Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Hiatus Interruptus

Devoted readers,

Once again I have neglected this humble blog. If you are eager to hear inklings of my music ramblings in the future, please refer yourself to The Post-Rockist instead. There you will be much better served.

I may continue to update this site with indecipherable mutterings about my daily life, but I haven't made up my mind on how I plan to keep this going.

Best wises,

The Well Respected Blogger

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Lovelee Sweet Shields

Chanced upon this news tidbit this morning. Needless to say, I'm intrigued. We once had a connection, he and I. Eyewitnesses remarked that it was stunning.

Like most reasonable individuals, I'm still patiently waiting for the next MBV album. In the meantime, though, I'm willing to tolerate the remix work he's done for lesser artists. For example:

Primal Scream - If They Move, Kill 'Em (My Bloody Valentine Arkestra)
Lush - Sweetness & Light (The Orange Squash Mix)
DJ Spooky, w/ Kevin Shields - Rapper's Relight
Placebo - Pure Morning (Kevin Shields Remix)
Curve - Coming Up Roses (Kevin Shields Remix)

Sadly, his remix work on Mogwai Fear Satan is much too long to upload. Sadder still, I cannot seem to locate some of his other remixes that I had once worked so hard to accumulate, such as "Autumn Sweater" and "Only the Strongest Will Survive." I suppose Bow Wow Wow will have to do for now.


This past weekend Over-the-Rhine played host to the unfortunately named event Jammin' On Main 2.0. Something like 70 local and area bands performed to roaming packs of wristbanded and slightly intoxicated in the historic Main Street district. [Please take note: When I call my neighborhood "historic" I am not simply falling into the come-hither marketing language that pervades these events. I honestly mean that my neighborhood has been recently named one of the 11 most endangered historic sites in the United States, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.]

The event I would call a surprising success. With the help of Cinti guru and concert buddy Jilly, we managed to stake out some exceptional regional talent. Outside at Neon's, I kicked off my evening with indie rockers The Turnbull AC's. With cooler weather sneaking in, I headed off to alchemize to catch the magnificent Fairmount Girls, whom I later termed "'60s bedroom pop." They said they had never heard that one before. With that, Jilly sent me along to Jefferson's, where we caught the end of The Swarthy Band's set. I couldn't help but smile at the sweat and gymnastics put into their performance. The real reason we came to Jefferson's, however, was to witness The Sundresses, who were also quite good, but Wussy was playing at the same time in Mr. Pitiful's, so we had to wander across the street to get the best of both worlds. Back at alchemize the night devolved into drinking and dancing and dj's and one final unremarkable band.

Saturday took greater effort to get moving. And for good reason, too. MOTH, who started out my night, are technically from Cincinnati, Ohio, although they would have you believe they were Pete Doherty's buddies from across the pond. At least Dayton's Lab Partners, with their Verve idolism, ended the weekend with a blissful touch of the delay pedal.

As much fun as that was, I doubt it will hold up to this. Anyone planning on visiting the tri-state this June?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

We could use the wood

So, for the past few days - weeks even - I've been scratching my head, wondering why the jackass who runs this website doesn't update his content more regularly, like every other responsible jackass in cyberspace. It was with no small amount of guilt that I realized that the jackass is me. Truth be told, it's hard work maintaining the international presence of the Well Respected Blog bureau. There are all the little things that can easily be taken for granted: concocting my weekly conceit to justify why I'm blogging to you; hand-selecting choice tracks from a variety of tunes I'm currently grooving to, uploading the songs, and making them available for your previewing pleasure; and presenting it all in a package that is informative, entertaining, and at the very least not entirely self-indulgent and boring. I hope you appreciate the labor and criminal risk that goes into this endeavor.

I bleed for this. I lay awake at night beating my chest, ashamed of the neglect this comely corner of the internet has had to endure.

If you get no other satisfaction out of this weblog, please savor the delicate care with which I lay down my run-on sentences.

It is possible, you realize, for me to update more regularly, but with admittedly less substance.

For instance:

Tuesday, 5:40 p.m.
My new spectacles seem to suit me well. However, several people at work asked whether they were only decorative. Do I really seem like that type of character?

Current mood: Ambivalent.
Currently listening to: Os Mutantes, Everything is Possible


Saturday, 7:02 p.m.
Sanctuary! Relief is finally in sight as the wedding plans are starting to materialize after five months of dawdling and second-guessing.

Current mood: Overwhelmed.
Currently watching: Iron Jawed Angels


Thursday, 2:36 p.m.
Safely exited my 2:00 conference with Janet Ashcroft. Boy, was she pissed.

Current mood: Flirty.
Currently reading: An editorial that has caused me to lose all respect for Sasha Frere-Jones.

So, there are possibilities. Not that I'll ever fall into that trap.

