More Perfection

August 26, 2008

Some of you (if anybody is still paying attention after my months-long hiatus) may remember a post I wrote eleventy-billion months ago on the ongoing list I keep with my friend Matthew of albums we consider perfect. That is, albums that have no filler, where every song is an essential piece of the whole that can’t be skipped.

Many of you contributed thoughts and comments on the subject so I thought I’d reopen the lines.

Here is an addition to my list:

 Dwight Yoakam’s Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room

As the heir apparent to Buck Owen’s Bakersfield Bounce (and a creepy turn as the abusive father in Slingblade), Yoakam has rightfully garnered praise from the entertainment world for his body of work. But Buenas Noches…is a standout masterpiece of classic country depression. Every song on this album is a delicious downer of lost love, squandered opportunites, revenge and murder.

Even the upbeat songs like “I Got You” are awash in sorrow. Yeah, the guy in the song is happy he has his girl, but he’s in debt up his ears, he has no job and the bank is taking away everything else. The listener gets the distinct feeling that the “I Got You to ease my pain” chorus is more a plea for the object of his affections not to desert him than a true “I don’t care about anything else as long as you’re with me” sentiment.

The hight point of the album, “Streets of Bakersfield”, is a first person narrative of the life of a couple of drifters that spend time in jail and steal to survive sung by Yoakam and the legendary Buck Owens himself.  It’s a remarkable centerpiece to a brilliantly executed album of real country music, the kind that would make Lefty Frizzell proud.

As the album progresses, it does lighten up a bit and with “Send Me the Pillow” there even seems to be a glimmer of hope, but the underlying current of the song is a bit too close to stalking to be entirely comfortable. Yoakam closes with “Hold on to God”, a nice piece of gospel complete with reassurances of salvation in Jesus’s love. But with everything that came before, the fast pace of the track seems more a frantic warning to hang on with all of your might than a joyous invitation to everlasting peace. On this album, Satan is lurking around every corner.

Bring it on, ya’ll. What other objects of perfection are lurking in your music collections?

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I’m Back and Here’s What’s In My Ears!

November 17, 2007

Wow. Its been over a month? Really? I have no excuse, so I offer none.

On to more important things: Television.

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No, not that. These guys:

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For those that may not know, Television was a NYC 70’s punk band and were the first in that movement to play at CBGB’s.  More akin to Talking Heads than The Ramones, Television was still a powerful band live as the CD The Blow Out demonstrates. Tom Verlaine and Richard’s Lloyd’s twin guitars are fierce yet artistic and the rhythm section of Fred Smith on bass and Billy Ficca on drums lay down a solid foundation for the vocal antics of Verlaine.

Not very well known at the time (or now, for that matter) Television have been an influence for countless artists from Matthew Sweet to R.E.M. to U2 and although the band only released two albums in their 70’s heyday, Marquee Moon and Adventure, both are essential listening and very clearly a foundation for the next 30 years of indie rock.

(An eponymous reunion album released in 1992 is also worth a listen, as well as the three official live releases, the aforementioned The Blow Out, Live at the Old Waldorf, 1978 and Live at The Academy NYC, 1992.)

 killme.jpgWhat else is being overplayed on my iPod? Well, it’s all been effected by my recent re-reading of the book, Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, an excellent book about the NYC Punk scene in the 70’s that has the good sense to start with Andy Warhol and The Velvet Underground, Iggy and the Stooges and the MC5 to give the proper historical background. (Check it out. It’s a good, quick read.)

So my personal playlist reads like a cast of characters from the book, with a bit of the next generation thrown in:

Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Talking Heads, Velvet Underground, The Damned, Matthew Sweet, Joy Division, The Buzzcocks, The Dead Boys, Patti Smith, The Clash and, completely off the mark, The Shins.

And you? What’s going into your ears these days? 


I Don’t Wanna Go Down To The Basement

August 31, 2007

hilly.jpgNY Punk Godfather and CBGBs owner Hilly Krystal died this week, just a few months after that famed dive closed it’s doors. I guess you could say both the club and the man were victims of the ever changing city.

The Bowery, the neighborhood in which Hilly operated CBGB, was a seedy, dirty, drug addict and wino infested place when the club opened in the ’70’s and when I lived there in the early 90’s, but is now an up and coming area filling up with trendy stores and eateries and high-priced housing, just like every other area of Manhattan.

I went to CBGB’s a few times and saw some good (and really bad) bands there. There was something special about the place and in my opinion it was this: In a city that is notorious for disgusting bathrooms, CBGB’s had the absolute worst. Really. There are no descriptives strong enough to do justice to the putresence of the dank holes I can only loosly describe as restrooms. My one and only exchange with Hilly was about the bathrooms. After holding my breath and running in, doing my business and running out as fast as I could, I informed Hilly that the men’s room had no paper towels. He replied,”Yeah? Well, that’s been the case since about ’82.” Then he chuckled and walked away.

By the time I had moved to the city, CBGB’s wasn’t the happening spot it once was. There was still live music, of course, and it’s status as the home of New York punk kept it busy on the weekends, but it was more of a nostolgia than anything else. The town has passed Hilly by. Still, it was a warm and friendly kind of shithole.

Anyway, rest in peace, Hilly. Thanks for the place to see music and drink PBR on the cheap.

Gabba Gabba Hey!


Some Random Thoughts While I Have a Minute

August 9, 2007

The comedy show was a big success and a hell of a lot of fun. I didn’t advertise much this time, but I’m planning more in the fall and I’ll get the word out earlier and farther.

