Tuesday, November 30, 2004
I don't have many guitar heroes (mostly with me it's songwriter heroes and drummer heroes and producer heroes), but if there's any living guitarist I worship, it's Nels Cline. I first got hooked on him in the mid 90's when he was running with Mike Watt and the Geraldine Fibbers and Sonic Youth, and have followed him through countless more obscure projects, but this year has been an interesting one, with him joining Wilco a few months ago. All About Jazz recently ran a biiiig feature on Nels that covers the Wilco situation pretty well, among other things. Their latest album was recorded before he joined, so he's only been touring with them so far, but there've been implications that he's more than just a touring guitarist, and the first Wilco song with Nels in the lineup was recently released on the Spongebob Squarepants OST (which has got to be the weirdest entry in the lengthy Nels Cline discography since...well, that Blue Man Group album he played on). I've never really been into Wilco (I think I listened to Summer Teeth a couple times and even as an oversensitive teenager dismissed it as a lyrical pity party), and I dunno if his involvement would motivate me to check out their next album, but I am glad he's finally got a gig that will pay his bills and probably help him bankroll his next round of projects. I don't know if it will give his own work a lot of exposure, though. His own brand of noise and improv is not too far removed from jazz, and is pretty out of step with the Wolf Eyes school of noise that gets hype these days.

What I'm excited about, though, is that he's still got plenty of his own stuff as a bandleader and a collaborator coming down the pike while he's on the road with Wilco. He's always got a steady stream of releases, probably about half a dozen a year, but just in the past month alone, 3 albums he plays on have come out, 2 of which I've snapped up already and may be fighting it out for a spot or two on my year-end top ten. His current touring trio the Nels Cline Singers just released their 2nd album, The Giant Pin, which is an improvement on the first album, Instrumentals (which was no doubt titled to clear up any confusion about the tongue-in-cheek Singers name). Still, I don't know if I'm feeling the Singers as much as his '90's trio, the Nels Cline Trio, or some of the one-off projects he's done in the past few years like Destroy All Nels Cline and The Inkling. The Singers do have good chemestry, though, and they were good the one time I saw them live. But like most Nels projects, they very rarely make it out to the east coast, touring mainly in and around his native California.

The other one I copped recently is Volume 3 in Atavistic's "Out Trios" series, Ash and Tabula by Nels Cline/Andrea Parkins/Tom Rainey. I'm not generally as interested in Nels's improv collaborations as I am with his stuff as a bandleader or writer, but I made a point to pick this one up because I wanted to hear more of Andrea Parkins, who was the highlight of the show I saw a couple months ago on the last night of the High Zero Festival Of Experimental Improvised Music here in Baltimore. She plays an electronically-processed accordian, which she gets some wild and not at all accordian-like sounds out of (her cousin is Zeena Parkins, who plays an electric harp and has also collaborated with Nels). So her and Nels together with a drummer is a pretty shit-hot combination, and sometimes they lock together in ways that are pretty impressive for a record that was "spontaneously composed".

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Monday, November 29, 2004
I never had any high hopes for Ashlee Simpson's music career, but I found her cute and likable enough that I was a little disappointed that her first 2 singles were both boring 'personal statement'-type songs, and that even after she dyed her hair black to distance herself from her sister, she still had the same awful helmet-shaped hairstyle as Jessica. But after the SNL debacle, she decided to switch her choice for the 3rd single from the song she'd attempted to play that night, "Autobiography" (presumably another confessional snoozer) to an actual decent, fun song, "La La". And she finally has a hot haircut in the video, which has this really unique lighting going on with all the lights kind of blindingly shining in the camera, it looks really cool. Plus she dances like a spazz and the lyrics are really goofy and vaguely sexual and she talks about being a French maid and an alley cat but mostly sings like an alley cat. B+

Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Have a happy Thanksgiving, y'all. I'm heading down to Delaware, aka the motherland, for a couple days to get turkey legs like it's Castlevania up in this bitch. And of course the family will be partaking in our annual tradition of watching Planes, Trains & Automobiles, aka the best movie ever, aka

