Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Guilty Pleasure - Part II

And yes, here it is. The list of movies that I don’t recommend to people or friends.  The guilty pleasure movies that I love, but don’t openly admit. In many ways, this list is more embarrassing  than my list of top 5 Guilty Pleasure Songs.
 So, let’s dissect this list…

#5. The Matrix Reloaded
    This one is always hard to admit. Damn near everyone loves the first Matrix movie, as do I. But nearly everyone hates the last two movies, (and with fairly good reason - Matrix Revolutions is terrible).
    But why do I like this one? Well, because half of this movie lived up to my expectations. Half of this movie had some good ideas. For instance, the freeway action sequence is still pretty cool-looking  and, (in my opinion), just as good as anything in the first movie. While it’s plot is hindered by some extraneous side notes - (i.e. the odd rave/orgy sequence in Zion, any of the scenes including Persephone and the Merovingian) - the plot is at least average and no worse than any other huge-budget Hollywood movie, (with cheese ball lines included).
    And while there are some ill-conceived CGI, (the Neo versus a million Agent Smiths, comes to mind), most of the special effects are pretty solid.
    Though I enjoy this movie, I will admit that the cliffhanger ending is especially irritating - given that the movie that followed was a much bigger steaming pile of crap.
    Now on to the next one!

#4. Welcome to Woop Woop
    Ah….This one.
    There’s a bit of pride in this Australian B-movie. By that, I mean that very few people have seen this movie, (probably for good reason).
    The plot is straight-forward and simple:
    Guy is on the run. Guy meets girl. Girl insists on marrying/kidnapping guy and taking him back to a creepy, middle-of-nowhere outback town inhabited by super-crazy, Rodgers & Hammerstein-obsessed locals. Guy tries to escape…Etc…
    This movie directed by Stephan Elliott, subsequently after the success of “The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert” - (which nearly made this list, by the way), is hilarious in a disturbed sort of way. I mean, with lines like “Part me beef curtains” and an awesome soundtrack made up of late 90’s artists covering Rodgers & Hammerstein tunes, you can’t ask for a more insane movie.
(and for all you B-movie aficionados - the plot is oddly similar to the movie “A Boy and His Dog”)

#3. Bad Education  or  La Mala Educacion
    First of all, this is not a B-movie. It is an absolutely perfectly done film, in a strange Hitchcock-esque vein, (think a transgender Vertigo, in Spanish - that flirts with the idea of metafiction).
    While that description doesn’t do it justice, suffice to say that this movie is one of the first Pedro Almodovar films that I saw, and I immediately had to go out and watch his other movies.
    So why is this one on the list? Well, to begin with, it’s initial release was rated NC-17, (which in many ways immediately puts it at some form of cult status). And with it’s depiction of transsexuality, drug abuse, and other taboo topics - it would probably make a lot of right-wing folks uncomfortable, (presumably, that’s why this film got the rating it did - when in reality it has nothing worse than what can fit under an R-rating anyway).
    Which is a shame really, because this is definitely one of the best films of the decade, and it proves that Almodovar is a master at the art of cinema.

#2. Love Actually
    I know I’m going to catch havoc for this one, but nonetheless, I love this movie.
    Basically, it’s an ensemble of every reasonably good British actor in the early 2000’s. While this movie is so sickeningly sweet that it’s likely to cause diabetes within the first viewing, it’s also the over-the-top king of the British romantic-comedy fold.
    Yes. It’s embarrassing to admit that I love this movie. But even it’s detractors would have to admit that it’s got some great moments of dry British humor. And for me, there is nothing funnier than hearing Bill Nighy’s washed-up rockstar character say “Now let’s get pissed, and watch porn!”

And finally…

#1. Southland Tales
    I don’t know anyone who likes this movie. And if you’ve seen it, you probably have numerous valid points as to why this is a terrible movie.
    It could be the completely near-incomprehensible plot - or the blatantly weird music throughout with oddball references to song lyrics and Robert Frost poems within the dialogue - or the bizarre casting, (Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson? Really?) - You could say “It doesn’t make any sense.” - And you would be right.
    Coming off the success of “Donnie Darko”, Richard Kelly wrote and directed this insane movie…. And it was panned by damn near every film critic, and was a box-office disaster.
    I really do like this movie. The whole thing is a mess, but it’s kind of interesting to see a director try to fit way too many ideas into nearly 2 ½ hours. Yes, it’s a train wreck - but it’s hard to look away.
    It’s like listening to the Clash’s “Sandinista” album. It’s basically the sound of a band throwing in everything and the kitchen sink into a triple-LP. In the end, you end up with a sprawling album that has moments of brilliance, and it’s equal share of utter failure.
    Well, that basically sums up this movie. It’s trying to be a comedy, a dystopian-end-of-the-world film, a cool-looking music video, and a thriller - all at once.
    Likewise, it does have moments of brilliance: the eccentric lip-syncing of the Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done” by none other than Justin Timberlake, or it’s strange ruminations on time-travel, or the long panning room-shot inside the blimp that moves at the pace of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s “Howl”….
    There are reasons to like this movie. You just have to work with it a bit.

    So, yes…. These are the movies that I don’t readily recommend to casual friends, (or even some of my close friends), for fear of them thinking I’m crazy and having the worst taste in movies.
    Now, your turn.
    What’s your top 5? I promise not to laugh…

Song of the Week:

"Hounds of Love"  -   by The Futureheads

A pretty freakin' sweet cover of Kate Bush's "Hounds of Love" by these guys from England, and awesome backing vocals in a sort of call-and-response pattern. Go out and buy their self-titled album from back in 2004 for blissful harmony-soaked pop songs with odd post-punk tendencies....

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Creative Process?

This will be one of those blog entries that is specifically  tailored  to people who listen to/know about my band Hutson. So, for all others, beware....The following is a semi-extensive description of how the next Hutson album will come to exist.
    To begin with, every band is different, and their process of conceiving  songs is equally as diversified. But here is how we're doing it.

    In the early years of the band, it was usually me bringing a fully-structured song to the band, and everyone adding their parts around it. And even still, that method still remains - although it has been altered significantly.
    Part 1:   I'll record a basic song structure, (with or without lyrics), choose an approximate tempo, (ex. 135 bpm), and then upload the this file and recording to a folder, (i.e. "Demo Song #1"), on the server we're using.  Tony and Andy then take a listen and start constructing their individual parts, (bass and percussion, respectively - although keyboards and/or other instruments are encouraged).  By the time we end up at practice the next week, we've got a rough idea of the song idea.
   Part 2:    At this point, the song structure may go through numerous alterations. Verses and/or choruses may be added or deleted, dynamic changes may be moved around, and then discussion occurs regarding "the Feel" of the song.
   Part 3:    Yes, as retarded and cliche as it sounds, we actually spend quite a lot of time discussing this. For me, "the Feel" goes hand in hand with  whatever influence I'm coming from with the initial song idea - and as anyone who knows me is aware, most of my songs end up being a game of "Name the Influence."  I don't intentionally go in with that mindset, but it's just part of my own creative process.
   Part 4:    We manage to get a demo song idea in a working format, and record our practice in order to remember what version of the song we were most pleased with. Then, we move on to the next recorded demo song idea. This allows us not to get too attached to each individual song as we continue gleaning through our material.
   At this point, our overall plan is to get 20 demo songs to this stage in the next 2 months. We currently have 8 songs uploaded/recorded, and about 5 more ideas not recorded yet, so we're moving along at a good rate.
   After we've got our 20 songs, we'll sit down and choose which 11 or 12 songs we want for the full-length album. After we've picked the specific songs, we'll truly start organizing song structures and "feel" in order to to make the album cohesive.
    Then the recording sessions start.

   That is the basic outline of the process we've chosen to use for the song-writing for the new songs. Now, bear in mind that if Tony comes up with an idea for a bassline, (or Andy with a drum part),  the process works inherently the same way - Tony uploads the recorded bass part and Andy and I start work on complimentary  parts, (for those of you interested, "Shallow Grave" was created this way).
   I'm not going to go into lyric-writing here, because there is nothing more mind-numbing than listening to me talk about how my lyrics are written or where they come from. Besides, most questions regarding lyric-writing end up with either pretentious or completely retarded answers. Thus, I'm not going to get into that here.
   Now, this may not seem like the most spontaneous method of creating music between three people. But then again, we're not exactly the Grateful Dead.
   Don't get me wrong - jam sessions are helpful, but for our three-piece, a clear method of organization is needed to construct the songs.
   And that's how the songs are being made for the next Hutson LP. When we get around to the recording stage, I'll go in-depth on how we'll be going about it, but that's a story for another blog.

  And this week's Album of the Week  is:

"High Times: Singles 1992-2006"     -     Jamiroquai

     While I'm not admittedly a big fan of this band, there is a lot to like in this basic collection of singles. Like nearly everyone I know, I was only aware of "Virtual Insanity" and "Canned Heat" from this band. And not that those aren't great songs, they simply require me to be in a specific mood to listen to them.
      At any rate, I picked this CD up for about 10 bucks, because I was curious about the time frame. 1992? I vaguely remember "Virtual Insanity" coming out in 1996, but otherwise I was unaware of this band.
     Turns out, Jamiroquai is pretty big in the UK, (which is where they're from)... And their first few albums represent a band associated with "the London-based "acid-jazz" movement in the early 90's"... Who knew?
     While the later albums since 1996 appear to delve deeper into 70's disco/funk and electronica, this collection pretty much sounds great and has gotten plenty of repeat listens from me over the past week since I got it.
      Like I said, I'm not a huge fan, but as a collection to show off what this band is capable of, this CD really hits all the marks.... It could even make me more than just a casual fan.
     Besides, a white guy who sounds like Stevie Wonder?  Awesome.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tourblog #1 (or How The Hold Steady Saved My Life)

Sometime in 2005, I picked up a copy of "Separation Sunday" by the Hold Steady. The music critics had liked this album, and based on some of that recommendation -I purchased a copy. I listened to it for a couple of weeks, but ended up selling it thereafter.
Don't get me wrong. I loved the music. I loved the lyrics. I liked everything about it..... But for some reason, I couldn't handle Craig Finn's sorta-shouted, sorta-monotone vocal delivery. So, I sold the album, and kind of forgot about them.

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010
    Hutson got picked, (along with 7 or 8 other bands), by a local radio station, (who will remain unnamed), to play for a certain summer concert series.
    Normally, this would be great thing - but it does have a crappy side to it.
#1. First of all, they don't provide a P.A. system for your band to use. Whereas most venues around Portland, (even the dive bars), have some sort of a P.A. system for live music, the folks behind this event did not.
#2. We were informed that we needed to fill a 2 hour time frame in an outdoor place, and that we could provide our own tent in the case of rain. The people at the station made it known that they wanted the show to happen rain or shine, but offered no help in the case of inclement weather.
#3. The radio station would have a small press tent set up to promote the radio station, and they would allow us to sell our merchandise, (after said merchandise was okayed by an advertising company),  but would not be able to assist with any sales on our behalf.
#4. We found out later that said radio station was being paid by the outdoor mall in order to have "local bands" play for 2 hours from 6pm-8pm. And of course, all of these 7-8 bands received no form of monetary payment. What we did get were a few 15-second promos on the radio promoting the show a couple of days before it. I suppose that was our reimbursement.
    Now, when you've done shows at coffee houses that were more lucrative than this event, this kind of experience, (with even a well-known, and presumably professional radio station), leaves a bad taste in your mouth. And when the radio station advertises this band selection as a "contest" for local bands to give it a shot, it leaves you wondering "What did we win?"
    But one way or the other, we did our show for 2 hours. It didn't rain. And we met a guy named Chris who had heard our spot on the radio and made the trip to Tanasbourne to hear us and buy a copy of our CD. So, in that respect, it was worth it.
    But in regards to playing outdoors for disinterested  mall-goers, I would elect to never repeat this event with this radio station. In fact, if I'm going to play for disinterested passersby, I'd rather do that in a dive bar, cause at least I'll get drink tickets! (Oh, yes... The station also notified us that we were to not consume alcoholic beverages during our 2-hour stint at Tanasbourne)....
    As the first show of four in a 2 1/2 week period, I found this worse than the old dive-bar days. To make it worse, I was in the midst of an awful upper respiratory infection that made singing extremely difficult and nerve-wracking, (waiting for that moment when my vocals would go out completely and emit so many atonal frequencies).

Thursday, July 29th, 2010
    We hit the Doug Fir Lounge on a Thursday night, and I wasn't in a great place to enjoy myself. Hutson had been boosted to headlining by the booker, (a move I'm still puzzled by), and we were definitely the "odd-band-out", as we aren't quite the straight-ahead rock act as the other two on the bill.
    A large amount of our friends and fans came out for this show, but by the time we took the stage at 11pm, a good chunk of our crowd had to leave. Being a Thursday night and the inevitable baby-sitting and "work tomorrow" issues, our head-lining stint was difficult, but we went through it, and overall had a better experience than our Summer Concert Series show, but far from the most enjoyable show I've ever played.
    We had about nine days off after this show and I needed the time to fully get over my cold. But I found myself a bit underwhelmed about the two previous shows. It's not that we played bad or anything, but I certainly wasn't having any fun with them, and in short, I was feeling pretty miserable.

    Funny enough, the next day or so, I picked up a used copy of the Hold Steady's "Boys and Girls In America."
    This was a band I'd written off earlier on, but based on a reference of a good friend of mine, I gave them another try.
    I immediately fell in love with this album. The damn thing completely blew me away, and basically re-invigorated me with what we could do at our live shows. This album is definitely in my top 10 list now, and somehow rebooted the creative/artistic slump I felt surrounding me. I could give you a detailed review, but that's not the point of this blog.
    What I will say is that this album, (and band), marked a turning point for me, and for whatever reason, I was supposed to hear that album at that particular moment in time.

Friday, August 7th - Saturday, August 8th, 2010
    So, our next show was another outdoor thing at the Whole Foods on Burnside. This time we were notified that we would need to provide our own P.A. system. And this time, it nearly rained on us. Luckily, we rigged a MacGyver-esque umbrella covering that was able to keep any rain off the electrical equipment, thus keeping us all safe from the impending threat of electrocution.
    This show in particular went really well, even though it had a lot of things that could have gone wrong.
    The rain was minimal and the clouds burned off towards the end of our set. The folks at Whole Foods were gracious and gave us free drinks, food, and gift cards for all our band members as payment, and seemed to genuinely like us.
    The next night was our opening set at the Doug Fir Lounge again, this time opening for Violet Isle's CD release show.
    Still riding high from the positive experience of the show from the day before, we did a great set that night, and most of all - It felt good.
    I was over my cold, we'd made some new fans, and I'd totally been rejuvenated by rediscovering a band and an album that reminded me why I try to do all this band-related stuff. I remembered that even though you might have a crappy show every now and then, (i.e. the Streets of Tanasbourne), there'll always be another one that'll wipe that experience from your memory, and that finding a great album can still change you and  your point of view.
    (And yes..... I'm probably going to have to repurchase a copy of the Hold Steady's "Separation Sunday"...)

Song of the Week:
(I'm sure you didn't see this coming.....)

The Hold Steady's  "Chips Ahoy!"

    My favorite song off an album that has no bad songs whatsoever. Listen to this song, and watch the video... (cause it's fairly amusing... and overly tongue-in-cheek)... And who doesn't like backing vocals that go, "Whoa, whoah, whoaoh"?
    And if you dig it, do yourself a favor and go buy this album... Cause this song's great, but "Stuck Between Stations" or "Chillout Tent" could have easily been the song of the week...Have I mentioned how great of an album this is yet?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Momentary Hiatus....

Okay, for all you wonderful people that actually read this blog... This is a quick note...

    I'm taking a break from the blog for a good week and half or so...

There won't be any blog updates until after August 8th.
Why?  Cause I have four Hutson concerts going on between now and then...
    But fear not, I shall return... And I'm sure we'll have a brand new blog out on the August 9th detailing the misadventures of this string of shows...
    Until then, visit for more info on on these shows - and be sure to make it out to the Doug Fir Lounge on Thursday, July 29th for our headlining concert... I promise you it's going to be freakin' amazing!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Oh...the Horror!