Two weeks ago (has it been that long? I believe it has) Dan came down to visit. We dallied about rooftops and art galleries and Northside, talking enthusiastically about music and life and rhythm, as if there was a difference. Before we know it, Dan and his little missus will be packing up their covered wagon and leaving behind the fair and fertile grounds of the Midwest for the golden coast. And as much pleasure as I took in warning him of the near certainty with which poverty will meet the pair in Oakland, a small fire in me believes that, like a cat, they will land on their feet.

It's been over a year now since our band released our finest recording to the public at Mac's Bar. Thankfully, for the rest of us, Daniel has kept up with his true love.

Listen, learn, and love:

Fancy Dan - So Long
Fancy Dan - I've Had Enough
Fancy Dan - Plenty

As we parted, we exchanged mix CDs. What else would you expect? He included the Tom Waits track "Come On Up to the House" somewhere in the middle. My strongest memory of that song was when I played in loudly in front of my piano class at State, showcasing Waits as an example of a modern piano player I admired. I smiled smugly at Tom's absurdist humor, his booming voice knocking out lines like "You're singing lead soprano in a drunk man's choir" and violently thrusting in Hobbesian imagery. Listening to it recently, it struck me how powerfully sincere the song is. It's a genuine appeal to acknowledge the flaws in your life and your lack of complete control of those events, and still to not be crushed by those burdens. This song has become my mantra of late - it's so compelling to want to plan everything out, listen to every record that sounds remotely interesting, read every book that you've been told is great or inspirational or enjoyable, constantly explore new territories, make new friends, become a better cook, exercise, learn a new instrument or skill, find better jobs, write everything down, get an advanced degree, and still make time for the Amazing Race, a bowl of popcorn, and a meaningful conversation with someone you care about. It's just too much to keep up with it all; sometimes you just gotta let go.

The world is not my home, I'm just a-passin' thru:

Tom Waits - Come On Up to the House (from Mule Variations)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I knew right away that I had to get my hooks in you

Iggy & The Stooges - Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell (from Raw Power, mixed by David Bowie)
The White Stripes - Cannon (from The White Stripes, co-produced by Jim Diamond)
The Blanks - I'm Feeling Bad (from Love You Too, co-produced by Jim Diamond)

This article raises numerous questions, out of which the obvious legal ones I will strictly avoid.

1. Of the numerous relationships played out between producer and musician, is not one of the roles of the producer to accentuate the natural strength of the musican(s) in the studio? Or even, in some cases, to capture the naked talents of the performer? British glam-rocker David Bowie once famously, and sloppily, gave this treatment to a Detroit band known as the Stooges. I don't hear him complaining now that James Osterberg has given that record a heavy-duty remixing in recent years.

2. The Blanks recorded with Jim Diamond. Suspiciously, we were never asked to sign a contract. When asked whether he would mind receiving "co-producer" status on Love You Too, Diamond shrugged and said that it would be fine. In fact, he seemed so uninterested by the prospect that we probably could have titled the album "Jim Diamond and The Blanks Present... Love You Too" and photoshopped his image onto our cover, and he still would have been fine with it. We will see who laughs last, Jim Diamond. We will see who laughs last.

3. By the way, does anyone else notice the East Lansing connection? I think we all know where the real talent lies...

4. Did Jim Diamond have anything to do with this?

5. You say I'm your lover, baby, then why you lovin' Dan?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

All I want to do is bugaloo

My neighbors must be very impressed. For the past hour and a half I have been working myself into a furor over James Brown. Dancing, by myself, until my feet ached and my brows carried big, salty dollops that blurred my vision.

Drivers on interstate 71 must be equally bewildered; watching cautiously as a well-groomed white boy emerges suddenly from their blind spot, pounding his hood until his knuckles purple and spitting rapturously to some inaudible rhymes.

Admittedly, this situation I have put myself in is more than a little absurd. (But don't most addictions begin in private? Who knows, I can't be bothered to follow up on that assertion.) Still, this obsession is nothing to be embarrassed about. Although my discriminating readers may have greeted my repeated offerings of black American music with mute disapproval, perhaps they mistook the brevity with which I introduced soul brother number one, James Brown, as a lack of enthusiasm. How little they realize that sometimes the matters of the heart can't be expressed by words, and only by grunts and squeals. You think I'm finished? I'm only previewing it. This ain't the show I'm only EQ'ing it.

Just to be clear, you're not getting any James Brown tonight. But I have introduced myself to soul singer Don Covay and I thought I would introduce him to you as well. Covay started his career opening for Little Richard, went on to record this little number with an unknown guitarist named Jimi Hendrix, and was later imitated successfully by a Brit named Mick Jagger.

