releases have their moments, but generally they seem a bit overproduced and a little too earnest. I wouldn’t be the first person to say Adams has spent too much time reading his own press.

But that being said, the advance press regarding Jacksonville City Nights was eager, enthusiastic and encouraging. It was called a return to form (whatever that means) and a sign of progress from an artist who had seemed to be floundering for the last few years. So, once again, I eagerly anticipated this new album, looking forward to that first flush, that giddy revelatory moment.

And once again, I got a halfway decent album from a musician I once had the highest hopes for. Now, this isn’t to say Jacksonville isn’t a good album: it is. It is better than 99% of the crap on country radio. Better than most of Mr. Adams output. Stand out cuts include the upbeat "The Hardest Part" and the swinging "My Heart Is Broken" and "Trains." The honky-tonk opener "A Kiss Before I Go" is balanced well by the closing "Don’t Fail Me Now," a funeral dirge that would have fit nicely on The Boatman’s Call by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

A lot of attention will be paid to "Dear John," a mournful duet with Norah Jones, but ultimately this may be the weakest link on the album. "September" is a much stronger ballad and a stronger performance, and not much else on the album can compare with the naked vulnerability of "Silver Bullets."

Ultimately, it is a good record and maybe that is what I need to reconcile myself to: good can be good enough.

And this is what is good enough for my iPod:

1. "She Fell Away" by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
2. "Again the Waterloo" by Go Back Snowball
3. "Dizzy Miss Lizzie" by the Beatles
4. "Pendulum" by Guided By Voices
5. "Swallow My Pride" by Soundgarden
6. "Rudderless" by the Lemonheads
7. "Act Naturally" by the Beatles
8. "This Is A Call" by the Foo Fighters
9. "At the Farms" by Guided By Voices
10. "The Rain Won’t Help You When It’s Over" by Whiskeytown