Random ramblings.

Monday
Jun132011

Shakey

Anyone who's ever been angry with me, confused by me, disappointed in me or not taken me seriously: If you read a bio of Neil Young called Shakey (and you should, for so many reasons), try and forgive me and re-see somewhere in there. If you like me and/or the music I've made, still, read it. It's closer to the truth(s) about me, good or bad or ugly, than I may ever get to saying. I'm really happy I didn't find it til now, or else I'd be scared I copied it. I never knew how close I've been to Neil. Thought he was all cool and mellow. As it turns out, working middle class chaotic youth crazy parents broken-home entitled sensitive misfit freakout idealist fearful control freak addict mercurial serious fun intense guy. Superficial differences in time period and place, yes, but eerily similar arc and results. Two main things: 1, I never went as far out as him on just about any level, and 2, I'm not a savant genius, nor anything close. Also, an important 3, as to the time/place: he happened to (nah no accidents, I know, just don't get how that works, did the time period make the Beatles or vice versa or both at once?) exist during the zenith of rock and roll as actual vital cultural force, whereas I witnessed and was lit up by the zenith, but existed as a working artist as it all burned out and faded away. It's my own story, doesn't need to be his nor vice versa, helps me be proud in hindsight at least of the ways it's been in my head and some of the stuff I've made, the ways I've made it, that it's helped some people through. Helps me forgive myself for being such a freak, shooting myself in the foot, hurting some people that maybe really cared about me, that I really tried to care about. But the ideas and ideals and the songs were always the safe bet, for better and worse. Makes me want to work extra hard right now to preserve it properly, and make more. How it works as to working with other people as I keep going (to whatever extent I do, in whatever ways), we'll see. Selfish or sweet, who knows. That word selfish. I'll wrestle with it forever. I have no idea where I'm going now, but it's different for reading this book.

Friday
Jun032011

Road Reviews, June 3, 2011

No promises, but perhaps the beginning of a new idea… trying to write about stuff that I find one way or another on the road. Excuse typos and whatevers, just freewriting. Writing less/more/at all does not necessarily indicate better/worse. In fact, none of it is about that. Here's to making stuff and sharing.

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Deserts Of Mars - Transmission - http://www.desertsofmars.com - Listened on the flight from Texas to Kentucky.

No one should have jewel cases anymore. Short runs, simple materials. 

Flange. Simple drivers, modest melody. Populist anthem-rock riffery. Retro in an endearing way. Sons of Sabbath, Uncle Hetfield. Stories and local studio glories. Never a bad thing.

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Pulling Punches - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Pulling-Punches/111610945516126 - Listened on the flight from Kentucky to California.

Long-ass lame FB address. I'm not writing the MySpace address. MySpace is kinda the jewel case of the internet. Sadly it's sort of the Betamax too; the more interesting technology (for artists especially) steamrolled by the Borg of the internet, Facebook. Anyway. Unhinged rockpunk. Whoa-whoa singalongs, half-time chorus breakdowns. Basement parties with best friends in the front row. Good times. Who knows.

 

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Thursday - No Devolucion - http://www.thursday.net - Listened on the drive from Kingston to Southampton.

Someone gave me a burn of this. No chance of objectivity, know em for years, but truly, sounds neat. Geoff is being all dreamy, sounds great. Snare is a bit puffy, but fits the palate real well. Waves of synth and guitar, smooth and spiky both. Fridmann again, I think? He's so good. They all are. I dunno, hard to say too much, but I wish em well and they deserve your attention and money and trust.

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Biffy Clyro - Only Revolution - http://www.biffyclyro.com - Listened on the drive from Kingston to Southampton.

The album titles rhyme, and there's some sort of symmetry. Bias here too, as I've known about Biffy for a while now. They really love Far, have always been quite nice. I'd love to write with them someday, make music one way or another. Admiration. Good on them for keeping going. I hope they're still nice. They're fucking massive now. They seem to have kept their heads musically. Mature without being too safe, rocking without being too self-consciously so. Some bands get defensive about their success, and it fucks up the music as much as when they try to get commercial. Is that horns I hear, and/or strings? Neat. Nice and thick. They seem the be the current UK torch-bearer for the music I grew up making. A tune, wonder if they know em. Weakerthans/Queens/Anthemland. Anthemland isn't a band (but should be), cant' think of a specific worthwhile sonic reference point, but yea, big chorus. A bit much, but I appreciate the trying. They're being math-y and poppy and trying. Good.

