Last night I saw my friends' newish band Communist Bakesale for the 2nd time. I'd been to the Mojo before, but not at quite this time of year, so I wasn't expecting it to be as cold as it was in there. They appear to have zero heat or insulation, and everytime someone went in or out the front door a huge gust of cold air would come in. And even with my coat and hat on I was still cold in there, and I found it very hard to concentrate on the music when my feet were so cold that my toes were numb. They did a good cover of "Life During Wartime", though.
Labels: Government Names
I really wish I could find an image online of the back cover of this album, which features a picture of Prince naked (or at least shirtless) and riding a winged horse. Do people know how good this album is? I'm really not sure. It's hard to describe anything Prince did before say, '89 or '92 as underrated. But as far as Prince's first 4 albums, even though it was his biggest selling album at the time and had his biggest pre-1999/megastardom hit, "I Wanna Be Your Lover" (#1 on the R&B chart, #11 pop), it feels really slept on, critically at least, forever in the shadow of Dirty Mind and Controversy, which are themselves in the shadow of the rest of his 80's catalog. But if I had to choose between Dirty Mind and Prince, there'd be no competition really.
Dirty Mind introduced Prince as he's best known: the sexually confrontational lyrics, the LinnDrum rhythms, the almost clausterphobically spare arrangements, the beginning of his status as a critical favorite. Prince is relatively free of his defining eccentricities; he still knows how to spell "you", and the most sexually explicit he gets is when he pauses for a beat to suggest the double meaning of "I wanna be the one that makes you come...running!". DM has a few good songs, but to me it's always sounded flat and tentative compared to later albums, while Prince is fully realized in its own way, even if it’s not in itself a full realization of the genius he would later reveal. At the time, for all anyone knew he was just another kid with a falsetto riding the wave of disco. The arrangements aren't particularly daring; there's some synth swooshes, but it's otherwise mostly traditional piano and guitar sounds over live drums. Even "Soft And Wet", the previous single from his debut album, more closely resembles his later work more than anything on Prince. Which is not to say that nothing here foreshadows his later, bolder records. "Sexy Dancer" and "Bambi" introduce what would become 2 of his favorite song archetypes: the sweaty minimalist funk workout, and and the pop metal jam full of wailing solos.
My shit, though, is "Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?", which has even better solos, and a tremendous chorus. I had heard plenty of Prince songs before, but that's the one that hooked me, when my friend Mat played it for me when we were hanging out at a friend's place in New York for the weekend, and pointed out that little 2 note keyboard hook that pops up in the 2nd verse, and told me about how when he played it on American Bandstand, he did this little move in time with the riff where his hands and knees moved in opposite directions. Against conventional wisdom, I made this the first Prince album I ever heard, and I suddenly wondered why I'd been ignoring this guy's music for the first 18 years of my life.
Besides my favorite songs, Prince is rounded out nicely by "Feel For You", which was a hit for Chaka Khan in 1984, and of course "I Wanna Be Your Lover". The album's greatest weakness is the dominance of ballads, which account for 4 of the last 6 tracks on the album. But even among those, only half of them don't really work. "Still Waiting" is a bit too saccharine, and the schmaltzy, dragging "With You" feels esepcially lightweight directly following the hypnotic "When We're Dancing Close and Slow", which drifts along on acoustic finger picking and gorgeous tinkling pianos. But they perhaps all pale to the fantastic album closing power ballad "It's Gonna Be Lonely", which rides out the last chorus so many times and pulls so many stops -- that parts where everything but the vocals drop out and he hits those high notes, "it's gonna bee-hee-hee!" -- that you never want it to end, which is exactly what the last track on an album should do.
1. "Another Lonely Christmas"
2. "Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?"