Don Covay - Mercy, Mercy (from Mercy/See-Saw)

I can't explain my recent obsession with '50s R&B, '60s soul, and '70s funk. Maybe the southern heat of this spring is just loosening my joints. Maybe the recent string of drug-related murders and assassination of an outspoken local activist, with the resultant police crackdown in my neighborhood, is causing me to seek an appropriate outlet. Listening to the music is a good start. Shuffling and singing along with the music can be an even better release. Lately I've been getting the itch to get back into performing again. Since I've moved down here my poor bass has been neglected. Nothing's sadder than a solo bassist plucking quietly out of tune. Now I'd give anything for a patient drummer to pound out some simple rhythms - "Give the bass a taste, give the drummer some." Two weeks ago I nabbed a free six-string, minus a few strings. It's still out of tune. I feel like I've been attacking it with clay hands.

I really ought to abandon any notion of playing R&B, soul, or funk, because nothing's worse than white R&B, white soul, and white funk. At work I've been toying around with Pandora and surprised myself with some of the gems you'll now find in the margins of my blog. You can offer suggestions for the type of music you want to listen to, rate it, pause and fast-forward it. The only tune I gave the big thumb's down to was some white gent singing soul. It's unnatural, innit?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

"Count Basie just sat there, staring at me."

The Thelonious Monk Quartet - Body and Soul (Re-take 2) (from Monk's Dream)
The Thelonious Monk Quartet - Bye-Ya (from Monk's Dream)
The Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane - Bye-Ya (from the Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall)

"He [Thelonious Monk] paints gigantic, colorful pictures with sometimes very few notes, then again with many. His improvised melodic lines remind one of Picasso's paintings: flowing movement, rich textures, striking contrasts. His rhythms are perhaps the most unusual of any jazz player. Sometimes they are jagged, but they are always pulsating and full of rhythmic drive."
-Teo Macero

"I say, play your own way. Don't play what the public want - you play what you want and let the public pick up on what you doing - even if does take them fifteen, twenty years."
-Thelonious Monk

The documentary Straight, No Chaser opens with a bizarre scene, which, for lack of better words, features the "High Priest of Bebop" dancing during a live performance of the Monk original "Evidence." While the rest of the band keeps the rhythm steady, Thelonious Monk moves awkwardly around an invisible axis down the length of his spine, sweating and spinning. As much as you are tempted to write this behavior off as an isolated incident, it turns out to be his signature move, one which he pulls off enthusiastically and at other times mechanically in a variety of settings: night clubs, kitchens, European airport lobbies.

Watching him at the piano - loafers scuffling arrhythmically on the floor, sustaining notes long enough to reach one hand into his pocket to grab a kercheif for his damp brow and drag on his cigatette with the other, only to resume by pecking at the ivory with a crooked claw - is an altogether other sort of mesmerizing experience. While I won't claim to know much about jazz music, it is a project I have unwittingly taken on by means of slow immersion. It would seem that Monk was more concerned with the personal, meditative aspects of his music than what the audience would understand anyway. When I first listened to Monk's Dream, I thought my speakers were so damaged from blasting Jay-Z and Liars on my commute that they were rattling with the lightest of bass touches. It turns out that what I thought sounded like a track of distorted kazoo mixed way down was actually Monk murmuring the melody to himself, which was being picked up in the bleed.

Also, it occurred to me while watching John Ore that I would love to own a double bass. If anyone knows of someone who is selling one for dirt cheap, or who is willing to take an apprentice, please let me know.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Now that's what I call holy writ

Loose Fur - The Ruling Class (from Born Again in the U.S.A.)
Loose Fur - Thou Shalt Wilt (from Born Again in the U.S.A.)

First, consider the evidence, here and here.

Now, as you read these articles, gnashing your teeth and recoiling more from the shame of self-recognition rather than from the fear of improbability, becalm yourself. Breathe, think, look around - everything's the same as it always was. Before you kick this poor, emotionally wrangled creature from your doorstep, please be so kind as to break the subject down into its parts before you renounce it in its entirety. To begin, ask yourself if there is anything new and/or unusual about adults exhibiting persistent traits of childlike behavior. Surely, if you have ever spent any time in the bleachers of a Little League game, it should come as no surprise to you that growing old has less to do with grace and wisdom than with back aches and body spasms.

To be fair to this new, and evidently comfortably affluent, demographic, there is no written rule that states that in growing older one must renounce their better taste and cling steadfastly to the moral code of a bygone era. Perhaps, to a generation raised on New Wave and post-punk, this is a form of rebellion. The best revenge, it is said, is to live well.

