Saturday, December 27, 2008

HSW, hey how bout it?



plus



plus



plus



minus



equals

50!

We here at HSW don't hesitate to pat our backs every now and again. Hey, if we don't, chances are they'll go unpatted. And an back unpatted is like a song unsung, a bike unpedalled, a flower unsniffed, yada yada yada. What I'm trying to say is this marks the year's 50th post. 50! That's over double last year's total. At this rate of increase, we should have several trillion posts in the next two decades or so.

So thanks to those of you who stop in to read and the other posters here. If anyone's been saving that bottle of Korbel, what better excuse to pop that cork? Consult Thomas for proper cork-popping technique.

Did you have a Twisted Christmas?

Per my brother's recommendation, I Youtubed this incredible video, which may be the single best clip on youtube:



That's right, Dee Snider and the rest of the Sisters performing one of the most bizarre renditions of any song, ever. I can't tell what's more palpable, the perfect ten it scores for unintentional hilarity or the undeniable feeling of unease that will surely overtake anyone watching. I'm not sure what's best: The self-referential "We're Not Gonna Take It" solo, the employment of the 'uptight chick with a gigantic rack gets terrorized by a hair metal band and ostensibly becomes horny' archetype, or just fucking Dee Snider growling "Chriiii-iiiist the Lord!" with that patented sneer slathered across his jaws.

I get the feeling that Dee Snider thinks that every idea he dreams up is an absolute gem. If you've ever seen him interviewed, you know he's extremely intense and emotive. Confidence is hardly an issue for Dee. So I'm sure he pitched this idea to his agent as a sure-fire hit. I'm guessing the scene went something like this:

***

(Interior of Venice Beach, FL home...daytime. Bespectacled agent sits at kitchen table in relative quiet, sipping coffee and reading through a New York Times. The silence is disturbed by the growing whine of motorcycle engine. Tires screetch, a trash can crashes and rolls away. Engine cuts off. Door bursts open)



Dee Snider: KEVIN! Kevin. I've got it. You're gonna wanna drop that rag man. I got the goods for you, my friend. THE GOODS!

Kevin: Dee, you know I don't like you come to my home unexpectedly. We talked about this.

DS: This can not wait, baby. It is absolutely the best thing to happen to this fucking band since "Take It". The most revolutionary Sister scheme I've hatched since the "Leader of the Pack" cover. You ready for this man? You ready? Cuz if you ain't ready, this could fuck, your, mind. Permanently. I'm talkin' brain damage, muchacho!

Kevin: (rubbing temples) Let's hear it.

DS: (hops up on table) Twisted Sister...doing..."Oh Come Let Us Adore Him".

Kevin: ... Are...are you kidding?

DS: Kev, I've never been so serious about anything in my life. And I mean that. I say that a lot, but this time, I'm as serious as fucking cancer. This is a can't miss, Kev. A can't fucking miss!

Kevin: And just so we're clear...you're serious?

DS: Brother, if I wasn't serious would I have e-mailed the entire band with the lyrics and a chord diagram from Ultimate-Guitar.com? Would I have booked us three days of studio time? Would I have put a casting call for 'White Brunette with Giant Cans' on Craigslist?

Kevin: You've done all this...

DS: You bet your sweet ass I did, Kevin. Dee Snider doesn't half-ass anything. See, it came to me right after I station ID'ed during House of Hair. Just like BAM, like WAMMO. There it was. So I called Steven Pearcy and Vince Neil, bounced it off them, you know what they said Keverino?

Kevin: Steven Pearcy? From Ratt?

DS: They said "Dee, you are just 'bout the craziest mo-fo on the planet." And in the world we live in, baby, you better believe that's how you say "Full speed ahead."

Kevin: I...well--

DS: You make it happen with the label, meanwhile the Sisters will be getting this thing on tape. Santa's comin' early amigo. Adeste Fideles, baby!

(hops on bike and speeds off, laughing maniacally)

***

Alas, this wasn't just a whim for Mr. Snider. See below for a live (and equally awkward/bewildering) performance of Silver Bells, made even awkward/bewildering-er by the extended bass solo towards the end.


Friday, December 26, 2008

More Musical Look-a-likes...

Bob Crawford, bass-plucker and non-Avett brother of "The Avett Brothers", bears a striking resemblance to mega star George Clooney, to whom I've proposed a partnership (or, more accurately, am proposing now) in an effort to maintain the cool-factor of the name George. Proposed slogan: "George: Not just for grandfathers anymore."




Key comparitive features:
Pronounced chin, thick eyebrows, five o'clock shadows

Tune in again next time for More Musical Lookalikes!

Brief Hiatus and what's coming up...

Christmas greetings! Here's to hoping Santa left you a nice haul this year. Just a heads up: I'll be moving apartments in the next few days, and may be with out an interweb connection for a while. 'Why not update at work?' you ask. While that's normally a viable option, I am absolutely SLAMMED at the office these days and don't really anticipate a free hour here or there to whip up a post of any great substance.

So, if the blog is dormant (on my end, anyway) for a little stretch, fear not! It'll be back. Look for a 'top songs' list, a 'worst of 08' list, a few more Cover Stories, and my fourth and final Summer in Live Music write-up...punctuality was never my strong suit. Here are parts 1, 2, and 3. And, of course, more.

Also, feel free to e-mail us at hearsoundswrite@gmail.com with any thoughts, opinions, requests, offers, etc.

Have a happy and safe new year!

Friday, December 19, 2008

HSW O' the Year Awards: Top 10 Albums

To set one thing straight from the get-go, this is not particularly reflective of any HSW writer besides myself. I encourage my HSW brethren to post their own lists; but for now, here's a year-end to end all year-ends.