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A House Cursed - Treasons, Strategems and Spoils - http://www.ahousecursed.com - Listened on the drive from Southampton to Slough.

It's astonishing to me how dextrous metal has become. It's such a strict form, with intros and breaks and structures more like traditional folk arrangements than anything else. The tones are very specific, the phrasing too. It's either Metal or it's not. So the point isn't originality, save for a very few innovators that come along every couple decades. It's as if it's a video game called World Of Metalcraft, where the object is to do increasingly long, complex passages at higher and higher tempos. No sign of songs per se, just a long sustained beating, then the chorus-y rim-shot saccharine sweet break that just seems restless and waiting for the next riff, then back to the mock violence. The other funny thing is the lyrics are often so deliciously emo underneath the bluster. Sensitive, scruffy misfits, too scared to really attempt to express or process the complexity of the sadness/fear/discomfort, so just focusing purely on escapist anger. Understandable, truly. When it's done right, with headlong desperation and abandon, it's very satisfying. As with any music, there's just a feeling when they've got the spirit.

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Brandon Cunningham - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Brandon-Cunningham-Music/20689684889 - Listened on the drive from Southampton to Slough.

Does he have a proper website? Every artist should. Look at that crazy URL, and when FB goes away (and it will, just like http://www.myspace.com/brandoncunningham8 did), it'll be all over all over again. Artists, it's ALL part of it. Stay involved and alive.

Okay, the music: Starts out like The Waterboys, first thought, that 'Hole In The Moon' tune or whatever it was. Great tune, great band. Then a wall of voices. Wait, I'm authentically curious and interested right now. This sounds of the post-Sufjan/Arcade species, but not in the way that usually annoys the crap of me. Has a buoyant sincerity that's carrying at least halfway through the first track, which is deceptively impressive. Simple arrangement, well-recorded, very musical drummers, nice synth-y stuff with the strident acoustic guitars. Splashes of War-era U2. Mmm, tasty. Refreshing. Good music is actually nutritious. If I were better at math or science, I'd go about proving such things with equations and double-blind studies.

Hmm, first tune seems to have segued into track 2, which is still nice, but overstaying it's welcome, kind of indulging in it's sweet sound and sentiment. It would be ponderous even for a dramatic last track, and as track 2, it… It knows it's good, and it's peacocking a bit. C'mon, I'm rooting for you. Get out of this rut and back on track. 

Okay. Not back to the majesty of the start, but at least a new tune, a new chance. This makes me want to record in a proper studio, with this engineer, and perhaps these musicians. I'm not sure what we'd do, but it would sound good. Tasteful playing all around. Singer has a bit of gumball-mouth in this one, more prevalent in female singers these days, you know, that 'post-Cat-Power, would-be-old-timey, who's-that-harp-playing-one?' thing. It's the indie version of the tight-jawed grunge growl -- but he's not too bad about it. He has a great natural tone.

Hipster indie pop, in general, is veering dangerously close to John Denver b-sides with bad beards, fashion accidents, banjos, 10+ on stage and lots of reverb. It's really not all that different from nü-country pop. Is anyone calling that out? I don't mind the melody and all, but the desperation for authenticity™ is a bit odd, and it's generally a bit wallpaper-y for me, very self-satisfied.

Anyway, this never made it back to the excitement of the first track. We're into the 6-minute deedle-eedle-eedle Explosions In The Sky build-up bit now. The record seems to be settling into something that still sounds good, but is happy to just do that, isn't reaching too far. Ah well. Almost. Almost is pretty good.

Just listening to the first track again to make sure. It's still pretty great. Whew.

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Cast Of Thousands - http://www.castofthousands.net - Listened on the drive from Aberdeen to Leeds.