3. "When You Were Mine"
4. "I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man" (single edit)
5. "Honky Tonk Woman"
6. "Starfish & Coffee"
7. "Nothing Compares 2 U" (live)
9. "The Cross"
12. "Feel You Up"
1. "Raspberry Beret"
2. "Erotic City"
3. "I Would Die 4 U"
4. "Scarlet Pussy"
6. "Little Red Corvette"
7. "I Feel For You"
8. "She's Always In My Hair"
9. "Irresistible Bitch"
10. "Purple Rain"
11. "Bustin' Loose" (live)
There's some fairly obscure stuff from Mat's vault of bootlegs in there in addition to the hits, like the awesome Stones cover and the live Chuck Brown cover, and side 1 ends with a clip of the audio from Prince's famously awkward interview with Dick Clark on American Bandstand in '79. Mat's birthday was a couple weeks ago, and since he's already read several Prince books, I got him Matos's Sign O' The Times book, and got a copy for myself too, since I've been meaning to pick it up since it came out.
- there's a recurring set piece in Ashanti's "Only You" video where she's inside this clear hard-shelled coccoon thing, and I swear it looks just like the thing Derek Smalls gets stuck inside in that one scene in Spinal Tap
- maybe I shouldn't be shooting my mouth of since I haven't even seen any of his recent flicks, but what's up with Paul Giamatti suddenly being an indie film critical darling? remember when he was a poor man's Joey Slotnick? remember Big Mama's House? remember Pig Vomit? or is that the whole angle here, that it's the cinderella story of a former hack? because if that's the case, the other guy in Sideways was on Ned & Stacy and fucking Wings. dude was Lowell Mather! that's redemption. tell Antonio Scarpacci to watch his back.
- is that Ciara in the photos Nelly keeps looking at in the "Over and Over" video?
- not to get all hollertronix blendizzle on you, but that high note with the weird effects on it that Mariah does at the end of the Jadakiss song is a dead ringer for the sound at the end of the title track from Kid A, no joke
- the first I Love The 90's was kinda disappointing, but I gotta say, Part Deux is really delivering
- I thought Gwen Stefani was looking aight and not too scary unhealthy skinny in her last video, but in "Rich Girl" she's got the creepiest nastiest stick figure ever. and man, the song isn't a patch on the Louchie Lou version
- key difference between the video and radio/album versions of Ja/Joe/Jada "New York": in the video, the drums drop out for the last chorus and they each take turns saying a line each and then say "and this is how we do" in unison, and on the radio version, the beat doesn't drop out and Ja does the last chorus alone. I think I like the radio version better, them saying that shit in unison sounds really goofy and doesn't fit the song at all.
- I was watching some dipshit on the E! channel interview Ice Cube about his horrible looking new movie, and during the segment the guy referred to Westside Connection as "the Terror Squad" multiple times, including once right to Cube's face, and Cube didn't even correct him. I guess the guy got confused because their album was called Terrorist Threats, but still, it was a hilariously uncomfortable moment
I missed the first handful of bands, but the ILM thread contains a pretty complete recap of the show. Mirror/Dash (Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, respectively, a la their pseudonyms going all the way back to the Sister liner notes) were the 2nd or 3rd band that played after I got there, and their set was short and kind of underwhelming. Kim played an electric guitar, and Thurston had an acoustic and just kind of made a nice feedback hum with it. Kim strummed some nice sounding stuff and did her weird repetitive mumbly poetry style, mostly saying "hey cowboy, what's your name?" and "hey cowboy, what's your game?" over and over. I kept waiting for Thurston to reply "I'm hunting for little Mexican girls". But after a while, Kim let loose and did some wild feedback and flailing around, which was kind of cool to see since at Sonic Youth shows she usually is the first to stand off to the side or leave the stage while Thurston and Lee go off on noise tangents. Actually, it kind of looked like she was doing an impression of Thurston.