Well, whatever the case may be, it is suffice to say that this brand of armchair sociology is of little import. There has always been a noted resistance against the docile assimilation of the iconography of cultural movements. To be sure, at least since Malcolm McLaren it has become something of a sport, much like pheasant hunting. The much more intruiging question, ripe with possibilities of heady, stout hypotheses, boils down to this: what about me? I've always considered myself a far more interesting specimen for examination than your typical, modern researcher has given credit, as far as my unbiased opinion will hold. Yet, time and again, the subject of me is often overlooked in favor of the Tiktaalik rosea or the gossipy rumors about the Gospel of Judas. So you say that your typical "yupster" or "grup" wears designer jeans and listens to Bloc Party in a feigned effort to pass as a person half their age; so what. The subject of me is 24 years old, and he prefers to labor under the illusion that he is twice his actual age. While executives at his company are wearing jeans to important meetings, he prefers to iron his shirt, stiffen his collar, and present a crisp crease in his slacks on the way to his cramped cubicle. Rather than calling sick from long nights of bourbon hounding and tail chasing, he prefers to calculate his monthtly 401(k) contributions and learn about the current state of affairs from his local news anchors. When asked about his latest musical fascinations, he regales his increasingly disinterested friends with stories of Lord Kitchener and other post-Roosevelt-era calypsonians.

I can see that I'm not entirely convincing you. Perhaps some examples from my days in the University might shed some light on my subject's place in the universe.

Scene 1, me, walking. Enter a group of meaty fraternity brothers, exhibiting their curious courtship behavior.
Them, to me, "Hey! Emo faggot!"
Me, to them, "Me? I'm not 'emo.' Do you even know what that means? Faggots."

Scene 2, me, at a party with long-hairs.
Generic partier, eyeing me suspiciously as a narc, "We get it. You like Bowie. Can you please pass that shit to the left?"
Me, sheepishly coughing, "Sorry."

"But," I can imagine your increasingly frustrated voice whimpering, "aren't you basically just a junior yupster? A cadet grup?"

"What?" I would retort. "I can't understand what you're saying. You really ought to work on e-nun-ci-a-ting your con-so-nants and vo-wel-s. By the way, have you heard the new Loose Fur record? It's that new side project between the versatile Jim O'Rourke, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco fame, and some other guy, Kotche, I think." I would then go on to explain how you can never get old of Jim O'Rourke side projects. Did you know that he did work on the Grizzly Man soundtrack, I would inquire. He played the prepared piano. Neat, huh? Of course I would casually drop the bombshell that I was one of the few and the proud who received more sheer listening enjoyment out of O'Rourke's Insignificance than Wilco's critically acclaimed (and yupster approved, wink) Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and how it sure is nice to hear ol' Jim writing traditional song arrangements again.

But if you had the audacity to corner me into a "serious" discussion about the religious overtones of Loose Fur's Born Again in the U.S.A. I would curtly instruct you to visit this instructional website about southwest Ohio's most remarkable landmark, that of the giant sinking Jeeebus.

Monday, March 27, 2006

I sweat all day and half of the night

Three autobiographical facts torn from the good book on Universal James:

I'm a Greedy Man
I Got Ants in My Pants (And I Want to Dance)
I Got a Bag of my Own
(all selections from Make It Funky - The Big Payback: 1971-1975)

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Fellow Americans,
Lady Americans,

I present to you the Minister of the New Super-Heavy Funk, Soul Brother Number One, Mr. James Brown.

For more information, please go here, here, and here.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

All you got to do is get your living down

Sly & The Family Stone - Life (from the Greatest Hits)
Sly & The Family Stone - Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin) (from the Greatest Hits)
Sly & The Family Stone - Thank You for Talkin' to me Africa (from There's a Riot Goin' On)

It's hard to make it these days. Not that it was ever simpler before; but these days, it certainly ain't easy. A lot of people I know are all scattered about - not really certain where they're going to land and entirely clueless about what they'll grow into. By day we scurry about going to work and running errands, and by night we loaf out, thinking about how things could be different. And, hey, if we haven't accomplished anything great yet, it's alright, we've got time; plenty of people hit their stride later in life. Fifty is the new 30, right?

Trouble is, we were all raised on success stories. We read novels about young artists who soar above their home towns with a few lines of paltry verse; we scarf down movies about gifted or chosen individuals who accomplish great things from humble beginnings. It's so easy to empathize and identify with a Harry Potter-type character. Is there any particular reason he was bestowed with these fantastically important powers and charming cast of friends and supporters? Nope, just cuz. He was born that way, I suppose. And of course it's not fair, but you know what, if that jerk can do it, why can't I?

It's natural to fantasize about greatness - it gives us something to look forward to. And yet, most of us choose to put our heart and mind into much less dramatic pursuits: data entry, radiography, timber. It may not always be enviable, but at least it's reassuring. And so you’re not the president, or an NFL quarterback, or a timpani virtuoso; nobody's going to hold that against you. Who could resent somebody who drives a Toyota?

But the worst part, our terrible little secret, is that we half-hope for the stars we idolize to meet some sort of just and cataclysmic failure. How cruel and hearty our laughter is when tween Louisiana pop sensations become bloated caricatures of success; train wrecks in platform heels. Who did she think she was, anyway, walking around like she owned the place? And what would we make of our icons of rock’n’roll if they met some fate other than drug-related heart failure in the bathroom of a distant hotel? It becomes a perfect parable. Well, they should’ve known it wasn’t a stable career path. We need artists and creative risk takers to have outstanding failures because it validates what we’ve chosen to do with our lives. It’s not an easy job, being a wanton fan.

So you have Sly Stone, the star-spangled explosion of the American dream incarnate, chicken-strutting across the globe with his multi-ethnic Family band, laying healthy, free-range eggs of hope and funk wherever they traipsed. What a paroxysm of style and substance and free will! This is what the world is coming to, or at least where it ought to be headed, why not stop what you’re doing and come on and join in the party? But for all the good cheer he spread, Sly was a victim of his own success. Nobody really took the sentiment that “Everybody is a star” too seriously, it was just some cool shit to say when you were feeling groovy. He gave us what we wanted, but nobody actually meant anything by it.

By 1970 Sly was expressly ambivalent toward his mainstream success - television appearances were usually conducted under a cocaine cloud and he become increasingly absent from his own live appearances. 1971's There's a Riot Goin' On (a cynical rejoinder to Marvin Gaye's What's Going On?) was recorded almost entirely by Sly, while the Family Stone began to fracture under the duress of Sly's manic behaviors. Something was not quite right. For all he had done to help everyday people see themselves as stars, he began to see himself through their eyes and by what they expected of him.

Flamin' eyes of peoples fear, burnin' into you
Many men are missin' much, hatin' what they do

The promise of the American dream is so great, so spectacular, that its denial is almost too much to bear.

What happened to Sly Stone? He used to be wrasslin’ with the devil, struggling with his own authenticity and coming out on top, and then he retreated from the lime light. Even at his recent and unusual appearance at the Grammy's, he left the stage before the song was finished and took off on a motorcycle he had stored out back.

Like Sly, I too have wrassled with the devil. However, it remains to be seen whether or not I will come out on top.


Clearly, I am rambling tonight in an effort to compensate for how long it has been since I last updated. But to continue with a musical theme of the greats reworking what made them great in the first place, here's James Brown with a brand new (1975) twist on a dance floor classic. Good night.

James Brown - I Feel Good (from Make It Funky: The Big Payback: 1971-1975)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

When it rains it shines

BockFest was last weekend. It was a celebration of drunkards, druids, and polka music. I didn't really understand it, but I certainly enjoyed it.


In a completely unrelated series of events, while I turn to bock beer to cope with the stress of paying my bills, the man who lords over the corporation I work for happens to be the ninth richest man in the world, according to Forbes.


Although it's too gray and moist and miserable outside right now for me to grab the Sly Stone I wanted to share with you this week, here are some topical cuts.

Django Reinhardt - Stormy Weather (from Django in Rome, 1949-1950)
The Beatles - Rain (from Past Masters, vol. 2)
Nina Simone - Here Comes the Sun (from The Essential Nina Simone, vol. 2)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Pensive Draculas and Pancakes for One

Marbles - Out of Zone
Of Montreal - Jennifer Louise (from Aldhils Arboretum)
Of Montreal - Old People in the Cemetary (from Aldhils Arboretum)
Of Montreal - Wraith Pinned to the Mist (from The Sunlandic Twins)
Brian Eno - The Paw-Paw Negro Blowtorch (from Here Come the Warm Jets)

Overheard in line while waiting to see Athens, GA-based band Of Montreal perform Sunday, Feb. 26, 2006 at the Southgate House in Newport, KY:

Stoner with Ironic Bling (SwIB): Dude, I'm so stoked to see this show tonight. Check out this bling I busted out just for tonight. This is serious stuff, man, I don't bust this out for just anything. Man, this shit is for real! (Bites into gold dollar sign medallion.)

Bearded Stoner (BS): Yeah, man. Yeah yeah.

SwIB: I was just so afraid we wouldn't even make it here tonight. My car is haunted you know? I've got a haunted car.

BS: Wha-at?

SwIB: Yeah dude, everytime I pump on the brakes it goes, "Whooo-ooo!" (Holds up spooky fingers.)

BS: (Laughs.) Right. (Pause.) Hey, you reminded me, I brought my parachuters. They're little draculas. We can drop them from the balcony for the encore.

SwIB: Why does Dracula need a parachute? I mean, he's got a cape. Draculas can fly, right?

BS: Yeah man, I don't know. This little guy must be afraid to fly. He's a pensive Dracula.

The college stoner crowd was out in full effect Sunday night. Maybe it had something to do with me hitting my official mid-twenty-something status this week, but I felt like I was already becoming that old guy who goes to young rock shows. For instance, when a young college student with black X's on her hands asked if I wanted to hang out with her and her friends, I had to reply, "Uhm, I'm going over to the bar, actually. Sorry."