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

For a long time I've tried to figure out whether there's some kind of formula from which my relative interest in each season of The Real World can be determined. Past pet theories have included that the more I dislike the cast, the more I'm compelled to watch. But there have been too many exceptions for that to hold as a rule, especially this season. The Philadelphia cast is both highly unlikeable and highly unwatchable. There are plenty of seasons I never saw much because I didn't have regular access to cable at the time, but Philly is pretty much the worst one I've ever watched with any regularity, and it seems like it's the worst by everyone else's standards, too. I've never gotten into Road Rules or any of the RW/RR challenges, but the current Battle of the Sexes has sucked me in a little, mainly because it's a head-on collision of some of the most unlikeable cast members ever. And I'm all for a strong woman and all, but most of the girls on there are just psycho hosebeasts. When I do find myself watching it, it's usually just to take some pleasure in the failure of someone I can't stand like "The Miz". Seriously, fuck the Miz. I've never watched The O.C., but I've been getting into Laguna Beach: The Real O.C., which I figure has got to be more of a guilty pleasure simply because the girls on there really are that young.

I'm kind of fascinated with how different cable networks change their focus and horn in on each other's territory. VH1 started stealing the E! channel's steez with all the Robin Leach-style celeb lifestyle obsessing, and now E!'s doing a bunch of VH1 style list shows, except they can't afford to show the footage from all the movie moments and stuff they're always talking about, and their talking heads are even worse than the ones VH1's got. They've even brought back Talk Soup, now as just The Soup, with a more general pop culture focus, clearly trying to keep up with Best Week Ever. It's kind of amazing how Soup still has the same style of humor and writing that it did all those years ago through all those different hosts. And even though it's not top notch, it's still way funnier than the shit the C-list goons on BWE pull out of their asses. E!'s got the last laugh on Comedy Central, though, getting all those SNL reruns while CC is stuck with fucking Mad TV. To quote Rjyan Kidwell: "Mad TV on cable 2-3x a day makes me believe in a hell."

Also, I'll go on the record as not getting Arrested Development. Of all the "smart" shows that people always root for to win Emmys and get a shot at more than one season to find an audience, why did this have to be the one to actually accomplish that?


More redundant content from Gov't Names that I want to spotlight here: we're conducting a year end poll, open to the public, rap (and R&B) albums/singles only, please. I realize it's a little early but the voting will be open for about 3 weeks, so take your time with the decision if you need to. The 4th quarter is popping off like crazy right now, I just copped 2 albums in the past week that are shooting way up high on my list, and I'm still waiting on a couple with potential to make room for at the last minute.

BTW, shoutouts again to Matt for hanging out while he was in town over the weekend. I only showed him around Baltimore a little, dinner at the Paper Moon and CD shopping at the Sound Garden, but he got to walk on the cobblestone streets in Fells Point and see some of the old Homicide: Life On The Street shooting locations, so he got a taste of the city. We talked a lot of music shit and ILM/blogger dirt, and I learned how to pronounce Cibula (sounding it out in my head I always put the emphasis on the first syllable, apparently it's the 2nd). Dude is good people. Hopefully next time I'm in Wisconsin visiting my brother I can swing by and say hi.

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Sunday, November 21, 2004

At one of my 2 jobs, the radio is on pretty much constantly, and the usual default station is classic rock, (which I have no problem with; classic rock is probably my 2nd favorite format, after hip hop/R&B). Lately, though, the people I work with have been switching over to the "mix" station, which as far as I can tell can be aptly described as Top 40 minus most rap and country (notably, the exception to both rules is the Nelly/Tim McGraw song). This is mostly the kind of stuff I'm only ever exposed to otherwise when I'm channel surfing on VH1 (and I apologize in advance for repeatedly invoking Video Hits One, but it would be difficult to talk about this music without referring to it). Here are some of the things I think about when I'm forced to hear these songs twice an hour for a whole shift:

Bowling For Soup - "1985"
After being propelled out of obscurity by an unexpected Grammy nomination, these guys seem to be using that attention as a springboard to become this year's Barenaked Ladies (I might say this year's Fountains Of Wayne, but FOW managed the unlikely hat trick of VH1 saturation without losing critical darling status). I think what bothers me most about this song is how far off the mark most of their references are. Most of the artists they mention did peak in the mid 80's, but 3 of the 4 acts referred to as being "way before Nirvana" in the chorus -- Springsteen, Madonna and U2 -- have all remained plenty popular since the 80's (the other one is Blondie). And when are people going to stop using Limp Bizkit as shorthand for 'what the kids are listening to today' -- they peaked in popularity 5 fucking years ago!

Gavin Degraw - "I Don't Wanna Be"
There was something very disheartening about seeing this video creep from VH1 rotation onto MTV's playlist lately. MTV should be playing their own kind of crap and leave their sister station to make its own mistakes. The riff on the verses reminds me of STP's "Vaseline", but the lyrics are so awful it almost makes me yearn for Weiland.

Goo Goo Dolls - "Give A Little Bit"
The only thing sadder than that weird career purgatory where a band has to cover something from the 70's to get a hit is when they do same while also cashing in on their involvement in a Gap ad campaign from 3 Christases ago. Between this and the "Crime of the Century" sample in the current Fabolous single, there's kind of a secret Supertramp revival happening on the charts right now.

Kelly Clarkson - "Breakaway"
My friend Jeffy made up a rumor that the reason Kelly Clarkson always wears turtlenecks and scarves is to cover up her Adam's apple. I think she kinda cute, though, and in the realm of post-Whitney oversinging white girls, she's more restrained and less skeevy than Xtina or Mariah. I like this song ok, it kinda reminds me of "I'm With You", which I used to regard as the weak link in Avril's initial chain of hits, but has grown on me over time.

John Mayer - "Daughters"
If I had a Pazz & Jop ballot I'd form a voting bloc with Anthony to rally around "Clarity", which has been otherwise sadly slept on. This is pretty good, too. I love how it's got like the most gentle and good-natured way of basically saying "man I'm sick of all these girls with daddy issues".

that purple punch

Saturday, November 20, 2004

As a music fan, I've never really had a collector mentality, I don't really care if a record's rare if it doesn't have any value to me personally. Apparently I have that kind of mentality with soft drinks, though. Anytime there's a new soda out in a limited edition or being test marketed, I'm all ready to try that shit. I was hip to Sierra Mist pretty early on when it was being test marketed on my campus before anyone really knew about it, and it has long since been my lemon-lime soda of choice.

And lately I'm all about Mountain Dew's new "Pitch Black" black grape flavor, which has been on my campus for a minute and I'm starting to see else where. A couple weeks ago, I was in a Royal Farms that was selling 2 liters of it for cheap, so I grabbed a couple and have been nursing those. According to this article, the "limited edition" was only through Halloween, although it'll probably be back in stores permanently in a few months. I never really gotten into MD Live Wire, and I liked Code Red for a while but I've been off it for the past couple months. I like this Pitch Black stuff, though. The taste doesn't resemble any other grape soda, let alone any actual natural grape flavor. The weirdest thing I've noticed about it since I got the 2 liters is that when you pour it in a glass with ice, the froth is purple with weird little splotches of blue. And PoopReport.com (a site which I'm both horrified and delighted by the existence of) recently conducted an informal experiment to see if drinking Pitch Black in large amounts turns your poo green.

Of course, there's another 'limited edition' soda out there right now, Pepsi Holiday Spice. I really don't understand what the idea with that is, and the packaging and advertising is extremely vague about what kind of "spice" is in it. It pretty much tastes like regular Pepsi, with maybe a touch of Dr. Pepper in it, and the color of it has a red tint to it.


Friday, November 19, 2004
This weekend hopefully I'll get to hang out with Mr. Cibula while he's passing through Baltimore. If I wasn't doing that, though, I'd probably be in D.C. tomorrow night checking out this, "an evening of conversation with New Yorker music critic Alex Ross and Sonic Youth". I have no idea what that all is exactly about, but I'd probably find it interesting.


Thursday, November 18, 2004
After Tom B.'s post a few weeks ago about David Foster Wallace's latest short story collection, Oblivion, we got to talking about DFW and found that we share a preference for his non-fiction over his fiction. I appreciate what he's trying to do with the short story form, at the very least it's a hell of a lot better than Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, but it still comes off as a bit forced and not nearly as enjoyable to read as the essays and journalism in A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. I've been taking a lot of essay-type classes the last few semesters, and DFW's non-fiction has been an indespensible well of inspiration for me, I love to just soak up the tone of his writerly voice and hopefully internalize some of those qualities without biting him too hard. His reputation is all wrapped up in the ridiculous vocabulary and the constant rattling off of minutiae and factoids, but if all people get from him is a showoff-y collegiate smartypants, then they're really missing out. The guy has the most perfect pitch of the intellectual mixed with the uncondescendingly colloquial, a dry wit with occasional splashes of slapstick. I mean, shit, he's like Rakim to me.

So the good news is that DFW's next book is reportedly going to be another non-fiction collection. Judging from the individual pieces that have been published so far, it has a lot of potential. "Tense Present", which appeared in Harper's a few years ago, was essentially a review of a dictionary, but so much better than that description probably lets on. Tom and I turned out to have copies of a couple pieces that each other hadn't read, so last week when we met up at a show we traded. I gave him the August 2004 issue of Gourmet magazine, which featured "Consider The Lobster", DFW's piece about the Maine Lobster Festival. It's very much in the style of the Supposedly Fun essays about state fairs and luxury cruises and almost as good. But then somewhere along the line he derails itwith a bunch of hand-wringing about the moral implications of boiling a lobster alive. As in, supposing that it's somehow different or worse than all the other ways we weat and kill animals. And a couple months ago, Salon ran an interview with a guy who wrote a book about lobsters and basically refutes everything DFW says in "Consider The Lobster" and accuses him of just regurgitating a bunch of PETA propaganda.

And what I borrowed from Tom is DFW's John McCain profile from the primary campaign trail in 2000. It ran in Rolling Stone as "Up, Simba!", but in the version in The Best American Magazing Writing 2001, which is what Tom gave me, it's re-titled "The Weasel, Twelve Monkeys and the Shrub". I missed out on it when it originally ran, and it's nice to finally see it, especially now. It really brought back to mind, buried beneath the past 4, almost 5 years, was just how heartbreaking McCain's defeat to Bush was, in a way moreso than even Gore's or Kerry's defeats to Bush, or Dean's defeat to Kerry. McCain's was maybe the hardest loss to take because even then it was clear that Bush was bad news, although we had no idea just how much at the time, and that was the first stinging realization that not everyone saw it so clearly, not even the majority of the voting public. And every Bush victory since then has had the painful ring of the familiar. I don't know if this is all just the naive reaction of a young voter to the first taste of disappointment, but it feels like more than that.

BTW, Tom, have you read the other Rolling Stone piece in that collection, "In the Jungle" by Rian Malan? If not, when I give it back to you, check it out, I remember reading it at the time back when it originally ran in RS. It's a really amazing investigative report about the complicated origins of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight".


Wednesday, November 17, 2004
I don't usually bother posting links to individual posts I do over on my team rap blog, Government Names, because there's a link over on the side of the page all the time anyway, and I figure most people that read this one know that one, too. But I'll just put in a mention here for the post I just put up, an interview with Comp, the 18-year-old MC from Baltimore who's signed to Def Jam. It was real big for me to meet and talk with the biggest hope for my city's hip hop scene, and he turned out to be a really nice dude and I'm happy with how the interview turned out.

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Monday, November 15, 2004
This is kind of funny, the band I was talking about that I saw last week, Karmella's Game -- there was something naggingly familiar about their singer, but I figured it was just that she was the kind of girl that I've known a few of over the years. And when I looked up stuff about them online and saw what her name is, nothing rang any bells. But then, like 5 days later, literally while I was laying in bed trying to get to sleep, it suddenly occurred to me that she has the same name as the best friend of a girl who lived on my floor sophomore year that I was friends with but haven't been in touch with in a long while. I met her friend maybe twice and this was at least 3 years ago, so I'm not surprised that it took me that long to connect the dots and recognize her, but it was still kind of a funny, random realization. It's a small world. At least in Baltimore it is.

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there's a band onstage tonight and every note they play turns its back to you

Saturday, November 13, 2004
So the show at the Talking Head on Tuesday was pretty good, better than I expected, in fact. I chatted with Tom Breihan between bands and he was in agreeance with me on that (see, he said so on his blog). Both Travis Morrison and Beauty Pill played better than when I saw them each earlier this year. And the one band I hadn't heard of on the bill, Karmella's Game, turned out to be really enjoyable. When they first appeared onstage, all wearing matching red sweaters with shirts and ties underneath, I was prepared for the worst. Bands in uniform scare me sometimes, I think. And the two girls in the band look like they're about 15. And they play the kind of indie pop with purposefully '80's-sounding keyboards that I usually shy away from. But they were really really good, lots of energy, big big hooks, and the tiny keyboardist/singer girl had the dorky charm of, say, Ashlee Simpson with more cred. I'm definitely hoping they pop up on more local bills I want to see in the future.