I’m still in the midst of one of the busier summers I’ve had in a while, so the posts will  continue to be sporadic for a while longer.

I’m heading out to Beautiful Ohio next week. (OSU grads stand and sing here). I haven’t been there in years. My parents usually travel here to see us (well, to see the Grandkid. I just happen to be here) so it’s time to go the other way.

I’m having one of those stretches of time where everything seems to break. It’s running the gamut from a leaky faucet I can’t seem to fix to the transmission in our mini-van that costs way more to fix than I care to mention.

I recently had a lovely evening in the back yard of a neighbor drinking and talking with many of the bloggers on my blogroll and some other great folks from the area. Thanks for the hospitality, Greg. And Ross, great to finally meet you. I’m taking you up on that Rotary lunch soon.

My latest musical obsession is King Crimson. Especially the 80’s and 90’s lineup of Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, Bill Bruford and Tony Levin. This is Prog Rock Magic, folks, with a paranoid edge that makes David Byrne look downright well adjusted.

More later, perhaps from the wilds of the Lake Erie shore.


Gimmie Your Candidates

April 19, 2007

No, this post is not about politics. Not this week. This post is about something much more important: Perfect Albums.

Along with my good friend in NYC, I have an on-going project that we work on whenever we are together and sometimes over e-mail. Its the Perfect Album List. Albums that are great from start to finish. Every song is necessary, there is no filler and the tracks work together as a whole to create a perfect listening experience.

This is not an easy list to get on and the two of us have to agree before an album makes the cut. (We do keep seperate lists as well, as our tastes wander off in different directions. I’m pretty sure I could never convince him that anything by the Grateful Dead belongs on our list). Think of an album you like a bunch and believe might belong on the list. Go through it in your head, song by song. I bet there is at least one track that you skip or tune out as it plays. Perfect Albums are hard to come by.

As an example, here is an album that many would say is a no-brainer for the list: Dark Side of Moon. Great album, but perfect? Not quite. “The Great Gig in the Sky”, while musically fitting with the rest of the songs, seems to just take up time before “Money” (or before flipping the record, if you listen to it on vinyl). Honestly, after you sing along to the “ahhhhs” for a second in your broken falsetto, the song becomes background noise.

So the album is close, but doesn’t quite make the cut. This is all subjective, of course, but that’s the fun. What I want to know is, what albums would be on your list? Here are five  that are on my list to get you started. (These are not in any order. How can you rank perfection against itself? Really?)

1. Revolver– The Beatles

2. London Calling- The Clash (A stunning achievment,  since it is a double album)

3. Utopia Parkway- Fountains of Wayne

4. Remain In Light- Talking Heads

5. Life’s Rich Pageant-REM

Have at and choose wisely.


Another Band You Should Know

March 27, 2007

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DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS

Although it is cliched, sounds a bit stupid both out loud and in print, there is no denying the rightness of it: This Band Rocks!!!!!!

A five piece from the Deep South with a triple guitar frontal attack singing about the joys and hardships of Southern life. Sound familiar? Like a band that made a poor airplane choice 25 years ago? Well, you’re right.

Band leader Patterson Hood and bandmates are Lynard Skynard fans and proud of it. But while Skynard celebrated in the “now” of Southern Life and rock and roll excess in the 70’s, the Truckers wallow in the reality of the South both past and present. Their undeniable masterpiece (so far) is the 2001 Southern Rock Opera, a two disk set loosely telling the story of an Alabama high-school kid trying to live his rock and roll dream, tying in Neil Young, Ronnie Van Zandt, Bear Bryant and George Wallace along the way. The music is loud, hard, fantastic Southern Rock smarter than anything that’s out there from any region.

Southern Rock Opera is a great place to start with the Truckers, but their entire catalog is worth the time, from earlier, punkier efforts like Gangstabilly and Pizza Deliverance to their latest two releases The Dirty South and A Blessing and A Curse that take hard looks at the starkness of life in America, Southern and otherwise.

Drive-By Truckers have played in Northampton in the recent past, although I missed the show. Next time, I’m there. I’ll say it again. This Band Rocks!!!!!


Let the Geek Games Begin (and A Little Music Talk)

February 16, 2007

The other night me and The Little Missus had another couple over to indulge one of our geekier compulsions: Board games.

Boy, we hit the geek mother-load with this one. The game we played is called Settlers of Cataan. For those of you unfamiliar with this nerdy masterpiece, the object is to create more roads, settlements, cities and other bits of civilization than your opponents, screwing with their chances along the way. 

That’s it. If it weren’t a board game it would be a curriculum. Players gather commodities that can be used to build the various objects you need to win. Supply and demand plays a big role.

One half of the couple we played with is an economist.

He won.

Just to add to my geek status, I am also involved in a semi-regular game of Risk with a group of other social outcasts. (You know who you are). We speak longingly of one day playing Axis and Allies.  Even The Little Missus, who gladly plays many other board games, looks on me with pity and, I fear, a little contempt. Not that I blame her.

On a slightly less nerdy note, its time for a music update.

My Gomez phase has not yet abated, although it seems to be slowing down.  I’ve been on a Zeppelin kick for about a week, in particular Houses of the Holy.

I’ve been getting into a Canadian indie band called Broken Social Scene. They’re a group with a steady line-up that is augmented by others from the Great White North indie scene. Their album You Forgot It in People is a great listen. It took me a couple of passes to fully appreciate it, but it is well worth the effort.

And a big thanks to Amy for steering me to The Dead Show podcast. I’m working my way through the archives in a state of bliss.

How’s about you all? What’s in your ears these days?