Top 10 Albums of the Year
With accompanying limerick:


#10: The Hold Steady - Stay Positive

While each album may rehash
a Minneanapolis bash,
They rock like Thin Lizzy
And their barber keeps busy
with Nicolay Franz's stache



#9: My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges

Some might say it was racket
composed by My Morning Jacket
but Highly Suspicious
To me's quite delicious
I see no need to attack it



#8: Blitzen Trapper - Furr

If ever Davy Crockett,
felt the need to rock it,
He'd open the wrapper
and put on some Trapper
As long as the traders would stock it



#7: Bonnie Prince Billy - Lie Down in the Light

If I ever play poker with Oldham
Chances are I'd just fold 'em
His music's perfection
This one's no exception
I surely feel no need to scold him



#6: Vampire Weekend - S/T

Tis no immaculate must-own
I hate this excuse but it's just fun,
Here's to their success,
If they break up don't fret,
They'll nicely cash in on their trust funds



#5: TV On The Radio - Dear Science

A band that simply can not miss,
Topping all best-of lists
I must admit it,
Their effort's requited:
A student I am of Dear Science



#4: Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

What's there to do in Wisconsin
'sides staying at home to drink Bronson?
Turn iTunes on
and listen to Bon
And try not to freeze off your Johnson



#3: Conor Oberst - s/t

An effort thematically rich,
A beautiful disc about which
I'm pleasantly surprised
and now I've surmised
that Conor's much less of a bitch



#2: Sun Kil Moon - April


Kozelek, a god of emotion,
(forgive that blasphemous notion)
before April's release, I was
full-boned for weeks,
And, yes, it was musical lotion



#1: Fleet Foxes - s/t

As soon as I tore off the plastic,
I heard a thing so fantastic,
I took to the streets
Yelled "Go buy the Fleets!
The Foxes have made a true classic"


Mentions That Are Honorable:

Brendan Canning - BSS Presents


Drive-By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark


MGMT - Oracular Spectular


The Walkmen - You & Me


Beck - Modern Guilt

Stay tuned for top songs and some other stuff!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cover Stories: What they're telling us through cover art

Releases: Many of them are upcoming. And here at HSW, we are visually minded folks (all proud passers of the Journalism 364 - Intro to Graphics course at UofSoCar.) So please allow for some visual analysis of some upcoming releases. This will be an ongoing feature. Hooray features!

Morrissey - Years of Refusal

Morrissey: Right, don't let the necklace I bought at a Sheboygan flea market fool you, I'm still the same emotive and ambiguously sexual shoegazer that fronted the SM...the SM....the SMI...er, that band I was once in and will NEVER reunite, unless I do--which I won't. So do like me: Grab a handfulla baby crotch, style your hair like a gob of Colgate (I can never get it on my brush like they do in the commercial!) and make with the melancholy.


Neko Case - Middle Cyclone

Neko: The paparazzi-fueled fad of car-exit 'gine-shots set me thinking: The Lilos and the Brits of the world garner unfathomable amounts of attention, and for what? Their art? Psh. Cars and skin, that's what the boys want. Never mind my immaculate vocals and penchant for clever song structure. So I say why not throw on a tiny black number and hop on the hood of a muscle car? The only thing missing was the money shot, and rest assured, Neko Case doesn't stoop to that level. If Neko's showing skin, it's got to be a classy affair. So I figure, what's the one thing guys love even more than a lady's cruel unusual nether-territory?

Phallic symbols. That can kill people.

Too easy.

Andrew Bird - Noble Beast


Andrew: (six minutes theremin-like whistling) Get it?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Coldplay Surfs to Big Bucks by Stealing From the Alien














Big news in the music world today as guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani formally filed suit against Coldplay for ripping off his song "If I Could Fly" with the title track from their newest album "Viva La Vida."

In an exclusive interview with musicradar.com, Satrani lays it down:

"Everybody assumes I'm trying to go after these guys in Coldplay, as if I'm doing this with malice, that's the furthest thing from my mind. I'm just doing what I need to do as an artist, to protect what's mine, to protect those feelings I put down in song," Satriani says.


What Satriani meant to say was, "booh dam bah doo dam, widdleh widdleh wahhh..SOLO!"

At any rate, Satriani was reluctant to take the band to court, but he was "tired of being ignored."

.......srsly

This just goes to show that when you surf with the alien, you get burned.

Judge for yourself:

Monday, December 8, 2008

George's Summer in live music #3: The Hold Steady

My Hold Steady fandom is belied by my record collection, since I only own their most recent two albums--the epic Boys and Girls in America, and their fine 2008 effort Stay Positive. I categorize them alongside Spoon and Andrew Bird in that what little of their catalog I own I enjoy immensely, yet I haven't managed to take get off my ass and buy up their other stuff. Soon enough! But that didn't stop me from snagging a few tickets for their Charleston show...it was worth the fifteen bucks and ten minute commute.

The Pour House on James Island (municipally part of Charleston) is, as a venue, friendlier to its audience than its acts. The floor stretches back a good fifty yards and you're never more than a few feet from the bar. The stage, however, isn't elevated more than a few feet and seems a bit tight, low and claustrophobic. Admittedly I've been on a run of seeing mega-acts (see Waits and Radiohead) who play venues with cavernous stages. But the Pour House is a true low-to-mid level rock venue. The acts they book usually have a pretty esoteric following, if anything more than local.

But as Pour House bookings go, The Hold Steady was a big get. I'd guess they're the kind of act that could have played a larger area venue, like the Music Farm. They might have opted for the intimacy the Pour House offers...they are, after all, a rocking bar band who made it big. A bar band savant, to be sure. While Craig Finn's lyrics do center heavily around partying, he injects a very relatable poignancy that defines his songwriting style. It's not pretentious, but it certainly isn't mindless.

Back to the gig: The sweaty crowd was excitable, seemed every person was jockeying for a spot closer to the action. I was three or four heads back, just to the right of center stage. The Love Ones opened, a quintet of spirited youngsters who wouldn't have sounded out of place on the Tony Hawk Pro Skating 3 soundtrack (the best game in the series by the way) and likely have a few Clash and Rancid tunes in the ol' iPod. A Superchunky kind of upbeat punk outfit, they aren't particularly my cup of tea but they certainly played their hearts out. Closed out with a cover (I couldn't put my finger on the name of the tune but I've definitely heard it somewhere) accompanied by Franz Nicolay and Tad Kubler from the headliners.

A brief intermission let us air out a bit before the Hold Steady took the stage and set into one of the most rocking sets I've seen in years. The immediately noticed that Craig Finn looks about 10 years younger in person than he does on film, although he is 37.