Aside from having a new singer/keyboardist, Beauty Pill played pretty much the same set I saw them do 6 months ago (at least from what I could tell, I walked in after they'd already started). But they've definitely improved as a live band, they never really rock hard but they get amped up sufficiently when the occasion calls for it. Songs that, for me, fall kinda flat on record, like "The Western Prayer" and "Goodnight For Real", turn out to be highlights live. And I was happy that they played "You, Yes You" without incident this time, because that's one of my favorites, and back in April opening for Q And Not U at the Ottobar, the first few lines of the song ("you remind me of the Jackson 5/back when Michael Jackson was still alive/skyscraping afro in the bloom of youth" etc.) prompted some obnoxious audience member to shout "Michael Jackson! Michael Jackson!" over and over throughout the song, which wouldn't have been so annoying if it wasn't a fairly quiet song. I mean, I know it's kind of a laugh line, but there's no need to make a big deal about it.

Travis's last show at the TH was one of his first with his new backing band, so they were still a bit shaky then, but a couple months of touring has tightened them up considerably, and I'm impressed that they're still making changes to the song arrangements. I mean, the Dismemberment Plan were one of my favorite live bands of all time, and I saw them at least a dozen times and never got tired of it, but they pretty much always played songs the same way as they are on the records. And while it doesn't flatter what he's doing now to compare it too closely to the old band, it is refreshing that Travis is tinkering with the new stuff a lot more when playing live. Since I only just finally bought Travistan this week and have only listened to it once so far, after the show, my basis of comparison was more to how the songs sounded at the previous show, and when the Plan started playing those songs a couple years ago. I still really wish I could hear the demos the Plan made of those songs. I remember they actually put up a studio quality mp3 of "Angry Angel" on their site for a few days at one point, and I'm still kicking myself for just listening to it a couple times and not saving the file. At that point I figured it was just gonna be on their next record, when there was still gonna be a next one. I'm a little surprised that there's no acknowledgement in the liner notes of the jacking of Fugazi's "Break" in "Born In '72", I vaguely remember seeing Ian Mackaye at one of the Black Cat shows where they played that song and wishing I could've seen his reaction during that part (years ago Travis used to write a column on this site called Held Like Sound which no longer exists, and he wrote a really good piece about End Hits when it first came out). Travis didn't do any covers this time, so his set was limited to songs from the album and was relatively short, but still satisfying. I wish they'd play "Sixteen Types of People", though. I think I like it better than any of the songs that are actually on the album (and you can download it from his site).

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Friday, November 12, 2004
These are the songs that my band (Zuul) covered at our last 2 shows:

Tomoyasu Hotei - "Battle Without Honor Or Humanity"
Since our show 2 Fridays ago was Halloween weekend, we all wore costumes onstage (actually we wear costumes onstage all the time). Our singer wanted to be The Bride from Kill Bill, he had the yellow jumpsuit and a blonde wig and everything, so the rest of us wore suits and Zorro masks so that we were Crazy 88's. We tried to learn 2 or 3 different songs from the KB soundtrack but this was the only one that stuck and we opened our set with it. It was also used in one of the Team America trailers. I think it really helps give even the non-animated parts of KB Vol. 1 an anime feel, it totally reminds me of the music in what little anime I've ever watched (mostly Lupin The 3rd). I think it actually got more recognition and audience reaction when we played it at the other show without the costumes.

Enrique Iglesias f/ Kelis - "Not In Love" (remix)
Apparently this was a single off his last album and there was a video and everything, but I'd never heard of it until our singer played it for us. It's not Neptunes, although it kinda sounds like "Like I Love You", same kinda start/stop acoustic strum. The Kelis verse is maybe the hottest she's ever sounded. We've done plenty of weird covers but usually we make them all fast and heavy but we play this one pretty straight. It sounds totally fucked up in the middle of our set. But the other guys all wimped out at the last minute and pulled it out of the setlist. But then we ended up playing it for our soundcheck (with most of the audience in the room already), which was really awkward and not nearly as fun out of the context of the set.

Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind - "The Shining (Main Title)"
More soundtrack fun! This is the music that plays over the opening credits of the Kubrick flick. Long spooky whole notes, but of course we sludge it up and make it super heavy. They've been playing it since way before I was in the band, we open sets with it a lot.

Nerf Herder - "Buffy The Vampire Slayer Theme"
I've never really watched Buffy, so I didn't know this (none of these covers were my idea). But this is really fun to play, especially toward the end of a set, fast and simple and exactly 60 seconds long. Since there's nothing for our singer to do except the 4 synth notes at the beginning, he likes to yell the names of characters on the show over the song ("Buffy, Buffy, Buffy! Spike, Willow, Angel!").

We've done a lot of other weird/silly covers, like "Rebel Yell" and Christina Aguilera (both "Beautiful" and "Fighter"). I used to be really uptight about covers, I'd protest when whatever band I was playing in wanted to do any, especially silly/ironic covers, and someday when I have 'my own' band, I'll probably never do covers. But for the purposes of this band, I don't really give a fuck, I'm up for anything.


America the purple, veiny and bloated

Thursday, November 11, 2004

OK, so we've all been looking at the same fucking red/blue electoral maps for the past few weeks, but this site has some neat and super thorough breakdowns of exactly how divided different regions are politically. I love population cartograms, I think I just saw them for the first time this semester taking a geography class, the way they distort familiar shapes is so weirdly beautiful.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004
I wrote this a couple weeks ago in the back of one of my notebooks while bored sitting in class and in my car waiting for my bandmates to show up at our practice space. I wish I had gotten around to posting this earlier before Miccio and Best Week Ever weighed in on it, but oh well. There's something seriously wrong with my priorities that I can crank this kind of thing out but get writer's block when it's time to do stuff for school. If I had balls I'd submit this for my essay course.

748 words on the new Shania Twain single

Shania Twain's last studio album, 2002's Up!, confronted the uneasy alliance between pop and country that she epitomises by releasing it a double format 2CD set, with the same set of songs presented in two different mixes: a "Green" (country) disc, and a "Red" (pop) disc1. For the new single off of her new Greatest Hits album2, she's taken the Red/Green concept a step further by simultaneously releasing 2 versions of the duet "Party For Two" with 2 different duet partners. The pop version features Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath3, and the country version features the relatively obscure Billy Currington. I heard the Currington version first and thought it sounded pop enough and that the only different between the versions would be the co-vocalist, but Shania's career proves, if nothing else, that there's no such thing as too pop, and the McGrath version takes it further with a pumping dance beat.

The lyrics are full of Twain/Lange's trademark flirty, thinly-veiled innuendo, including a spoken intro and everything. The couplet "it doesn't matter what you wear/'cause it's only gonna be you and me there", which is followed by a spirited "WOO!", distinctly (intentionally?) recalls "Dancing In The Street", which is appropriate considering that "Party For Two" is perhaps one of the most stilted, unenjoyable pop duets since the Jagger/Bowie version of "Dancing In The Street". The song/videos conclude with Twain saying, with the most horrifyingly unconvincing mock post-coital tone, "that was grrrreat", and her duet partner mugging to the camera and saying "let's do it again!", punctuated by a big banging two-note musical finale. Don't get me wrong, Shania4 is fine and all, but if there was such a thing as a reverse boner that's what "Party For Two" would give me.

1 Someone on ILM had the brilliant idea to lay the Red and Green mixes of Up! on top of each other, resulting in the "Brown" mixes, some of which were just amazing (especially the "Nah!" remix, which had the two vocal lines start at different points, resulting in a wonderful disorienting row-row-row-your-boat effect). The original thread is

2 It's kind of amazing that Shania is just now releasing her first Greatest Hits album, considering the regularity with which most modern country stars pump out GH's - Brooks & Dunn and Toby Keith are each just now releasing their respective 2nd best-of's, and neither of them have been around much longer than Shania.