Burt, right? I feel like that's the name and how to spell it. Been comin to shows for years, and this band name's been in my memory the whole time. Did we ever play together? Feels like it. Oh, the music. You should make the noises you want to make. Feels like they do that. Unapologetically glossy, less about influences than just kind a by-product of all the earnest, romantic radio-rock that's come before, letting it all be there. Classic tenor 80s pop-rock voice; Cutting Crew, Men At Work, groups I can't remember the name of. Vacuum-packed production. None of this is bad thing, per se. I like that it's not self-conscious, I like that it's not hip. What a relief, these days. Doesn't feel like it wants to be famous, either. Just wants to be. Octave-harmonies for that ghostly hi-lo thickening. Ah, there's the post-hardcore angular stuff, like when it would occasionally pop up on Jimmy Eat World records, that one tune about Take Back The Radio and stuff. Some bands aren't meant to be muscular. Not that they can't or anything, not that it sucks. Just drifts back to the harmony, the lush. Not bad places to drift to, instinctively, just what's there, like it's in the muscles.

Wednesday
May182011

A River Runs Through It

This passage from near the end of 'A River Runs Through It' keeps haunting me. It just got me out of bed:
"Each one of us here today will, at one time in our lives, look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord... but what, if anything, is needed?
It is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don't know what part of ourselves to give... or more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted.
And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us... but we can still love them.
We can love completely, without complete understanding."
Monday
May022011

Respect.

Here are a couple of pics from the day they were carrying out the mission to get Bin Laden. Whatever your views are, respect that the odds are slim that you'll ever have to make decisions this serious and world-changing. Respect that the pressure must be excruciating. Respect.

 

Sunday
May012011

Thank you, Spring.

Thanks for trying so hard

And reminding me to keep going.

That's what she said.

 

 

Friday
Apr292011

Bye, MattShowman.

He called himself MattShowman on the Shareboard, where we would gather. He'd started a little indie label named after a song I'd written. He ended up releasing an album of mine on it. I visited him in the hospital in France years ago. I was reminded of a cruel joke that G-d plays; the one in which we only seem to get the really good wisdom and presence when we're facing something really for real -- like death. He'd been fighting cancer for as long as I knew him. 

I've been a bit frozen all day. For now, I don't know what else to say. The only thing I'm reminded of in moments like this is to make sure I let go of as much bullshit as I can, now, before something like this happens. The only good thing about death is that it's a really great, sad, terrifying reminder to live.

That day at the hospital, I sang a few songs. Moments like that, I'm so happy to have them to give. Be brave, be strong. We really leave here. There are times I need you to remind me. You can't save someone from death, but you can love them while they're dying. Letting go is love.

So, for you, Matthieu Bierne. Born on June 22nd, 1978 in St Martin du Tertre, a very small French village. Died last night. The most loving of fights. 

He will be buried in St Martin du Tertre as well, sometime next week. 

 

Friday
Apr292011

Bye, Michael.

I am more emotional than it would be cool to say out loud (oops) about Steve Carell leaving The Office. I think his run on that show featured some of TV's finest moments. Maybe sometime I'll write a bunch about it, but for now, here's a neat and seemingly pretty candid goodbye from him.

Thursday
Apr282011

Muslim-Mole-To-President-Birth-Fraud!

Yea, they're gonna pull off the most amazing Muslim-mole-to-President-birth-fraud caper EVER, then forge it in a way that any closet-racist schmuck (and yes, this whole mess has EVERYTHING to do with race) can tell by opening it in Adobe Illustrator (This link explains it very well). Just quit while you're behind. You're making ugly people money and ruining our country.

To anyone whining about the 'politics' ruining our country, look at any number of threads on this (non-)subject or so many others. Extreme, irrational, sensational thinking is the problem, on the Right and the Left. We get what we want. So, so sad.

Everyone, please, just vote for the candidate that will keep the Far Right out of office, whether local or national. There is a BIG difference right now between Reps and Dems, and getting scarier every day. Don't sleep.

'Nuff said.

Thursday
Apr282011

Just Goethe.

I'm not sure there could be a moment
for which this sentiment wouldn't be perfect:

 

"I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element.
It is my personal approach that creates the climate.
It is my daily mood that makes the weather.
I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous.
I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.
I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.
In all situations, it is my response that decides whether
a crisis is escalated or de-escalated,
and a person is humanized or de-humanized."

- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe