Monthly Archives: January 2010

Like A Little Drop Of Ink In A Glass Of Water

I consider myself a nostalgic person, but not overly so or is it overly such? Regardless, I thoroughly enjoy music from previous generations & probably even more than most of the music coming out today. I’m that way with a lot of things though, movies, baseball, radio, etc. Not everything is worse now that it was say 20 years ago, however, video games have dramatically improved, basketball & football are so much more exciting & television has climbed to heights many never thought it would with the emergence of edgy cable programming.

One of the things that I most enjoy about today is writing. Today everyone seems to be putting pen to paper or rather computer text to blogs & expressing themselves in ways the world has never seen before. 10 years ago I would never have had the opportunity to write everyday for the world to see my divergent opinions were it not for this utterly fantastic forum. Last week I decided again to break from my nostalgic rut once again & force myself to listen to something at least somewhat current. Actually it’s a couple years old, but I’d heard so much about it, but never listened to it.

From the ever reliable Wikipedia:

The National are a Brooklyn-based indie rock band formed in 1999. The band’s lyrics are written and sung by Matt Berninger in a distinctive, deep baritone. The rest of the band is composed of two pairs of brothers: Aaron and Bryce Dessner and Scott and Bryan Devendorf. Aaron plays guitar, bass and piano, Bryce plays guitar, Scott plays bass and guitar, and Bryan is the drummer. Padma Newsome, from sister band Clogs, often contributes strings, keyboards, and other arrangements and instrumental flourishes.

I decided to listen to what Paste called, “The number 1 album of 2007″ & that is Boxer. I will say that at first the aforementioned deep baritone of Matt Berninger threw me off as it sounded so much like Crash Test Dummies lead singer Brad Roberts that I almost couldn’t listen to it without fully expecting “Mmm, Mmm, Mmm” to break out in the middle of “Fake Empire”, but I pushed through & found this album so amazing that much like the Tom Waits album before I kicked myself for having been so close minded as not to listen to it before.

I found it to be very much like Joy Division musically who they list as one of their main influences & lyrically like Bruce Springsteen who was another influence. After a few listens I realized that the vocal style, while something I could not listen to every day fit perfectly with this style. it is so much of a collaborative effort that the vocals do not stand out as much once you are fully integrated into the style. You may say music is always a collaborative effort & to an extent I agree, but not to this level.

In this band it takes every single member to come up with the sound they are attempting to achieve while in bands like The Smiths, Smashing Pumpkins or even Nine Inch Nails those aren’t as prevalent. Especially in the case of NIN who are really just Trent Reznor & session/touring musicians. On Boxer it’s almost like the lyrics are faded down so that the music stands out. My favorite song on the album was “Green Gloves” . it was so beautifully constructed & so pared down that you can hear the sliding down on the acoustic guitar (a sound I adore). Again, this album is a stellar album of grand achievement & I’m so glad that my year is starting off with new music that can guide me towards a more open-minded existence.

Fake Empire – The National

Green Gloves – The National

Start a War – The National

Brainy (Alt. Version) – The National

Santa Clara (Demo) – The National

Who Knows Why You Wanna Lay There & Revel In Your Abandon

For this Bootleg Saturday I have decided to share a favorite concert of mine. Tom Petty in Houston circa 1979. This is before they were huge in any sense of the word. They had just returned from touring with Nils Lofgren & a benefit at Madison Square Garden.

Their first album, simply titled Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, gained minute popularity amongst American audiences, achieving more success in Britain. The single “Breakdown” was re-released in 1977 and peaked at #40 in early 1978 after the band toured in the United Kingdom in support of Nils Lofgren. The debut album was released by Shelter Records, which at that time was distributed by ABC Records.

Their second album, You’re Gonna Get It!, marked the band’s first Top 40 album and featured the singles “I Need to Know” and “Listen To Her Heart”. Their third album, Damn the Torpedoes, quickly went platinum, selling nearly two million copies; it includes their breakthrough singles “Don’t Do Me Like That”, “Here Comes My Girl” and “Refugee.”

TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS HOUSTON – 1979

American Girl

Anyway You Want It

Anything That’s Rock & Roll

Breakdown

Cry To Me

Don’t Do Me Like That

Even the Losers

Fooled Again

Here Comes My Girl

I Fought the Law

I Need To Know

Listen to Your Heart

Refugee

Route 66

Shadow of a Doubt

Shout

Strangered in the Night

The Wild One Forever

Too Much Ain’t Enough

It Seems Like Years Since It’s Been Clear

As the rain falls on the concrete jungle that is Hollywood, I long for a warmer existence. I love the rain & I’m glad it’s falling. Like Travis Bickle says in Taxi Driver, “Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets.” An allusion to the Noah’s Ark story in the Bible, no doubt. When I say a warmer existence I mean to say that I long to be around people that are like-minded. Hollywood is an actor’s town not meant to be a mecca for music lovers like myself. The rain makes it better though.

A cup of coffee, the raindrops hitting the ground making their own musical notes & the Beatles make this day so much better. The rain always seems to wash away the tension of life & bring about feelings of renewal for me. I look forward to this time of year in Los Angeles. The summers are intolerably hot & fire rains on the city from every direction, but when the skies darken & rain falls from the heavens it creates a much more harmonious existence. Then when the sun finally peaks through the clouds & those first rays of sunshine show it makes us so much more grateful for that warmth.

Here Comes the Sun – The Beatles

The Things You Can’t Remember Tell The Things You Can’t Forget

Recently I’ve tried to reacquaint myself with a friend, but it seems like time has been ever allusive once again. I’ve just started a new job working nights basically & she works in an industry that demands a lot of time & energy. If it were a romantic thing I probably wouldn’t be as interested in making time, but good friends are hard to find so I don’t feel like I’m wasting said time. That’s the thing about everything isn’t it? Time…we all feel our time is valuable, but with different designations.

Sure my time is wasted when I have to wait 2 minutes for the next green light, but not when I choose to wait in line for an hour at a club. It’s how we use our time that determines whether or not we are wasting it. When our time is taken by unforeseen circumstances or against our will (See: D.M.V.) that’s when we complain about our time being wasted. Tom Waits wrote a beautiful opus  called “Time” on his brilliant album Rain Dogs. It speaks to the mere passage of time & how it affects life in general.

And they all pretend they’re orphans and their memory’s like a train
You can see it getting smaller as it pulls away
And the things you can’t remember tell the things you can’t forget
That history puts a saint in every dream

Essentially, what Waits is saying is that time is this villain with it’s various definitions. It’s desolate & unforgiving, but it’s there or as the sang goes “Time waits for no man” & isn’t it so true. The wheel of time rolls along throughout the ages & it consumes everything it comes into contact with. We fight time like a disease with Botox & face lifts to make us feel like we’ll live forever. We all want that little slice of immortality, but such thoughts are counterintuitive to the human experience. We are prolonging our lives simply to prolong them, but not to really contribute anything except space.

Often it takes tragedies for people to realize how precious time is, but then as quickly as it happened those thoughts are gone. I’m no hippie. This is not me on my soapbox telling you how to act or to stop everything & count the seconds of your day. My point is to make your time here matter, to choose who & what you spend your time with wisely. Those are the hardest choices to make. We are on this mortal coil for only so long & spending that time wisely is an utter necessity.

Enjoy your life, do things you love, wait for good people & shed the bad ones. Look around for just a few more minutes to experience all the things beautiful & ugly that make life what it is. See the people in your life for what they are: flawed creatures with the same problems & issues & stresses as you. Realize that we all suffer from the evils & beauty of time.

As Tom Waits said:

And it’s time time time, and it’s time time time
And it’s time time time that you love
And it’s time time time

Time – Tom Waits – Rain Dogs

One More For The Soul-Madded Dreamers

For this Bootleg Thursday I thought I’d put up one of my favorite current bands, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. I saw them play a number of times when I was at Live 105 in San Francisco & they are so intense it really makes for quite the experience. Peter Hayes, previously of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, put BRMC together along with Nick Jago (who eventually was kicked out of the band) in 1998 & were quickly signed & eventually dropped by Virgin. That’s as much of a background I’ll give about them. I’ve never been one into giving a whole band’s bio just to get to the point that I can introduce them.