That said, he is the most engaging frontman I've ever seen live. I wouldn't be surprised if he'd done a bit of stage acting in his younger years, because the man can certainly convey emotion through pantomime and facial expressions. 'Passionate' would be an understated labeling of his delivery. I'd almost say 'dire' or 'evangelical'...the guy really wants you to hear what he has to say. He crams movement into his stage presence, with spastic little gyrations and arm flails between and during lines. I see a lot of a young Elvis Costello in Craig (a comparison only aided by the black rims for which they've both become known.)

The band is rounded out by 4 rabble-rousers: Drummer Bobby Drake; Accordionist, keyboardist, and acutely mustachioed ne'er-do-well Franz Nicolay; licksman (and Radiohead detractor) Tad Kubler; and jolly bassist Galen Polivka. The group is racous and noisy, all fine musicians who are just restrained enough to serve as a nice foil for Finn. I feel like the stage was a bit too small for the band, but they savored the intimacy that a hot, dark and sweaty rock show provides.

Again, I can only draw from the past two records worth of material (and of course "Your Little Hoodrat Friend" [which was on THPS 8 according to Wikipedia]), but luckily that's where the band focused. Highlights included newish single "Sequestered in Memphis," the fine album closer to Stay Positive, "Slapped Actress," and the Law and Order plot-worthy "One for the Cutters." Boys and Girls material included my personal favorite, "You Can Make Him Like You" as well as the standbys "Chips Ahoy," "Stuck Between the Stations," and the choppy "Party Pit." Sadly lacking were four I'd have loved to have heard: "First Night," "Citrus" (which I knew was a long shot,) "Chillout Tent" (ditto) and "Southtown Girls." But again, I can't speak for the two albums worth of material I wasn't familiar with.

It was a different kind of show than I'm used to, but certainly an experience well worth the change of pace. My ears rang for a day or two--ear plugs are a good thing, friends--and I didn't smell too nice when all was said and done. But hey, I'm sure that's a sign of a successful Hold Steady experience the way a sauce-stained shirt is the sign of good barbeque.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

2008 Hipster Music awards, hosted by KOL's Caleb Followil

(Stage of the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN)

Caleb Followil: EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEYEAAAH!!! Lemme heeeear you mothafuckas! (holds mic out above audience)

Hipster crowd: ......

CF: This ceremony is brought to yall by PitchFOWK Media, even tho' they rail EVERY lass one of our muthafuckin reckahds, eh! I mean, 5.4? How bout I give all 5.4 inches to YO MOTHA!!! EH!!Aright aright aright, pawty pipple, less staht this FIYAH! First awad is best NEW ACT! The nominiminiminiminies AH...Bon IvAH...


Justin Vernon: Actually, Caleb, it's pronounced "Bon Ee-vair." It's a play on the French phrase "good winter", which I came up with--

CF: THAS A STOOPED NAME!!! Aright aright aright, next nominiminee--the Flet FAWXes!



Fleet Foxes (in perfect, sundrenched four-part harmony): We are flattered by our nomination for this largely symbolic award, whooa-ooo-ooh.

CF: Lemme have ah taste ah THAT! (grabs guitar)


CF: EEEEEEEEYEEAH!!!

FFs: ........

CF: Aright aright aright, the final nominimnimeee is...VAMPIYAH WEEKEND!



Ezra Keonig: Oooooh, getting nominated for this award is great cause making the record was suuuuper harrr-duh!

Chris Baio: It was hard like every five minutes!

CF: HEEEY YEEEAH!!! And the winnaaaah, I SAY, the winnaaaaah is...the Flet FAWXES!!!!

Hipster Crowd: .......

(FF member awkward takes award from CF, who is embarrassingly gyrating onstage, and returns sheepishly to seat)

CF: Aright aright aright aright!!! On to the next and final AWAWD, EH EH! Final cause, in the world of indie award shows, after your second award you are obselete! Unless, of course, you ah RADIOHEAD! EHYEAH! The final award is man of the yeeear, EH! The first nominiminiminee is--and of course we are stretching the limitations of the word 'man'--Conor OberstAH!



Conor Oberst: Awards don't matter. Neither do cars, or tax returns, or GAP Kids, or anything that's not a celestial manifestation of lost love. (phone rings) Shet. (answers) Hello? What mom. Yeah. I know, I'll be home three days before Christmas. Yes, the footie pajamas for the family picture, I'll bring them. I know the code on the front gate changed, if I forget it I'll just park at the country club and you guys can pick me up. MOM! I gotta go! (slams phone shut) Despair.

CF: WHAT A PUSS-AY!!!! Aright aright aright, next nominiminimineee--lead singer of My MOOOWNEEEIN Jacket, Jim James!

(rumbling from above, one-man space ship lands in cloud of smoke)



JJ: (in castrato vocal) Yeeeeeeeah, don't worry Caleb, Pitchfork didn't like my record this year either, although at least they have and probably will again review my records favorably!

CF: Ehyeah! Yo PROBABLY right! Aright aright the final nominiminiminiminee is...GIRL TALK-AH!

(two people walk onstage)



CF: WHAT!?!?! Whass a'goin on hyeah?

Thom Yorke: Uh, yeah, don't know. Some bloke called Girl Talk thought it'd be a better idea for me and Ghostface Killa to show up side by side than for him to actually make an appearance on his own. Said it was some form of expression but seems to me like taking other peoples' expression and just kinda putting them next to each other.

Hipster Crowd: THIS IS IRONICALLY GOOD

CF: ARIGHT ARIGHT ARIGHT, the awahdAH goes to...J-J-J-J-JIM JAAAAAMES!!!

JJ: GIDEEEOOOOOON!!!! (nabs award and flies off into space)

CO: Despair.

Oberst's Trust Fund: /matured

CF: Aright aright aright, well I guess THAS THAT, BEBEH! Ah wud like to thank PitchFOWK Media--if I add up all my records' scores I almost have a 10!--and all you mothafuckas out there! (holds out mic)

Hipster Crowd: ..........................you are the indie version of the guy from "Jet".