Thankfully, I'm still a few years shy of the grandfatherly attributes of the portly, balding, and bespectacled Robert Schneider who opened the night up with acoustic renditions of brand spanking new Apples in Stereo songs. Also, by popular request, a version of the Apples' "Ruby," which has too many painful connotations for me to enjoy.

His acoustic set was short, graciously, as I don't think I could have handled much more of the teddy bear affectations he takes up in an effort to be a sweeter John Lennon. "Thanks for listening," he said, "Marbles is up next." Little did I know what was about to happen next. Schneider whipped the drapes off a stand behind him, revealing anntenaes, stereo equipment, and circular neon lights. He hit a button and loud, droning interlude music started pouring out the speakers.

As he started to undress, his accomplice - a svelt blonde in Barbarella garb - started hoisting cardboard cutouts of Darth Vader and the robot from "Lost in Space" on to the stage. A key-tar was elegantly draped over Darth's shoulders. Schneider, now in his underwear, quickly put on what appeared to be a thrift store astronaut outfit - with a cape, because no astronaut outfit is complete without a cape. The second band, Marbles, was now ready to perform.

With another push of a button the stereo started to play melodious '80s synth pop, which Schneider sang over, karaoke style. Guitar solos were noted by him picking up a guitar and pumping it in the air; while he gestured over to Darth for the more prominent keyboard parts. Although this set was short as well, it required another costume change into a silvery varsity jacket bedazzled with the phrase "I Heart Math" on the back. Too cute to boot, Mr. Schneider.

Not to be outdone, Kevin Barnes of Of Montreal walked on stage in a full bridal gown and veil. "We love you Newport!" he yelled. "And we want to make love to you all night long! But we're kind of old-fashioned, you see, so we're going to have to get married first. Newport - will you marry us?" "Yeah!" "Well come on then!"

Since I wasn't familiar with Of Montreal's back catalogue, I expected to casually enjoy the few songs I could identify (i.e., "Wraith Pinned to the Mists" from The Sunlandic Twins), and casually listen to the rest of the unfamiliar set. But from the very first song I was enraptured with the whole psychedelic dance party energy. I'm still buzzing from all the good vibrations. Thank goodness for online recommendations. (Here's looking at you, Scout.)

While waiting for the encore, I noticed that a short, plump lady draped entirely in black was staring at me. Apparently she also suffered from anterograde amnesia. Every time she opened her mouth she sounded completely bewildered: "How old are you? When did you say your birthday was? Do you play in a band? Are you playing next? When was your birthday again? God you're so cute. I must be at least ten years older than you. Oh, I'm sorry, I must be flirting with you." Excuse me, do I know you??

After a period of uncomfortable and prolonoged staring, the lady in black drifted back into the darkness of the crowd. Another man, who looked strikingly similar to me - conservative sweater, Scott Baio hair - approached me. "Do you have any idea who that lady is?" It turns out this lady had a certain type of man-child she liked and was making the rounds this night. This stranger told me how the mytery woman came up behind him and rubbed his back, telling him how cute he was. We shared a hearty nervous laugh.

For the encore, Of Montreal asked Robert Schneider to join them on stage for an Apples in Stereo cover of "Seems So." Afterwards, Kevin Barnes asked the crowd, "Do you like Brian Eno? Yeah? Ladies and gentlemen, Brian Eno!!" He gestured toward stage left and started to applause. "Actually, Brian Eno couldn't make it tonight. Wouldn't it be great if he was here though?" They closed the set with a cover of "The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch," which segued into another song I had never heard before.

By this time I noticed that the mystery lady was standing suspiciously close behind me and my clone. I quickly grabbed my jacket, closed my tab, said my goodbyes, and dashed to the door. I had to work in the morning.


For the record, I finally fixed my comments box so non-bloggers can let me know they care.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Don't call it a comeback

The Mountain Goats - The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton (from All Hail West Texas)
The Robot Ate Me - Regret (from Carousel Waltz)

Biographers take note: this past week signified a distinct break from my musical past. The Blanks, popularly known as the world's greatest rockity roll band, fumbled in a last quarter attempt to tack on their first ever reunion show. Jim Dandy, the band's vocalist and greatest cheerleader, had helped to put something together for us in Salt Lake City with the help of his fire-jumping cousin Nolan. The old dreams and desert visions were all there: putting down their typewriters and wheelbarrows for one extended weekend, the four Blanks would trek across distant locations in America's mid- and south-west to meet somwhere in the middle and casually knock off a show so good, so pure it would keep the audience members' grandchildren awake with wonder for years to come. Perhaps this would become a habit, and we would mysteriously reappear in dusty western towns with all the regularity and enigma of a Yeti sighting. But what made the prospect of this show so intriguing was the rumor that the people were actually down for it. There must've been something in that Utah water, boys, 'cause they were thirstin' for it.

The reality of the picture painted a very different landscape. The cost and stress of traveling to an unfamiliar location, playing with unfamiliar instruments, and - get this - opening for another band with no payment guarantee all seemed to dampen the funness of the idea. Worse still were the growing burdens of everyday adult concerns: limited vacation hours, wedding planning, credit debt, taxes, savings for furniture and real estate. It all seemed too much. So, after several extended man-to-mans with Brother Daniel and Jim Dandy, we bunted. (Attempts were made to contact Mr. Ried; however, given his superhuman schedule, he was unavailable for comment.)

The disappointment here isn't just that we're young and in debt; that would be easily enough explained. And it certainly wouldn't be the first time we've had to abandon an opportunity because of personal schedules and other responsibilities - lord knows we were only ever ambitious in rhetoric. The Blanks, for all our failures, always meant something greater. For three odd years the band was a vessel for our collective fantasies and it provided some defense against the fact that most people don't care about your fantasies - collective or otherwise. As they say, time consumes us, and this decision feels like a large chunk of the past has just been bitten off.

But as much as the band tied us all together, it also tied us up. Hopefully this will signal an opportunity for us start focusing on our own endeavors. The Blanks will always be a part of us, and may very likely rise again to set some small western town on fire, but it's not the only thing we can pour our dreams in. (If nothing else, the Blanks were always great sentimentalists.)


Here are two songs from one-man bands I've been listening to a lot lately. John Darnielle's Mountain Goats sings about underappreciated death metal bands in west Texas. Ryland Bouchard's The Robot Ate Me plays another delicate bedroom melody. Carousel Waltz was amazingly listed as the #1 album of the year by a long time friend and critic of mine - amazingly because he typically prefers down tempo Russian dance music and post-shoegazer instrumentals. I once interviewed Bouchard; he seemed like a pleasant fellow.


Ironically, after all this talk of Lansing rock music, I saw Detroit's The Sights perform last night. My opinion of these rats can be found here. I was going to a neighborhood bar because I knew the bartender working. I was pleased to see that the crowd reaction was overwhelmingly unimpressed by their extended organ solos and midget rock'n'roll posturing. Boo.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Shiver the whole night through

Jane's Addiction - Been Caught Stealing (from Kettle Whistle)
Leadbelly - In the Pines (from Where Did You Sleep Last Night: Leadbelly Legacy 1)

After I returned home on Friday evening from an awkward work Happy Hour in which I spent a good deal of time not making conversation with the VPs and other executives who were letting off a little steam and listening to unprovoked marital confessions from my co-workers, Kim was distraught. The story, in brief, involved wayward ex-cheerleader sister Nikkole (sic) pawning off family valuables with the result of being temporarily excommunicated from the already dysfunctional family. A story in two parts, as captured in the two songs above. For greater detail of these events, please refer to Kim's blog.

Perry Farrell opens this week's edition with, what I presume to be, a psychotropically-enhanced sense of self worth, lecturing faceless audience members on the virtues against "stealing another man's girl." The song, meanwhile, seems to give high praise to the rush associated with stealing other people's property. As we learn in the case of Nikkole, being caught stealing at the age of 18 is nowhere near as enjoyable as being caught stealing at the age of 5.

Leadbelly (Huddie Ledbetter) shares our anxiety over the consequences. I had always assumed this song was about infidelity, judging by the macho threat and anguish present in Kurt Cobain's voice in the popular Unplugged version. However, with age and some quick history lessons, I learned that this song has been around since the late 19th century and probably falls into the same category of traditional tunes like "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" that are meant to provide guidance and instruction to escaped slaves who are hoping to make their way up North ("where the cold winds blow").

The question on everyone's lips, then, is the same: Nikkole, damn girl, where have you been sleeping these last few nights?

In other news, back on planet normal, I'm attempting to prepare a homemade beef stew.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

We're having fun

Neu! - Lila Engel (from Neu! 2)
Iggy Pop - Funtime (from The Idiot)

I'll admit it, I've been in a bit of rut lately. I commute to and from work at about the same time every day; I get caught in about the same goddamned traffic every day; perform the same set of tasks at work; eat the same things for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; and, with the gracious exception of the Winter Olmpics, I watch the same schedule of television programs every night. I don't go out as often as I first did when I moved to Cincinnati, but when I do, part of me wishes I had just stayed in to avoid disrupting my comfortable monotony. This is the result of no one's work but my own. In other words, I'm an 80-year-old shut-in.