This particularly piece is from March 19, 2006 at the Triple Door in Seattle.What’s fascinating about BRMC is that they could’ve easily been a band in the ’60’s & nothing would be different. They have that attitude of rebellion, a folk/blues mix about them that screams defiance towards current ridiculous trends. This concert is acoustic so it really highlights Hayes’ voice & solid guitar playing. Also, they do a fantastic cover of Bob Dylan’s “Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”. Definitely, a concert worth listening to.

A little fun fact about them is that they have something in common with the Beatles, in that they also got their name from Marlon Brando’s movie “The Wild One”. The Beatles got their name when Lee Marvin Says, ” Ever since the club split up, I miss you. We all missed ya… you miss ‘im? yea. The Beetles missed ya. All the Beetles missed ya.” Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is the name of Brando’s club in the movie.

BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB – MARCH 19, 2006 – TRIPLE DOOR SEATTLE WASHINGTON

The Promise

Restless Sinner

Complicated Situation

U.S. Government

Shuffle Your Feet

Shuffle your Feet (Audience Interaction Remix)

Love Burns

Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll

Fault Line

Mercy

Ain’t No Easy Way

Devil’s Waitin’

Feel It Now

The Papers Want To Know Who’s Shirt You Wear

I meant to write about this on Friday, then over the weekend, but I just got so bogged down in my own head, which I am wont to do, that it didn’t happen. Writing is almost like physical exercise to me & I know that comes off as perhaps hyperbolic, but it’s true. It’s a huge exercise for my brain which I try not to use in real life & for my first 33 1/2 years it’s been pretty evident. Anyway, on January 8th, David Bowie celebrated his 63rd Birthday & Elvis Presley would’ve celebrated his 75th.

At first glance the thought is that Elvis is perhaps the greatest Rock N’ Roll star in history, but again we come to that old argument is Elvis a talented musician or a terrific entertainer? David Bowie is an innovator best known for his alter-ego turn in the ’70’s as Ziggy Stardust & his glam-rock androgyny. Though, much like Elvis this may be just a way for the masses to label something they don’t understand.

We’ll first tackle the Elvis questions. Elvis was a supremely talented vocalist & entertainer. He was the first Rock N’ Roll musician that was marketable to the world. Good looking, affable, a great dancer & a white man with a black voice. Elvis had it all. He took what Frank Sinatra had to the next level & became a veritable Rock N’ Roll crooner. Elvis, though, never wrote his own songs, rarely played an instrument & let’s not even talk about the Fat Elvis days. He was by all accounts the Michael Jackson of his day (Michael Jackson wrote his own songs though), which is not to say that he was not talented or a star, just as far as musicianship he was a pop star, a Justin Timberlake. A guy that could sing, dance & act (King Creole is a remarkably good movie, as is Jailhouse Rock). He was an icon like MJ that became a bit of a freakshow in his later years, much like MJ.

David Bowie created or at least popularized Glam Rock, but if you look at his body of work it’s just as impressive in the annals of music history as Elvis Presley’s. I dare you to listen to Hunky Dory & not walk away thinking it is one of the greatest albums ever. It’s brilliant & may not even be his best album as Ziggy Stardust is perfect. From 1968-1972 David Bowie put out some of the best music the world has ever heard. Then he decided to reinvent himself. Much like Elvis, he could have stayed the same, still been great & no one would’ve thought twice. He didn’t, he ventured out & saw what else he could do. He made some records with an R&B flavor, a cover album & some disco stuff & it wasn’t all great, but he took chances.

The point is not that these artists are diametrically opposite, because they are quite similar in many ways. What it comes down to, for me, is that David Bowie took more chances than Elvis did. He took his music places that were years ahead of his time. Later in life when Elvis turned into a fat caricature of himself David Bowie was duetting with Trent Reznor on Soundtracks & still reinventing himself to a newer, younger audience.  Many will say Elvis had no choice, he was pigeonholed by an adoring public. Bullshit. The Beatles & Bob Dylan could’ve cared less what people thought when they decided to change their respective sounds & they didn’t take a 2 year break to serve inthe Army.