CF: THANK YOU GOODNIGHT!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

HSW Newsflash: New Isbell record due out in Feb. 09

Exciting news from the Young Bill Clinton look-a-like front: Jason Isbell and his fantastic backing band, the 400 Unit, will release a new album in early 2009. It won't be released by New West, as the wonderful Sirens of the Ditch was, but rather by Lightning Rod Records, a small indie label whose roster is just Isbell and singer/songwriter James McMurtry.

Here's the scoop at Lightning Rod's homepage, tracklisting and all. Very much looking forward to this one! And tour dates are soon to be announced, so make sure you catch him live, too...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Overheard at the Music Store

How many times have you encountered the fellow music lover at your local music store, only to hear the most ridiculous statements erupt from their mouth? Here is a chapter from one of my recent ventures to the old record store.

I'm flipping through endless stacks of worthless used (or new) stuff, and suddenly Mr. Scenes McGee and his crew encroach. Slowly picking up bits and pieces of the conversation, I pretend to look at the same CDs over and over again, all the while burying my chin in my chest and biting my tongue as I try not to laugh at their exchange:

Dude #1: Hey look, Andy Griffith.
Dude #2: (Chuckles at appearance of album) That's funny. Y'know he's from North Carolina.
Dude #1: Yah, I heard he, like, founded Mt. Airy after he made the show.
Girl #1: Yah? I heard he was a deck*! *ə used to emphasize pronunciation.
Photo courtesy NY Magazine.

We invite you to share with us your favorite record store conversations.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Never Is Too Soon

As a connoisseur of bar trivia, I'm often subjected to the playlists of shithead trivia emcees with the sort of inflated sense of self-importance that ONLY emceeing bar trivia can warrant. "Ah, look at them. Bending to my every whim. I ask questions--THEY answer. At my command they get up and walk over to me, drop their answer in the bucket. Sometimes they even ask me if they got it right. They need me. Ah, what ho! My 'TrivMix' shuffle has made its selection. Let us bask in the arbitrary roulette of the shuff--and indeed life--by pantomiming the shaking of a Polaroid photograph during the appropriate bars of 'Hey Ya'." And then of course every sorostitute in the bar has to say "OH, girl I know every word to this song!" when "Baby Got Back" comes on. Newsflash: So the fuck does everyone.

I've been to trivia nights at at least a half-dozen bars, so I don't think this stereotype is particularly unfair. Suffice to say that no matter the bar or host, the setlists are staggeringly similar. It's a very specific kind of suck, as you may know. It's the kind of songs--like "Baby Got Back", "Hey Ya", or anything by Journey--that are almost impossible to hate because of their silly/endearing qualities, but damned if we'd ever listen to them willfully. And, frankly, we wouldn't lament it if we never actually heard them again.

WHICH brings me to the meat of this here post: Songs that, frankly, I'd be OK if they were to never reach my ears before I croak. We all burn out on songs or records, leading to extended shelving periods. I'm not talking about that. That scenario usually results in a rewarding rediscovery down the line. We're also not talking the obvious stuff that floods the airwaves--your Nickelbacks, Fall Out Boys, Mileys, etc. They're not worthy of discussion.

We're talking songs that have been wrung dry of all effect; that provide no utility other than background music at lame parties and, of course, trivia nights.

Bon Jovi - "Wanted Dead or Alive"
I'd like to point out that I think Bon Jovi sucks. Whenever I hear a Bon Jovi song, I can only see one image: Tico Torres, clad in weightlifting gloves, spinning his drum stick between every snare hit. That's it. Except when I hear "Wanted Dead or Alive". Then I think of the most contrived song ever written.

HEY U GUYZ IM ABT TO SPIN MAH STIX

The Gourds - "Gin & Juice"
First of all, it's not by Phish motherfuckers. Secondly, the Gourds are a bad-ass group. I have a feeling they'd be all right with never hearing this either. The song is just too antiseptic and polished for my tastes. And the knowledge that it's hailed as an anthem at frat parties everywhere (Hey Brody, check it bruh, black people music without the black people!) is incentive enough to throw it on the trash heap. A much more worthy white guy covering a rap song can be heard here.

Any and All Beach Music (Especially "Carolina Girls")
As a 20-something in South Carolina, I've been obligated happy to attend at a handful of weddings in the past year or so. Why, you ask, does South Carolina come into play? Because it's a state that actually considers 'beach music' to be a viable genre. If you're unfamiliar with beach music, just imagine the Golden Oldies collection was unceremoniously butt-raped by Jimmy Buffet after a night of shag-dancing and Margaritas. Hits include "Under the Boardwalk" and "I Love Beach Music", but if I was pressured to choose one beach music song to eradicate from the face of this planet, it'd be the crap-a-thon "Carolina Girls". Giving privileged Charleston girls a further sense of entitlement via a trite tribute song is the last thing we should be doing.

*****

My choices are in. Howsabout you?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Weird Fishes/Arpeggi

Radiohead - Weird Fishes - by Tobias Stretch

By now, Radiohead's In Rainbows has sunk in to most fans' minds and can start to be interpreted in other ways. One of those ways is a video contest for Radiohead songs by Myspace.com and aniboom.com, who will host video submissions.

The winners are up. I saw this one tonight and was blown away. The songs many layers and open-ended lyrics make this one a difficult to pin down visually, but I think Tobias Stretch nailed it. First of all, stop motion animation is REALLY HARD WORK. Secondly, all of the puppets had to be constructed, posed, photographed, all with the final concept in mind. The result is fantastic.

Not only are the characters fun to watch; the landscape is beautiful, and Tobias' employment of time lapse adds another dimension to the scene. He also uses editing to his advantage to create the effect of motion as well as increase the sense of depth from the downward shots, as if the characters were really flying. I've not watched the other submissions yet, but this one sets the bar high. My favorite video interpretation from the new album thus far.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Toadies - No Deliverance

Full disclosure: This was written for the Free Times (Columbia SC) as a preview for their recent appearance at Headliners. This is the unedited version. The edit can be found here

###

Time can be cruel to a band. Take the Toadies for example.