After that was Nautical Almanac, who are from Baltimore, and I've seen a couple of those people participate in High Zero shows before. They kind of epitomized the very enthusiastic and cheerful approach to avant noise that dominated the whole night. In between sets a couple times there was this weird pair of DJs wearing shapeless elephant man-style cloth masks with eye holes and making really brutal noise by distorting old vinyl and Led Zep riffs. One of my favorite sets of the night was by a drums/sax duo, Chris Corsano and Paul Flaherty. They didn't really do anything out of the ordinary for a skronky improv noise combo, but they were really good at what they did, especially the drumming. Something I've realized is that while I'll always prefer structure over chaos in music, I can get with chaos too if it's intense enough to hold my attention. I don't have a lot of time for the minimalist stuff, but if you make a lot of noise and get in a ton of notes, it can be fun to listen to even if I can't tap my foot or hum to it. Plus they were pretty much the only act of the night that didn't make noise with any electric/electronic instruments, so they were kind of refreshing in that context. They got such a strong response from the audience they actually kind of came back for an encore. Magik Markers were alright. It was during their set that it occurred to me that almost every single I saw that night included at least one fairly attractive woman. So much for the noise dude stereotype!
The evening climaxed with the last band, To Live And Shave In L.A. I wasn't really familiar with them before, and I'm still not sure what their deal was, but their lineup, for this show at least, was: Don Fleming, Thurston Moore, Andrew W.K., Tom Smith, Ben Wolcott, Mark Morgan and a guy who goes by the name of Rat Bastard. Rat Bastard was the MC of the evening, introducing and talking between bands, sometimes just drunkenly rambling for several minutes at a time, and he kind of talked like and resembled a Darrell Hammond character from SNL. At one point, something vaguely beat-driven was being played on the PA, and he got off on a long rant about how industrial music is dead, and that DC needs to sever its connections with "mid 80s industrial shit" because "Al Jourgensen is a Miami Cuban, and he's a pussy", and that they should play Can or the Silver Apples instead. Whoever was in control of the sound responded to this by playing the Monkees.
Oh yeah, so anyway, To Live And Shave In L.A. They were awesome. 7 mostly 40ish-looking guys, making the most extreme, sloppy, punishingly loud noise: 3 of them on guitar, one hollering incomprehensible syllables in a strange oafish voice, 2 making sounds by pressing buttons on metal boxes, and one on drums (Andrew W.K., who at one point tried to get people to clap along in time to his thumping, tribal beats, but it never caught on). Almost every other band played for 15-20 minutes at most, but TLASILA played for something in the neighborhood of an hour. I was so close to the speakers that it became kind of an endurance test, but it remained pretty entertaining throughout. At the end of their set, Thurston grabbed a mic and started yelling about how it was time to fight and started asking various members of the audience directly in front of the stage, "hey beard, are you ready to fight?" and handing them the mic to reply. "Hey flannel, are you ready to fight? You, little beard, are you ready to fight?"
Now that the dust has finally settled on my birthday and the holidays and I've gotten around to visiting both my parents and stuff (actually, today's my mom's birthday, happy birthday mom!), a recap of all the cool shit I got for Xmas and my birthday:
My brother Zac gets the spirit award for the totally unexpected Game Cube. I mean, even as a platform that's been out for a while and marked down a few times, that's pretty damn generous. And I'm not really much of a gamer at all, but MarioKart, which was packaged with it, is one of the maybe half-dozen video games ever that I flat out love. Plus he threw in a couple old anthologes, including one of all the classic Megaman games, which is another one that I can play for hours. And my girlfriend J.G. got me one of those little joysticks you can plug into the TV that has the game right in it, for Ms. Pac-Man, which is another favorite (I spent about an hour a day last summer playing Ms. P-M on Game Boy until my thumbs hurt, it's so nice to have a joystick). What I really like about it, though, is that there are 3 or 4 other Namco games on it. The Pole Position on it totally sucks and is practically unplayable, but I've become obsessed with this weird game called Mappy. I must've played it for hours last night while avoiding studying for my final exam (I just finished taking 3-week winter minimester course, those things are intense). I can finally kill time with stuff other than the internet!
I also got some DVDs, none of which I've watched yet: the Star Wars trilogy (not a huge fan but I found the recent TV specials about it entertaining enough that I'm looking forward to the bonus disc more than anything else), Planes, Trains and Automobiles (!), Dodgeball (haven't seen it yet), and the first season of Boy Meets World (I'm really excited about that one...best show ever, seriously). We did a 'secret santa' thing at one of my workplaces, and my manager who got my name gave me that White Stripes live DVD, which was kind of lame, because I work late shifts with that guy and talk music with him all the time, and have never had a kind word for the White Stripes. I mean, there's tons of classic rock stuff that he'd be more familiar with that I'm down with, but he got me a generic "what the kids are listening to" thing. I wouldn't badmouth his gift if not for the fact that he was totally rude and ungrateful about what someone else gave him, so I felt no guilt about returning it for store credit, although I felt a little better about it when he said it was ok if I wanted to take it back, long after I actually had.
Another big surprise was J.G. and her family giving me a George Foreman grill. I've been coveting those things forever. I cook all the time but almost never meat. I can finally make burgers! And my mom gave me a Tripoley board, which is something else I've been wanting for a while. Card games are very big in my family, especially around the holidays, and I find Tripoley about a hundred times as fun and engaging as any plain ol' poker game.
Also, got a lot of the requisite sweaters and socks. It probably holds true for most people (males?) my age that 90% of my wardrobe is acquired during the holidays. Oh, and my dad gave me a leather jacket, which I was really skeptical about because I've never been a leather jacket guy, but I really like the cut of it, it's pretty much perfect: not too short like those bad waistlength ones, and not too long like a trenchcoat or anything. I probably still don't look right in it, though, I don't dress cool enough (at least as far as the definition of cool that involved leather jackets), last year was the first time I've owned a pair of jeans in probably about 10 years. I'm probably forgetting a lot of other coool shit I got but that's only because I've been so busy that I haven't had a chance to enjoy most of it. I tried to give generously and thoughtfully, and in some cases I thought I did a pretty good job, but I was pretty hindered by the fact that I didn't have enough money to do proper Christmas shopping until I got paid on December 22nd, and did probably 50% of my gift shopping in the space of an hour (thank you, Best Buy).
Comp - My Thoughts (Chocolate City/Def Jam)
The first Baltimore MC to be signed to a major label since one hit wonder B Rich, Comp is carrying the hopes and dreams of one of the most slept on cities in hip hop on its back. His talent is still somewhat unproven, but having met him, I can say that he's got charisma and a good head on his shoulders for a 19-year-old kid. Being at the bottom of a big big label's list of priorities means there's no telling when his album will finally drop, but I'll continue to chart his course on Gov't Names.
Kanye West - Late Registration (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam)
Kanye hit a home run with his first album, so there's a lot of pressure on the follow up to deliver. A lot of people are sick of him already, and he didn't bring his A game on most of his outside productions and guest verses over the past year, but I feel like that's because he has so much invested in his solo career, so I hope that means he's ready to top himself.
The Posies - TBA (Rykodisc)
Since the Posies' last album, Success, and initial attempt at breaking up in 1998, they've released a rarities box set, a best of, 2 live albums, and an EP of new material, and have staged a handful of tours. But finally the on again off again Posies are a going concern again, and they have their first full length album of new material in 7 years in the can and ready to go. I'm so much more excited about this than anyone has a right to be.
Jon Auer - Songs From The Year Of Our Demise (Pattern 25)
Although Jon and Ken Stringfellow have always made roughly equal contributions to the Posies, Ken has been much busier in the years following the band's initial run, releasing 3 solo albums while Jon's been steadily working on and delaying his first for what's felt like an eternity.
Brendan Benson - Alternative To Love (StarTime International)
This is dropping March, and based on the single "What I'm Looking For", which you can download here, and the version of the title track that appeared on the Metarie EP, this should be at least as good as Lapalco. This time around, BB's chief collaborator was Jack White instead of Jason Falkner, which means there will probably be a good amount of hype behind it (MTV News already ran a story calling BB the "New Loretta Lynn"). But considering that the first time I saw Brendan live was when he headlined at Fletchers a few weeks after opening for the White Stripes at the Recher and the place was practically empty, you never know exactly how much that connection will help him.
Peedi Crakk - TBA (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam)
Given the current state of the Roc, this is another debut that may be stuck in label limbo for a while, but Peedi's resume of guest appearances so far ensures this will be worth checking it out, even if it continues in the State Property tradition of stalling at gold.
Cex - Invisible Sidis
2004 was the first year since his career began that Cex hasn't released an album, and considering that I loved one of the albums he released in '03 (Being Ridden) and didn't consider the other (Maryland Mansions) even worth checking out based on what I heard, I'm not sure how excited I am about this. But considering that his backing band on this one is going to be Nice Nice, the band who completely upstaged him when I saw open for him in '03, I'm hopeful about the results of their collaboration.
He's got a list of some of the releases he's got coming in '05 on his website, and I'll probably buy at least half of them, especially the Thurston/Lee and Zeena Parkins collabos.
Other artists that I'm not entirely sure are putting out new albums this year but I'm hoping they will: Carla Bozulich, Grand Buffet, Two Dollar Guitar, Lake Trout, and Chris Lee. Plum Drank from Gel & Weave also put together an amazingly long list of hip hop albums dropping this year.
- graduate from college. 5 years is enough time, I need to get out of here.
- move with my girlfriend to wherever she ends up going to grad school (the schools she's applying to are in: Chicago, St. Louis, Portland, Ore., and California and Washington state)
- finish and release my solo record by the time I move this summer
- do as many shows as possible with my other band until I move, unless we implode before then, which is highly likely
- put together a new band (which will likely play the songs I'm working on for aforementioned solo record) as soon as I get settled in wherever I end up moving
- get a good ass job befitting of a college graduate
- take Gov't names to the next level, whatever that is
- get back in shape. It occurred to me recently that I now weigh the most I've ever weighed (although I was fatter at some point in my youth). Like almost everything else on this list, I'm hinging it on the whole moving thing, and am resolving to join a gym after I move.
About 6 hours ago, 99.1 WHFS, the Annapolis-based radio station that has been serving some form or another of the Modern Rock format to the Baltimore-D.C. area since before I was born, got the plug pulled on it and went Spanish. It was a long time coming; quality-wise, they went tits up along with the rest of the format in the late 90's, and my friend who until recently worked at their competitor DC101 always kept me up to date on how badly they were killing HFS in the ratings. And even though I never went to any of the famous HFS-tivals, they were definitely a big part of my youth. I remember, growing up in radio-starved lower Delaware, one of the reasons my brother and I looked forward to spending weekends with our dad in Baltimore was that we'd be able to hear what's new on HFS, which inevitably wouldn't reach radio in Delaware and MTV until weeks, if not months later. When we got to the Bay Bridge we always knew we were close enough to get a reception and made dad turn on HFS. They kind of had a reputation as the KROQ of the east coast, and it was always exciting to see what they were playing. But over the past few years it became more and more depressing to tune in, as they became this desperate, confused mix of nu-punk/pop and oldies from their late 80's/early 90's golden years. But even if only symbolically, it's a little sad to see them go.
Edit: more on 99.1 from HITS:
With moment's notice, the programming department ended the station's 20+ year legacy with some well-chosen songs: The Clash "Clampdown," R.E.M. "Gardening at Night" and, finally, Jeff Buckley's "Last Goodbye."
Labels: Baltimore music
1. Rocket From The Crypt - "Dick On A Dog"
2. Billy Idol - "Rebel Yell"
3. New Pornographers - "The Body Says No"
4. Spymob - "Half-Steering"
5. Ben Folds - "Zak and Sara"
6. Stephen Malkmus - "Jenny and the Ess-Dog"
7. Portastatic - "Bobby Jean"
8. Brendan Benson - "Metarie (demo)"
9. Bobbie Gentry - "Reunion"
10. Shania Twain - "Nah!" (Sean C Brown mix)
11. Shania Twain - "Ka-Ching!" (Sean C Brown mix)
12. Shania Twain - "Waiter! Bring Me Water!" (Sean C Brown mix)
13. Shania Twain - "Up!" (Sean C Brown mix)
1. Small Faces - "Ooh La La"
2. Neil Finn - "She Will Have Her Way"
3. Afghan Whigs - "66"
4. Mike Watt - "The 15th" (live)
5. Wire - "The 15th"
6. Talking Heads - "What A Day That Was" (live)
7. Travis Morrison - "Sixteen Types of People"
8. Ween - "Where'd The Cheese Go?" Part 1
9. Ween - "Where'd The Cheese Go?" Part 2
10. Ted Leo - "Walking Through"
11. The Strokes - "What Ever Happened?"
12. Incubus - "A Crow Left of the Murder"
13. Hank Williams - "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You)"
14. Christina Aguilera - "Beautiful"
15. Eamon - "Fuck It (I Don't Want You Back)"
Everything on there is either not commercially available or from a record I don't own and/or by artists I don't own anything by but like that particular song. I don't know where the Brendan Benson demo is from, but I got it from Jeffy (who also has a similiar weekly Tuesday mix feature, and as it happens his WTF-centered mix this week also includes Eamon), and it's not the album version or any of the lame alternate versions that are on the "Metarie" EP. Also, I like the Mike Watt version of "The 15th" so much more than the original. Back when he used to tour with a guitarist (before the current incarnation of his live band that features an organ), I saw him do it live a few times and it really is a genius transformation, with almost twangy vocal harmonies that noone else would have thought to apply to that song.
While I'm at it ("it" here meaning "linking MTV News in lieu of actual content"): even in the most tough talking moment of his entire career, Chingy is still the kind of guy who says "bullcrap".
Speaking of homeboy Miccio, he and Breihan, one of the other esteemed residents of the all-too-short link bar on the right of this text (one of my surprisingly many blog-related new year's resolutions is to update and substantially lengthen the link list), have segued from end-of-the-year listmaking directly into end-of-the-first-half-of-the-decade listmaking. I may give into peer pressure eventually, but man, I gotta breathe. Between here and Gov't Names, I made over a dozen best-of-'04 lists, many of extremely narrow categories. But it is something I wanna do, especially for singles. So maybe in a month or so.
Labels: hip hop
Hey! Today's my birthday! I'm 23! Yeah!
Labels: The Posies
1. Twista - "Get Me"
2. Bossman - "Openin' Arguments"
3. Cam'ron - "Bubble Music"
4. Cee-Lo f/ Pharrell - "The Art of Noise"
5. Trick Daddy - "I Wanna Sang"
6. Kanye West - "We Don't Care"
7. Nas - "Getting Married"
8. Talib Kweli f/ Jean Grae - "Black Girl Pain"
9. Jadakiss - "Still Feel Me"
10. T.I. - "Prayin' For Help"
11. Fabolous - "In My Hood"
1. Beauty Pill - "The Western Prayer"
2. Elvis Costello and the Imposters - "Bedlam"
3. Mike Watt and the Secondmen - "The Angels Gate"
4. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - "The Angels' Share"
5. Spymob - "National Holidays"
6. Travis Morrison - "Che Guevara Poster"
7. Sonic Youth - "New Hampshire"
8. Ken Stringfellow - "Any Love (Cassandra et Lune)"
9. Elliott Smith - "A Distorted Reality Is Now A Necessity To Be Free"
10. The Nels Cline Singers - "He Still Carries A Torch For Her"
That's by no means a list of my favorite songs of 2004, most of which I probably don't even own hard copies of. That's just a favorite song each from a bunch of albums I copped last year, and not all necessarily my favorite albums, since a lot of those are the one song I like from otherwise weak albums (like the Watt and the Cee-Lo). I feel kinda lame for segregating genres for the 2 sides of the tape, but I have no illusions about the fact that my album purchases are pretty evenly split between indie rock and mainstream rap (actually, it's been like that with me for a long time, since at least the late 90's), so it makes sense to give each its own side. With the hip hop side especially I made a point to avoid singles and features and go for just straight album tracks that I liked, and I noticed that a lot of my favorite songs are moody, topical midtempo songs. With some songs with children singing added for good measure. And on the rock side I seemed to pick the more rocking, rambling, jammy songs from each album, especially with the first few selections. I think those patterns say more about my mood lately than my taste over the course of the entire year, though. But I don't really know what it says anyway.