Musicians  progress, mature, evolve. Entertainers stick with what their fans want, with what makes them money & with what keeps them marketable. Elvis Presley was a corporation unto himself, a marketing machine that transcended music. David Bowie is a musician, that entertains, but his musical evolutions are not predicated on whether or not you like him. You are merely happenstance, an afterthought to what he feels is his greater goal…satisfying himself musically. That’s why, musically, David Bowie is far superior to Elvis Presley.

Elvis Presley – That’s All Right

David Bowie (Live at the BBC) – Space Oddity

Elvis Presley – Blue Moon

David Bowie (Live at the BBC) – Queen Bitch

Elvis Presley – Mystery Train

David Bowie – Life on Mars

I Will Always Remember To Forget About You

The first album I’ve decided to review is Tom Waits’ 2002 album Blood Money. In true Tom Waits fashion, Blood Money is filled with what can only be described as Circus music. Calliopes, Tubas & Xylophones fill this album with Zydeco style rhythms. It is an album that hearkens back to one of my favorite Waits album’s Rain Dogs. About half of the album is oddly tame with songs like “Lullaby” that while slower still coincide with the overall theme of the album (as every album must have a theme or be nothing more than a collection of songs) having given up on life.

It is this theme that makes the narrator (this is what we’ll call him for the purposes of this piece) lose his faith in God & Humanity. This is never more evident than in the song, “Everything Goes to Hell”:

Why be sweet, why be careful, why be kind?
A man has only one thing on his mind
Why ask politely, why go lightly, why say please?
They only want to get you on your knees
There’s a few things that I never could believe

A woman when she weeps
A merchant when he swears
A thief who says he’ll pay
A lawyer when he cares
A snake when he is sleeping
A drunkard when he prays
I don’t believe you go to heaven when you’re good
And everything goes to hell, anyway

The Narrator comes off as having had a hard life, one of a sailor, not known for being the richest fellows. The Narrator is very resentful of the hand he has been dealt, but deals with it the only way he knows how booze, women & fighting. He doesn’t want to be pitied, nor cared for, but reminds everyone of his plight. He is merely a forgotten man. A lost soul ready to pack it in as in the final track “A Good Man is Hard To Find”:

I always play Russian Roulette in my head
It’s seventeen black or twenty-nine red
How far from the gutter
How far fron the pew
I will always remember to forget about you

A good man is hard to find
Only strangers sleep in my bed
My favorite words are good-bye
And my favorite color is red

A long dead soldier looks out
From the frame
No one remembers his war; no one
Remembers his name

Go out to the meadow;
Scare off all the crows
It does nothing but rain here,
And nothing will grow

A good man is hard to find
Only strangers sleep in my bed
My favorite words are good-bye
And my favorite color is red

Why I didn’t discover this album sooner is beyond me. It tells a tragic story through beautiful music in a way only Tom Waits can. The voice of the great Waits only adds to the feelings of sadness & pity you feel for a character that abhors both. He shows that the Narrator’s life of poverty & shame is exasperated only by the places he visits & sees how the other half lives. He knows, though, with unwavering logic that he will never become that. It is not who he is nor someone he truly aspires to be. He mocks the women he beds in these foreign lands as he says again in “Everything Goes to Hell” :

I only want to hear you purr and to hear you moan
You have another man who brings the money home
I don’t want dishes in the sink
Don’t ask me what I feel or what I think

That is because he lost any capacity for feeling long ago. In this way he is much like Mersault in Albert Camus’ existential masterpiece “The Stranger”. He knows not when he became lost, perhaps it is his birthright, but he doesn’t dwell on it & seems to care not that the woman he is sleeping with is married or that he could even care less about her. She is merely something to do (in a matter of speaking) while docked. If you have not heard the album I would greatly suggest you do so as it is Waits’ best album since Rain Dogs & was used for the play Woyzeck by Georg Büchner. Hopefully, this is the start of a great year of new music, new to me anyway & discoveries that change the way I see things. Change is not necessarily always a bad thing. Sometimes it is enlightening.


Everything Goes to Hell – Tom Waits

A Good Man is Hard To Find – Tom Waits