Neither esoteric enough for indie rockers nor thrash-worthy of metal adulation, the Dallas quartet are something of a post-grunge anomaly, like the Pixies meeting Metallica in Texas.

Rising to prominence on the strength of “Possum Kingdom,” the lead single from 1994’s Rubberneck, their snarling, Southern-tinged folk tales strangely resonated with listeners during the Hootie heyday and propelled the album to platinum status.

But despite the momentum produced mainly by that massive, memetic song, they have largely fallen into irrelevancy, their records proliferating used bins beside contemporaries such as Toad the Wet Sprocket.

Embroiled in label interference, their 2001 sophomore effort Hell Below/Stars Above, almost didn’t see the light of day. When bassist Lisa Umbarger left shortly thereafter, they disbanded, their legacy only a small touchstone in the annals of modern rock.

Flash forward a few years. After a stint with Burden Brothers, lead singer Vaden Todd Lewis decided it was time to again test the water. Bolstered by a string of successful shows for their core Texas constituency, (And perhaps the appearance of “Possum Kingdom” on Guitar Hero 2) they officially re-banded. And tepidity be damned, they contracted a new bassist and embarked upon that atavistic ritual known as the reunion tour.

Now on the road in support of their recent Kirtland Records release, No Deliverance, Toadies are touring some of the same clubs in which they cut their teeth, albeit a bit older and wiser.

But don’t let the graying hair or the back-to-basics approach confuse you. They belie nothing of the bare-knuckled, disconcerting tour de force that is still the Toadies. At its core, No Deliverance feels as if the band never went away, offering ten stark aural attacks that amp up the psychotic stomp of their previous releases. If nothing else, it serves as a good primer to their iconic riff carnage and a fitting bookend for a band often maligned as a one-hit wonder.

Some like to say that time heals all. As far as the Toadies are concerned, much like their mid-90’s brethren The Meat Puppets sang, some things will never change.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cuttin' Onions: Ten Musically Themed Onion Stories

This week's edition of The Onion featured a fantastic article ridiculing the esoteric nature of Steely Dan enthusiasts and the doubters who find their music to be overwrought cheese. Me, I'm kinda caught halfway. They're pretty good songcrafters but I've never really felt the urge to add a record to my collection. Notwithstanding, the article is fantastic satire. So here are ten of my favorite musically themed Onion stories, in no particular order.

1. Nation Planning Surprise Party to Cheer Up Conor Oberst

Why It's Funny: A doe-eyed, perennially dejected white kid who's gained fame for being such is always a target rife for parody.

Best line: "The country feels really bad that he's going through such a rough spell, so next Friday, everyone who can should meet in Omaha with balloons, funny cards, and silly little gag gifts." - Quote attributed to one of the party's 4000 planners

2. 37 Record-Store Clerks Feared Dead In Yo La Tengo Concert Disaster

Why It's Funny: This was published in the wake of the Great White pyrotechnic folly, in which a rock club caught fire and nearly 100 fans (and I believe one of the band) perished. A tragedy for sure, but a brilliant parallel to use such a snob-friendly act in a satirical piece. I enjoy this one so much I actually have the headline and main photo as a fridge magnet.

Best Line: "All I can do is wait and pray they'll find them," said Bert's Discount Records owner Bert Halyard, who lost clerks Todd Fischer and Dan Harris in the collapse. "They were going to start an experimental/math-rock band together. Dan had a really nice Moog synthesizer and an original pressing of the first Squirrel Bait EP."

3. Yngwie Malmsteen to Change Midde Name to "Fucking"

Why It's Funny: 'Cause Yngwie Fucking Malmsteen, that's why.

Best Line: This one is just a bumper photo and the headline. But the picture is perfect:



4. Ask Sir Mix-a-lot

Why It's Funny: The "Ask" advice column is an ongoing feature the Onion has been doing for as long as I can remember; not with Mix specifically, but with any person, creature, or object serving as the columnist. Others include "Ask a Bee," "Ask Raymond Carver," etc. They all feature responses that have absolutely nothing to do with the question, but are just apropos-of-nothing ramblings by whomever the columnist happens to be.

Best Line: (in response to a question from Peeved in Peekskill) "Dear Peeved, Who's afraid of my big bad weenie / Rub it and see if it's got a genie / Gonna make disappear this 10-inch zucchini / Just like Houdini / M-I-X to the A-L-O-T rappin' / Wanna see yo' butt cheeks flappin' / Mix want the honeys with the big back doors / So drop them drawers, whores. Unh."

5. Teen Who Just Discovered Led Zeppelin Starting to Piss Friends Off

Why It's Funny: Because this was me. Tons of adolescent males go through the "Zeppelin Is The Greatest Thing to Ever Happen to Music" phase; this article is a perfect rag on dudes just like me who, from age 16-19, got more of the Led out than most do in a lifetime.

Best Line: "It's getting to the point where you're almost afraid to go to a movie with Mark because John Paul Jones' second cousin might be an extra in it." - Quote attributed to friend of the subject of the story

6. Donald Fagan Defends Steely Dan to Friends

Why It's Funny: Because Steely Dan is one of those bands that has a feverish fanbase and an almost equally feverish army of detractors. A brilliant scenario to have one of the cofounders find themselves defending the band the way a superfan might have to.

Best Line: "You can't just write it all off as 'shitty jazz fusion' because there are a few horns in the band. And what about 'Bodhisattva' and 'Show Biz Kids' on Countdown To Ecstasy? Don't sit there and tell me that those tunes don't rock." - Quote attributed to Donald Fagan

7. Bill Gates Finally Getting Into Radiohead's Kid A

Why It's Funny: Kid A is the classic 'grower'. I feel like most people needed some time to digest it; why shouldn't a mega-billionaire be allotted the same kind of grace period?

Best Line: "I liked 'Morning Bell' and 'Optimistic,' but the rest just seemed like this intentionally weird mess. Then I took it out again maybe a month ago, and it finally started to sink in. Now I think I even like it better than OK Computer." - Quote attributed to Bill Gates

8. Bob Marley Rises From Grave to Free Fratboys from Bonds of Oppression

Why It's Funny: What's not to love about this? Fratboys are so, so, soooo easy to ridicule and the pros at the Onion know how to do it right. The college/frat-boy obsession with Bob Marley doesn't go much further than an appreciation for weed culture. I'm sure Bob would feel indebted to them for their undying support...