     I'm sick of people who don't like horror movies.
     Or rather, I'm sick of people giving me crap because I enjoy horror movies.
     It seems a widespread  notion that if you like horror movies, then you don't have any taste in films, or that you don't particularly like movies that are devoid of exploding heads or gratuitous blood-letting.
    This perception is completely inaccurate.
    First of all, my list of top 5 movies of all time doesn't even include any horror films, (although my top 10 would), and most of them would be categorized as "drama." But, that's a list for another time.
    What I find more frightening than horror films is the large amount of people who have to have happy endings to their movies, in order to enjoy them. I mean, really. Do you truly need to have your movies all tied up in a nice package with a pretty bow on them? This is the type of movie-goer that I personally abhor, as well as an example of the type of movie that isn't worth my time.
    How did I get this way? How did I come under the sway of the dark side of cinema?
    Easy. When I was a kid, I was deathly afraid of the dark.Seriously. Scared to death.
    One definite experience I remember was seeing the end of the movie "Aliens" on TV late one night, and being scarred forever by the sight of the android Bishop being impaled and torn apart by the alien. This, (amongst other things), haunted me forever.
    And then, somehow, somewhere in 5th or 6th grade I started reading Stephen King books, and other writers of that ilk - and then I slowly made the transition to celluloid. I distinctly remember watching horror movies throughout college rabidly, (as well as films like "Magnolia" and "Fight Club" that actually changed the way I looked at films).
    Now....why? Why do I like horror movies?
    Well, let's face it.....Life is hard. We all deal with random stuff that comes up in our everyday lives that simultaneously disappoints us, depresses us, or hurts us, etc. Not only the standard life stressors like money, job security, or dealing with ignorant people are difficult - sometimes there are huge things like a car accident, cancer, other health problems, etc. The horrors of everyday living are sometimes much more frightening than anything a horror film can show us....
    So, sometimes it's nice to see people who are having a worse day than you are. I mean, when was the last time I was chased down a dark hallway by a deformed madman with a chainsaw?
    See? It's a way of re-aligning your perspective.
    Also, it's nice to know exactly what you're going to get. If I watch a slasher flick, then I can expect an ever-increasing body count in the next 90 minutes or so; no deep thinking required. And after a long 12-hour shift in the E.R., all I want to do is turn my brain off, make a drink, and enjoy something that doesn't require a large amount of thought.....(This is also my reason for watching "South Park" after work - because absurdity can be refreshing)....
    And now, people are going to disagree with me on this.... But....
Horror movies are art.
    Yes. Just like real art and music, horror movies can be dissected  by genre and appreciated in certain ways.
    Now, there are crappy horror movies, (just like there are crappy artists and crappy musicians). But sometimes you have to understand the genrefication of these films.
     Here's a crash-course:
1. Zombie Film
This requires no explanation.

2. Slasher Film
a'la John Carpenter's "Halloween", or any movie about a psychopath going around killing innocent victims, (usually young beautiful college-age students).

3. Supernatural/Sci-Fi Horror Film
Your standard ghost/alien movie.

4. Campy Horror Film
This is a strange mixture of comedy and horror that includes all the Evil Dead movies and such classics as Peter Jackson's "Dead Alive"

And finally, I personally think there's another category-
5. Art-House Horror Film
This would be a horror film that, (oftentimes in the hands of a good director), can transcend the horror stereotype and actually require deeper thinking. I feel "28 Days Later" is a perfect example of this. What's scarier than blood-thirsty zombies? Why human nature and British soldiers intent on continuing the human race by any means necessary, of course.

Having said that, my top 5 Horror Films are:
1. Danny Boyle's "28 Days Later"
2. John Carpenter's "The Thing"
3. George A. Romero's "Day of the Dead"
4. David Cronenberg's "Scanners"
5. Dario Argento's "Suspiria"

    If you've never seen John Carpenter's "The Thing", then you're really missing out on a classic that feeds off the paranoia of the characters and the viewer.
    As for David Cronenberg's "Scanners", it's another great tale of science gone wrong, (of course "Videodrome" nearly made the list at 6th place....),  from a fantastic Canadian director, who continues to make high-quality movies, (i.e. "A History of Violence" and "Eastern Promises").
    And though George A. Romero's filmography is a bit spotty, no one makes a zombie film like him. I personally have the slight preference for "Day of the Dead" over "Dawn of the Dead", (and it's inherent samples that have been used by Gorillaz).
    And of course, Dario Argento's "Suspiria" is still just as creepy and obsessively bloody as it was back in 1977. Almost all slasher flicks owe a huge debt to this Italian director.
    I couldn't really say anything more about "28 Days Later", but suffice to say that Danny Boyle has certainly made a name for himself as a director who has a knack for making great films in nearly any genre.
    So give us horror-lovers a break. If you have to have a happy ending and no blood in your entertainment, then fine. Sure, it's not your cup of tea, but keep it to yourself - and I will do my utmost to not make fun of you for your truly terrible taste in films.
 Song of the Week:
           The Arcade Fire's "No Cars Go"

       And truly the Arcade Fire's "Neon Bible" will be on my top ten albums list forever. But this song is beautiful, and some how feels hopeful..... Epic? Yes..... Anthemic? Yes....... Perfect?

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Sophomore Slump

    I’ve met a few people lately who aren’t overly pleased with the new MGMT album. And mostly the reason for their distaste is because: “It’s too different from the last album.”
    Okay… Fine.
    Personally, I love “Congratulations.” The whole album sounds like a crazy psychadelic mash-up of 60’s pop and 70’s art-rock.  “Flash Delirium”, for instance, sounds like E.L.O. doing a Roxy Music song, and the title track sounds blatantly reminiscent of the Sleepy Jackson’s first album.
    However, I should offer the disclaimer that I didn’t like much of anything I’d heard off of “Oracular Spectacular.”  Don’t get me wrong, the music wasn’t bad, but it seemed to have this sorta indie-synth-pop feel to it that didn’t really win me over…. (and I’m sure most people disagree with me - so hold your comments till the end, please….)
    Now, I’m not going to try and convince all you nay-sayers that “Congratulations” is a better album than “Oracular Spectacular” - (although, I believe it is…) - What I really want to talk about is the Sophomore Slump.
    Generally, this term is associated with a second album that doesn’t live up to the promise of the first one, (much like the whole “One-Hit-Wonder” phenomenon). There’s lots of examples of this, so there’s not really any need to list them.
    Now, the complaint that most people have is that the follow-up album is too different from the last album, (otherwise implying), it’s not as good as the last album.
    I guess the problem I have with this “different = not as good” argument is that it sounds like a weak reason for disliking an album at the first couple of listens.
    For my side of this argument, allow me to present to you this question:
    Do we really want a band to make the same exact album as the last one?
    Personally? I don’t.
    Now, (on that note), would I love to hear Radiohead make another “The Bends” or hear Wilco do another “Summerteeth”, or even have Pulp make another “This Is Hardcore”?  Hell, yeah! I love those albums.
    But, let’s  think about it for a second…..  The sound of a band repeating their breakthrough album, is the sound of a band that is bored. And besides, if any of those bands did try to make any of those albums again, they wouldn’t sound the same and, (in all honesty), would probably lose the specialness I’ve associated with them.
    What happens if a band does make an overly similar-sounding album to their breakthrough album, (presumably in the interest of sales)?
    I draw your attention to:
Exhibit A:   Sugar Ray
Exhibit B:   Smash Mouth
    Both of these bands had their breakthrough albums in 1997, and then had sophomore albums that did as well, (if not better), than their debuts. Why? Because they’re basically the SAME DAMN ALBUM!
    Now you might be continuing your cash flow by making the same kind of music that the mass populace wants you to make, but sooner or later the fickle mass populace is going to move on to the next big thing. And really, who takes either of the afore-mentioned bands seriously anymore? 
    What we should really want is for our bands to actually let their sound grow - to not always have that next album full of singles, so that the band can remain still relevant in the next 5 years…
    Most times, a major change in sound doesn’t equal out to good record sales. However, the history of rock music does show something interesting. I’ll give you two examples:
    Exhibit C:  Lou Reed’s  “Berlin” from 1973
    Exhibit D:  The Byrds’ “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” from 1969
    Both of these albums were commercial failures at the time of their release. Lou Reed was expected to do another “Walk On The Wild Side”, while the Byrds’ weren’t expected to take a left-turn into country music. Most of the buying public didn’t get it.
    However, in the years since, both of these albums have become classics in their own right. “Berlin” has received tons of critical praise and is considered one of Reed’s best works, while “Sweetheart…” has been touted as the genre-defining  album that started the present alt-country music scene.
    So, while the new MGMT album may not be anything as dramatic as a genre-defining masterpiece, what I would venture to say is that it’s the sound of a band reaching further out of their comfort zones and trying new things, (even if the cost is low album sales).
    And if “Congratulations” is a commercial failure, I would have to say that I’m enjoying it more than I would have an exact replica of “Oracular Spectacular”, because even the sound of failure can sound pretty damn cool.