3 Mark McGrath is kind of fascinating to me, for being so synonymous with the late 90's alterna-rock sellout era that he's got this weird kind of anti-cred going for him. He earned the grudging respect of many rockist nerds who otherwise despised him by cleaning up on Rock'n'Roll Jeopardy, and showing that he's one of them (us), although let's face it, the questions (er, answers) on that show weren't that hard, I think the average rock fan could kick ass on there. And ever since then, I've noticed McGrath being more and more eager to show off his music trivia knowledge at every opportunity, mostly VH1 list shows. It was kind of endearingly pathetic on I Love The 80's when he made a big show of knowing the names of the members of the Pretenders besides Chrissie Hynde but messed up and eagerly blurted out "James Honeyman" instead of James Honeyman-Scott. Recently, I saw a piece on some entertainment news magazine show (either Extra or Access Hollywood) about how McGrath is the new co-host of another entertainment news magazine show (again, either Extra or Access Hollywood, whichever one it wasn't the first time), and he said something about his new job like "it's like an old Replacements record, there's a lot of mistakes but at the end of the day it comes out pretty well". It was the most awkward rock geek pandering I've ever seen. I'm not hating on the dude, though. I didn't care for "Fly" when it was inescapable in the summer of '97, but every subsequent Sugar Ray hit (or at least every subsequent "Fly"-style beatbox/acoustic guitar SR single) has been better than the last. "When It's Over" is my jam.

4 Shania Twain is the only person involved in the movie I [Heart] Huckabees who I have seen publicly refer to it as "I Love Huckabees", which I think makes me like her more.


Monday, November 08, 2004

Perry Bible Fellowship is killing it. It's been running weekly in the Baltimore City Paper since it won CP's annual comics contest last year, but I keep forgetting to check for it, probably because I don't like any of the other comic strips in CP (and absolutely hate This Modern World - but then, I can barely stand any political cartoonist besides Trudeau). But over the weekend, my brother Zac, who's been living in Wisconsin for the past year, was out here visiting, and he saw the above strip in last week's issue of CP and we pretty much could not stop laughing at it for a couple days. Check the archives I linked above for more. PBF is not always consistently funny, in fact sometimes it's almost nonsensical, but there are serious moments of genius, and there's been a marked improvement in the drawing over the past year.

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Friday, November 05, 2004
Even though I just saw Travis Morrison there a couple months ago (which I believe was his first show with his new backing band, or at least the first official club show), I'm looking forward to seeing him again at the Talking Head next week mainly because it'll be a chance for me to finally pick up a copy of his album. I've looked in a couple stores that I thought would be sure to have it, with no success (and I'm kind of a luddite in that I still regard ordering music online as a last resort if there's a chance I can find it in a record store). Is it possible that the indie backlash against Travistan is so severe that even stores that stock other Barsuk releases and every Dismemberment Plan album aren't bothering with it? Or do I just keep looking in the Sound Garden when they don't happen to have any copies out? In any event, I'm looking forward to finally getting the record proper after all the teaser MP3's and hearing the songs in different live incarnations at the solo show and in the Plan's sets in the months before they decided to break up (I doubt the Travis version of "Angry Angel" will be able to touch the Plan version, which had a georgeous bassline). Plus, Miccio's review was a really articulate voice of dissent to the general reactions to the record, and much of what he wrote rang true enough for me that I'm thinking I'll like the same things about it.

Plus, Beauty Pill is also on the bill, which is added incentive for me to go to the show. When their first full-length, The Unsustainable Lifestyle dropped a few months ago, it was pretty underwhelming, especially after the long wait, 3 years since their first EP (with another EP in between), and almost 7 years since the last album by Chad Clark's previous band, Smart Went Crazy. But, while still a disappointment overall, Lifestyle has become a good go-to record for late nights when I want something that isn't too loud but isn't too sleepy. I think Clark's lyrics are a bit too self-consciously 'clever' sometimes, but when he actually manages to express some righteous anger and outrage, as opposed to just cynicism, as on "Terrible Things" and "Won't You Be Mine?" (which is a deceptively silly and cheerful-sounding diatribe about racism punctuated with samples of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood), that's when the record really engages me. And BP now have a new co-lead singer (their 3rd in as many years), so I'm looking forward to checking out the new lineup, which will hopefully get them back on the track of the promising early EP's, or possibly a different direction entirely.

(Breihan, are you gonna be there? Get at me, maybe we can trade those articles we were reccomending to each other a while back.)