Best Line: "Frata mon's life is hard," said Marley during a press conference Monday at Iowa State University's Acacia fraternity. "Professor, he flunk you all the time. Policeman, he ticket you for the noise. Board of Regents, they make so many rule, try to keep the fraternity music down."

9. Bassist Unaware Rock Band Christian

Why It's Funny: 'Christian Rock' is such a joke of a genre in the first place, it was a ripe and juicy fruit for the Onion to pluck. It's just so funny how Christian 'rockers' try to mimic actual rockers so carefully, essentially downplaying their faith in some sort of bait-and-switch attempt at amassing a fanbase. Hilarity ensues when that scenario is taken to the point of actually recruiting an unaware band member.

Best Line: "Actually, Jack writes a lot of songs about chicks," (bassplayer Brad) Rolen continued. "'Your Love,' 'When You Return,' 'I Confess'... I don't know if they're all about the same girl or lots of different ones, but one thing's for sure: Jack loves the pussy."

10. Dave Matthews Not That Into Himself Anymore

Why It's Funny: As phases go, the "Dave phase" is one of the more common among us children of the 90s and oughts. The quirkiness and warmth of the Dave Matthews Band captured our collective attention for a while before it kinda became clear that the band was past its prime. I wonder what happened? Still, there are those who won't give up the fight. The Onion made it clear that Dave is not among them, which equally mocks Dave's fall-off in quality and the obsequious fanbase.

Best Line: "Rock music with a violin? I don't know," Matthews added. "Seemed cool once."


Any I missed? Search through the Onion Archives and you'll probably find dozens more.

Friday, November 14, 2008

November 12, 2008: M83 w/ School of Seven Bells

Tremont Music Hall-Charlotte, NC--Wednesday night I trekked to Charlotte after a rigorous day of yardwork to enjoy yet another of my favorite bands, M83. Frenchman Anthony Gonzalez (and formerly Nicolas Fromageau) are, in their "own "language, an homage to the 80s days of dark/progressive new wave/pop a la Flock of Seagulls, The Cure, Tears for Fears and Depeche Mode but with more modern, progressive, ebb-and-flow elements of the -gaze genre.

M83's authentic sound stemms from Gonzalez's zeal for 80s pop culture and his attention to detail, right down to the vintage analog equipment.

In a small moment of jubilation, I filled up my car with gas for $1.99/gal., ate some udon and veggies before arriving at the Tremont Music Hall. Perhaps the decaying Mecca of a post-hardcore/metal/etc. scene, what Tremont lacks in accommodations, it more than makes up for in superior sound equipment and ample supply of staple PBR tallboys.

The show was held in the smaller "Casbah" section of the venue, but quickly filled up. I'd heard there was a leak in the larger venue. A very reasonable $16 ticket got me in the door and lined up by the small stage, cramped among the toolkits of electronic wizards. The crowd was (and I hate to use this word) ecclectic; I saw a mix of thirty-somethings looking for a new spin on the genres they grew up with, hipsters taking their 80s fandom to the razor's edge, some rather discreet concert goers not dressing the part and a surprising number of kids who probably never lived through the 80s.

The opening band, School of Seven Bells, started promptly. I hadn't heard them; but, being on the same bill, I had high expectations which were not let down. The group consists of former Secret Machine Benjamin Curtis, flanked by twin sisters and vocalists Alejandra and Claudia Deheza.

Anchored by body-moving, contemplative beats and distraught chords from the house that Bjork built, the girls' haunting melodies evoke a Natalie Merchant style of apocalyptic bliss. By the time they finished, I found myself longing for more of their performance.

After a brief interval, Anthony and the band made a humble entrance to the stage--a status that they held throughout the entire evening. Sticking to their guns, the group wasted little time getting into the crowd anthems. "Don't Save Us From the Flames" debuted early on, followed soon after by the newly-christened "Kim & Jessie." Little was said between works, except for a gracious thank-you from Gonzalez.

While I'm not yet entirely familiar with the newer "Saturday=Youth," we heard most of the catalog from this album. Recent addition Morgan Kibby more than fulfills the female vocalist role missing from Gonzalez's roster. Her voice adds a solid, sharp depth and contrast to the at-times chaotic music.

Most of the band's turn-of-the-century work focuses on instrumentation rather than vocals and song structure, and I worried about how they would express that in their live show. But they are obviously very passionate about their instruments and music, making the live show no chore to watch.

While I wish I had wandered a bit closer to absorb the energy and emotion of the group, I was blessed with the good company of tranquil, like-minded fans with which to share the experience.

Friday, November 7, 2008

George's summer in live music #2: Tom Waits; Fleet Foxes

2. Tom Waits
July 5th, 2008
Fox Theatre
Atlanta, GA

Fleet Foxes
July 5th, 2008
Drunken Unicorn
Atlanta, GA

Staying at a cheap-o roadside motel seemed only fitting, as Mr. Waits built his legend on similar environments. Be they dive bars, creepy barns, diners, motels, tenements, small towns, ratty wharfs, dingy neighborhoods: Tom Waits has always found gritty and gloomy more interesting than shiny and flashy.

Of course, the Fox Theatre would belie that. It's an impressive place if you've never been: It sort of mimics a castle courtyard, a purplish ceiling dotted with starlights overlooking an ornate hall, full of rich reds and golds. But leave it to Tom to place a bizarre arrangement of horns and plates as the centerpiece ot his stage design. It looked like part of a Tim Burton setting.

I found my fifth row seat, and after a considerable wait--there were some ticketing issues, and Tom's people wanted to make sure everyone had made it in--the band entered to a thunderous applause, sans Waits. Each instrument was manned: Drums, stand-up bass, electric guitar, sax. A minute or so passed, and then out skulked Tom, taking long, fast steps and hunched a bit, with one hand steadying his trademark black derby, and the other jammed in his coat pocket. He reached his place center stage, and grasped the microphone stand with gusto, stretching his free hand towards us and wiggling his fingers. "Good evening," he roared, delivered with such dragonlike ferocity that I almost expected an accompanying fireball to blow over the first fifteen rows. Then the band tore into "Lucinda" which lurched along menacingly at the pace of a boiling chain gang.