Maybe that explains why I've been listening to Neu's second album, appropriately titled Neu! 2, so religiously this past week and a half. The songs pound and swirl and fly and sputter with astronomical simplicity. Klaus Dinger's locked-down, methodical grooves and Michael Rother's spaceshuttle atmospherics only seem to grow more powerful and more necessary the more I hear them repeated. It's not for everyone.

If you do choose to write a song with only one note, there's only so much you can do: speed it up, slow it down, layer different tempos, play it louder or quieter, or simply repeat that perfect note ad infinitum. The gambit, of course, is that in doing so you're forced to walk a very fine line between bravery and boredom.

Neu!, more often than not, made it sound like that one note was all it ever took. But here's the catch: while half the songs on Neu! 2 are masterpieces of stripped-down, soul-scraping rock music, the other half literally takes the same handful of songs, and plays them faster, or slower, or takes the tape and chews it up. This can be maddening, especially if you insist on playing the entire album on repeat as I did, out of habit. Although some people make the mistake of calling this the first "remix" album (it's not), the real reason is that the Dusseldorf darlings simply ran out of money and their label refused to foot them any more funds. As a result, or in proto-punk defiance as it's been remarked, they made do with what recordings they had in Conrad Plank's barnyard studio and four songs and some odds and ends and created a full length.

The track here, "Lila Engel" (Lilac Angel), is Neu! at their most cavemannish. While Rother was known for pulling the band's strings toward ambience and melody; Dinger ran toward abrasive and confrontational sounds. "Lila Engel" is a Dinger song. I imagine if Animal from the Muppets ever went solo, it would sound something close to this.

As I listened to this, I couldn't help but notice the similarities to another song recorded around the same time in the mid-1970s in a politically divided Germany, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I kept hearing the screams grow louder until I finally heard the observant words of a detox Iggy Pop: "Baby, baby, I like your pants." Click.

After the Stooges' combusted, Iggy fell into some unfashionable squalor. Lucky for him, as legend has it, David Bowie saw his old chum lying in the streets and said something to the effect of, "Iggy, you're a wreck. Let's get you cleaned up and we'll head on out to Berlin where there are trannies and anonymity and make beautiful new music." Bowie also inquired whether Rother would be interested in doing some guitar work with them while they were in Germany. Rother declined. Thankfully for us, imitation was never one of David's ethical qualms.

Monday, February 13, 2006

honey funny sunny morning

Syd Barrett - Love You (take 1) (from The Madcap Laughs)
Elvis Presley -
I Love You Because (alternate #5) (from the Sun Sessions)
Lou Reed -
I Love You (from Lou Reed)

There are some benefits to being a recently engaged individual. Namely, that I got a little leeway this Valentine's Day in putting off my gift shopping until the very last minute. And when I went shopping, she drove. Kim has extraordinary patience to put up with me. What? You need more examples? Try this on for size: after we returned with the heart-shaped box of chocolates, she knitted in front of the TV while I compiled a mix CD of silly love songs and then painstakingly drew a card of her fantasizing about an amorous Todd posing in the Michael Jackson Thriller/tiger pose. If that's not every woman's dream, I don't know what is.

Before I was in this relationship, I always figured love had to be something grand and spellbinding. I now realize it can be much more simple and endearing than that.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Captain and I

Guided By Voices - Captain's Dead
Guided By Voices - Game of Pricks
Guided By Voices - Things I Will Keep

--from Human Amusements at Hourly Rates and Alien Lanes.

Last night two of my fellow co-workers and I crossed the Ohio River to witness aging song-writing factory Bob Pollard sweat and dance and sing for us for three hours in Newport, Kentucky's
Southgate House. We got there early so we could sit on the balcony to observe the show - and I'm calling him old. To me, Bob had always represented the Great Midwest Hope: that I could reasonably expect to work a drab, middle-class job well into my 30s while writing songs with my drinking buddies on the side, and then, by a stroke of sheer luck, be catapulted into a cult-like rock stardom. Easy, right?

I expressed these sentiments to Bob at a book signing for the Guided By Voices
biography, after which I gave him a copy of Lansing, Michigan's greatest rockity roll record. It ain't easy dreaming of being a rock'n'roller growing up in these parts. Bob smiled, told me he knew where I was coming from, and slapped me five. Oddly, I never heard from him again.

Well, anyway, the old man's still at it. And, judging from appearances, mildly more sober than usual. There were none of the embarassing collapses on stage, or brazen proclamations like, "Hello, we're Guided By Voices and we're the Best Fuckin' Band in the World! Better 'n the White Stripes; better 'n fuckin' Bright Eyes, that's for sure!" Of course, he isn't GBV anymore; he's just plain Bob. Still chugging out buckets of songs in the same old formula, hoping that by simple statistical probability a few of them will really knock yer socks off. And some of them did. He even managed to knock out a few old man jump kicks before the GBV-exclusive encore. Two of which are included here. The first song is just for my amusement.