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Thursday, November 04, 2004
On Friday CMT aired their "Outlaws" concert special, which featured the extremely ILM/blogosphere-friendly lineup of Big & Rich, Gretchen Wilson and Montgomery Gentry, in addition to Hank II presiding over the affairs. It's kind of interesting how new-school their definition of "outlaw" is; even Bocephus as elder statesman is kind of a strech. I mean, sure, Waylon and Cash aren't around anymore, but they could've at least gotten Willie in there, he always seems to be up for that kind of thing (maybe Willie did pop up for a guest spot, I didn't see the whole thing, but they did use his version of "Midnight Rider" in one of the ads).

And Kid Rock of course had to be there to run around and wave his country flag a little more. It's funny how accomodating the Nashville community is of any mid-level rockers who want to be join the club; all he has to do is say "Johnny Cash" in the chorus of a single and do a country ballad with Sheryl Crowe and he's in, they treat him like royalty. The best part of his set was a slowed down, countrified cover of "Fat Bottomed Girls", which was a pretty inspired choice. I always thought the multi-Freddie harmonies on the chorus had a touch of twang (and I was a little disappointed that Juelz Santana's recent "Fat Bottom" only saw fit to sample the guitar riff from the verses of the original; those a cappella "ahhhh"'s are really begging to be chopped up over a Dipset track).

I'm still a little mystified by the Big & Rich hype that started on ILM and seemed to blossom into a critical darling from that almost independent of the album's sales boom. Granted, I actually take a little credit for that (I was the first person to post about "Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy)" on ILM, although Chuck Eddy had posted a bit about B&R prior to that). Maybe I'm just conservative or stingy about checking out albums, especially based on the strength of one big single, but I haven't given their record a chance for the same reason I didn't cop the Terror Squad LP. But I guess not having given it a listen isn't really grounds to criticize. And I'm not very down with Gretchen, even on a singles level. I don't think her voice/presence really sells the lyrics, especially her timid, holding but barely strumming a guitar on "Redneck Woman", which just reminds me of Avril Lavigne playing up the whole guitar playing thing. But I was a bit impressed by the Outlaw concert performance of "Here For The Party", which came off a lot stronger than the one in the video.

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Monday, November 01, 2004
It's annoying how weeks can go by with no shows or anything like that that I really wanna go to, and then suddenly there'll be too many things overlapping in a single weekend to do them all. This past weekend was one of those, and I had to miss out because of my band's show and other personal commitments. Lewis Black performed at the Towson Center on my school's campus, and since I work for Towson's events department, I had to set up the stage and seating for the event, but wasn't able to actual go see him that night. I saw him once before at the Baltimore Improv a year or two back, but it would've been really great to see him froth at the mouth less than a week before the election, his material practically writes itself these days.

On Saturday there was a good bill at the Ottobar that I had to miss out on. Two bands that I'm up for seeing anytime (Skeleton Key and Mike Watt), plus another (Rasputina) that a friend from work was hyped to see and I wanted to go and hang out with. I'm not too broken up about it, though, just because they both tour constantly anyway. And now that Watt's new album, The Secondman's Middle Stand is finally out, after years of talking about it (I interviewed him 4 years ago and we discussed it in detail) and touring the material, it's kinda underwhelming. And I say that as someone who *loves* Contemplating The Engine Room, so I have no problem with Watt's grumbly spiels or his 'punk rock opera' concepts. But where Engine Room had some of Nels Cline's best work ever and heartfelt tributes to Watt's father and fallen bandmate D. Boon, Middle Stand has a B3 organ (which sounded great on the last couple tours when they covered "Little Johnny Jewel" but not so much on the originals) and parallels between Dante's Inferno and Watt's near-fatal illness that are so faithful to the experience that inspired it that it's pretty unpleasant to listen to at times. "The Angel's Gate" is pretty intense, though.

Skeleton Key, on the other hand, had one awesome under the radar major label album, Fantastic Spikes Through Balloons back in 1997, then broke up, and then about 3 years ago one of the founding members, Erik Sanko, bought out the other guys for the use of the name and re-formed the band with a completely different lineup. I've seen the new incarnation of Skeleton Key a couple times and they're alright, but it's kind of a bittersweet consolation for not having caught the original lineup. Recently, the official SK website had a bunch of mp3's up of a bunch of cool remixes of Fantastic-era songs by people like Christian Marclay, Foetus, Sparklehorse and the Automator, and one of my main motivations for writing this post was to link that, but just now when I looked the MP3's are gone. Dammit. Hopefully that collection of remixes will pop up in some form, legit or otherwise, sometime soon.

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