Tom is a bitter pill, I of course recognize this. I don't expect folks to latch onto him the same way I would with Ryan Adams or Bob Dylan. His voice sounds like Satan's, his delivery is often frenzied and spastic, his music feels scarred and beaten. It took a lot of effort to appreciate Tom, to get past all the weirdness and the yelps and the clangs and theatrics. But on that day, I had never been more in awe of a performer. Literally, I was trembling when the man first entered my line of sight. It's as if he was a myth up until this point. And now I was in the presence of Tom Waits, a man whose 30 years' worth of records maintain a consistently higher standard than any other artist in my collection, a man whose art has never been compromised or pared, whose charm and charisma are as unique as they are undeniable.

The things I experienced that night were unbelievable. I saw a nearly 60-year-old man on the final night of a tour performing with the intensity and dynamism of a 25-year-old; I watched as Tom stepped away from the mike during the instrumental bridge of "Falling Down" and receive a thunderous ovation for his vocals up to that point in the song; I heard the woman seated next to me moan orgasmically as Tom crooned the chorus to "Hang Down Your Head"; I felt my spine shiver and shake as the whole crowd roared "Hoist that rag" again and again; and I fought off a growing throat lump as Tom breathed the lyrics to an absolutely crushing version of "Anywhere I Lay My Head" under soft blue light, which provided a poignant ending to the finest musical performance I have ever seen.

The night's excitement did not end with the show however. You see, the fine young harmonizers The Fleet Foxes were playing no more than a mile away. Two friends and I decided to try to catch their set, hoping they'd wouldn't be overlapping with Tom's performance. So we set off for the Drunken Unicorn. On foot. In Atlanta. At about 11 P.M. This was ill-advised, but had I been mugged and killed that night, at least I'd experience such fine spice of life as the Waits show.

Unfortunately our directions were a bit dodgy, and we found ourselves in a strange neighborhood, rooting around in backyards and driveways. We soon concluded that there were no Fleet Foxes to be found in the area, so we retreated a bit. Finally, we found at the Drunken Unicorn, arriving to the strains of lovely album closer "Oliver James," Robin Pecknold's vocals leading us in from the night like some dirty, bearded siren. It was a nice moment.

The hype machine was in full operation for the Foxes at that point. The place was PACKED. The venue wasn't very large--no bigger than a particularly spacious basement--and it was packed to the gills, full of uber-attentive fans. We wedged our way in, my two 6'4" friends were rewarded with a fine view of the stage. My 5'9"-on-a-good-day ass saw a few floating Fleet Fox heads. But, I must say, they sounded absolutely incredible. I didn't think they'd be able to replicate the album's harmonies so well; but I dare say I enjoyed them more live. Tragically, they were well into their set and we only caught about six songs, including the encore of Robin performing "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" solo.

The walk back was, mercifully, much less eventful. We said our goodbyes and I hit the highway, reaching my hotel in a half an hour or so, and sprawling out on my king-sized, which, that night, was where I laid my head and called my home.

***

How lucky am I (and, indeed, are all of us) that the entire show was recorded in a very high-quality and legal fashion by NPR. Download it here (just scroll down til you see Tom's stuff). If you only listen to one song, DEAR GOD let it be "Falling Down". And then imagine being 5 rows back for that absolutely epic performance.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Some Pixies for you this morning

A mothafuckin jam to wake you up this brisk October morning: "Velouria" by the Pixies, performed live in 1991. Frank Black, looking like a bit character from Home Improvement, complements Kim Deal's functionally shitty backing vocals as the band rips through one of its finest tunes.



And for shits and giggles, a cover by Weezer:



Incidentally, did you see the cover for Rivers' new demos collection?



Nice look, douchemonger! Looks like he'd be Screech's deviant gay lover on early seasons of Saved by the Bell. But, hey, stylistic mistakes make for great retrospective album covers, do they not?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fond Farewell, Five Years Later


Five years ago today, Elliott took his own life. Elliott embodied the tortured songwriter, which is a label that's used so often in the pejorative sense. Knit-browed wankfactories like Chris Carraba (who I despise) and Connor Oberst (who I enjoy greatly) create their music with such pretense, such hackneyed personal turmoil, that it's not difficult to scoff at their whole shtick.

But Elliott did the sad songwriter thing so seamlessly. His words could scathe or soothe, and his voice was such a fragile coo, even at it's loudest and most boisterous. He was believable. Not to mention he was a brilliant musician, adept at a wide array of instruments. He played every instrument on at least two of his albums if I'm not mistaken. He was also a master arranger, layering harmonies with such a masterstroke. Need ye proof, listen to "I Didn't Understand", the closer to X/O.

My favorite Elliott album is the aforementioned X/O, but I think From a Basement Under the Hill is what I'll spend today with. Although Basement is somewhat tinged due to Elliott passing before he could complete production or decide on a track order, the songs resonate so palpably knowing that their creation coincided with his last months. "Fond Farewell to a Friend" is perhaps the most forthright example. But I still think there isn't a better Elliott song than "Twilight," ostensibly about attraction that can't be consumated, as both parties are involved with other people. And, tragically, the fear of a disappointment is a greater hindrance than anything.

The song is Elliott at his best: Tragic, sweet, pained, subtle, graceful. Everything that makes his loss, to this day, a bitter pill to swallow; and everything that makes you wonder if it was inevitable.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chronic Lyricosis: 2+2=5 by Radiohead

I believe it was George Carlin who came up with the concept of chronic lyricosis...that is, hearing a song's lyrics incorrectly. We've heard the classic examples: "Hold me closer, Tony Danza" and "'Scuse me while I kiss this guy."

We here at HSW like to delve a bit deeper into our respective back catalogs, and go beyond classic rock staples. So let's think of some of our own more esoteric examples, those that fall within our area of expertise. Not that Stairway and Freebird aren't worth of being misinterpreted.

While I am no stranger to the symptoms of CL, he first lyric that stands out as oft-misinterpreted comes from Radiohead's "2+2=5", the fantastic Hail to the Thief album opener:
Actual Lyric:
"You have not been
Paying attention
Paying attention
Paying attention"...etc.

As I heard it:
"You have now been
penetration
penetration
penetration"...etc.
Go figure. The only song I can think of that actually uses the word penetrate is "Dig a Pony" by the Beatles, which is one of their best songs but, man, whenever I hear Lennon say 'penetrate' with such gusto, I chuckle a bit.

Your examples?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Steve Earle is Diese

It's rare that a piece fits two blogs so well. But hey, sharing is caring! So, in the interest of even more self-promotion, the following is adapated from THE DIESE BLOG.

###

In the movie "High Fidelity," Jack Black's character asks of John Cusack's, "Is it unfair to criticize a formerly great artist for his latter day sins? Is it better to burn out or fade away?"

Steve Earle is a country songwriter who was once lauded as the "next Bruce Springsteen." Earle's mid-80's albums Guitar Town and Copperhead Road have since become country/rock touchstones, but his recent works have found his prolific output reduced to a pile of rocks.

While the admittedly partisan The Revolution Starts Now provided a vitriolic kick, his latest, Washington Square Serenade was a pussy affair of love songs about his adopted home of New York.

Moving to Manhattan is diese if you do business. And only if you do big things. Moving to Manhattan in general is not diese, especially if you're a country musician.

We saw Steve Earle about this time last year in San Francisco at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. In addition to the varying quality of his recent work, Earle is a notorious liberal windbag. Half in the bag on Two Buck Chuck, we admonished Earle to, "Shut up and play Copperhead Road!" The crunchies didn't like that very much.

Despite these facts, we at Diese Blog must take these cases on an individual basis. We will call them as we see them.

As such, Steve Earle is diese, primarily on the basis of how ungodly awesome his biography, Hardcore Troubadour is.

This book should be on the Official Diese Reading List. It reads like this: Steve shoots smack, fires guns, rides horses, goes through gallons of booze and crashes cars into buildings. Sometimes all within a single page. In terms of pure unadulterated debauchery, it ranks right up there with the Zeppelin bio, Hammer of the Gods.

The following clip finds Earle at arguably his most diese, right before his 3-year "vacation in the ghetto." Dude was so shit-cocked on cocaine and heroin, he probably doesn't even remember it. And he totally burns Letterman on just what the hell a mandolin is.

Diese.

Monday, October 13, 2008

More Takes on Ryan Adams and Being Diese

As I've probably mentioned, I've been fine-combing the Whiskeytown back catalogue a bit lately. And over on THE DIESE BLOG, we declared that Ryan Adams is cool but not diese. We stand by this. Respectively, Hank Williams, Jr. is diese but not cool.

I've met the guy and while I can attest that his antics are indicative of colossal colostomy-baggery, he has said some really funny shit while wasted.

Apparently, while touring to support John Fogerty, he was expected to honor his selection by playing solid country sets.

Instead, his band played a full punk set that ended with Adams declaring, "Yeah, Fogerty was born on the bayou....of Southern California."

I think everybody's got a little bit of diese in them.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I love diese music.

As a celebration of Drew's new and exciting venture, The Diese Blog, I think it's fitting that HSW holds an open forum on the subject of diese musicians. My intention here is not to steal TDB's thunder, just to spread the good, good word as best I can. In the future I'll be relegating diese-talk to redicrections to the official site, for we'd be doing a disservice to the concept by discussing it here, as it lies outside HSW's core competencies.

But for now, I'd like to submit a few; feel free to contest, support, etc.--

First of all, The Drive-By Truckers are undeniably diese, and the Diese Blog itself has identified the rockers as such, and thus it shall not be contested.

I'd submit a few other bands who'd wave that banner proudly:

  • Uncle Tupelo
  • Lucero
  • Johnny Cash
  • Son Volt
  • Neko Case (le femme diese)
  • And as a dark horse... I'll throw out Patty Hurst Shifter (whose drummer is Skillet Gilmore, former Whiskeytown timekeeper and owner of one of the more diese names in alt-country.)

Let's hear your suggestions in the comments section. And please, go be a part of something big over at the Diese Blog.

Monday, October 6, 2008

My Shot at Musical Lookalikes

As a result of recent blog posts, I have been toying with my own version of Musical Lookalikes. Here we go:

MC HAMMER vs. MARK MORRISON

MARK MORRISON
















MC HAMMER







<-wtf is up with this dude?




The Winner?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Ashes of Americana Sigs

A nice little find today...

After two days of hellish film-work, I wanted to do nothing less than purge my old room of...everything, actually. My boxed-up collegiate life, i.e. that which isn't currently furnishing, decorating or cluttering my apartment, is stored comfortably in the room where I spent my pizza-faced adolescence. But the hammer finally dropped, and the Captain's orders are for a complete and utter overhaul, leaving the room a blank canvas for he and moms to do what the might with it.

I was well into it, having sectioned everything into two piles (trash, Goodwill), when I came across a relic that I thought was long trashed. A print-at-home concert ticket, signed by every current member of Wilco aside from John Stirratt, who was a no-show when about 8 dedicated fans (myself included) managed to coax the members out for a brief meet-and-greet after the Charleston show in March of 06. But it wasn't 2 days later that I'd lost the damn ticket. I long blamed my mother, who I was sure had chucked the ticket, which, to the untrained eye, might have appeared to be little more than a scribbled piece of scrap paper. But, gahblesser, she'd stashed it in my room, albeit in a rather indiscriminate nook.

Anyhoo, here she is in all her glory:



A bit of amateur graphology:

1. Tweedy - J is quite discernable; seems to have errantly begun last name with a "P".
2. Pat Sansone - Crisp, readable, worthy of a Spalding mitt
3. Glen Kotche - Ornate like drumming style; Hancockian.
4. Mikael Jorgensen - ALL CAPS; Last name abbreviated; must fight urge to add "Fox"
5. Nels Cline - What a gay.

Off to Wal-mart for an 8x11 frame!