Song Of The Week:

    Yes, you can pronounce it "chk-chk-chk" in order to put the band name into words. First of all, these guys are a great-sounding band. And this particular cover of a Magnetic Fields song is just amazing. The original is cool, too... But as far as covers go, !!! really gave it a sweet rave treatment here.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dancebeats and Street Fighter II: A Review

Thursday, May  26th  - 10:45pm
Location:  Doug Fir Lounge

    In the midst of a sample of the Specials’ “Message To You Rudy”, the euphoria of the moment strikes me.
    We’re maybe six songs into DoublePlusGood’s set, and I’m two beers in. If I went for a third, I’d probably start dancing like the guy over to my left - (a sort of flailing about that includes gratuitous trunk and arm movement, not just the feet) - But currently, I’m happy doing my “white-boy-nod-and-shuffle” dance.
    Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a little bit out of my element with this. My knowledge of electro-pop is limited, (at best).  I do have the first two Fischerspooner albums; I love the Postal Service, (and I have a deep-seeded dislike of Owl City because of it). I know my way around the mainstream late 90’s Big-Beat electronica folks - Chemical Brothers, Crystal Method, Fatboy Slim, etc…. I even have an obsession with Underworld and the Orb.  I know my 80’s synth-pop pretty well - Hell, I even like the KLF, for God’s sake… So, I wouldn’t say I’m completely retarded in regard to this kind of music.
    But, seeing DoublePlusGood play live was more transcending than the term “electro-pop”, that might be tossed about as description.
    The beats are completely danceable, (even to an uptight white-boy, like myself). The synths are ever-changing and layered, not just a fat Moog sound with a disco-beat. Andy’s live drumming notches up the intensity of several songs with near-primal tom usage that strays away from the kick-snare-hi-hat combination.
    By now, a couple of my friends have moved up closer to the stage, mere inches from the moniters, now leaving me in the 2nd row as the music pulsates away.  I’m fine with this.
    Up on stage, Eric is singing and master-minding the synth and computer-work during the whole set. Between each song there’s barely a break, usually a scattering of samples that work to immerse the audience - giving me the feeling that I’m seeing/hearing/feeling the greatest mix album ever… (and yes, that means that Lo-Fidelity Allstars’ “On The Floor At The Boutique” has fallen to 2nd place, in my book….)
    To sum up my viewpoint of what I’m hearing is this:
Morrissey fronting the coolest electro band ever.
    Because not only are you getting hit with the beat and the music, what you’re also hearing are great songs. No, not just something to shake your ass to, but perfectly executed songs!
     Being nearly 30 and having three kids makes it difficult to get out and see local shows, (and if you’re single or don’t have any kids, then you really have no excuses). But, the stars had aligned and I was able to come out and make this show at the Doug Fir.  I found this show rejuvenating and, (most of all), a hell of a lot of fun.  As serious as the songs are, there’s a bit of tongue-in-cheek, exemplified by the Street Fighter samples or a Rihanna cover.
    So, thank you DoublePlusGood - you made my week…
    Two things though….
1. Please, please, please play “Red Light Green Light” live sometime…
2. Please, please, please cover New Order's "Temptation".... And then my life will be complete.

    Now, on to that third beer…

This week’s song of the week is:  “Faster” by Manic Street Preachers
    This song was the only single off their album “The Holy Bible” back in 1994. I’d put every song on that album up here, but I will try to contain myself. With song topics ranging from anorexia, the holocaust, and hopelessness - this album deserves your attention. This album is a stroke of intelligent lyricism and scathing brutality that I still don’t fully understand… And it makes me feel like I should be reading way more books on existentialism…
    Either way, here it is - the Preachers before Richey Edwards disappeared off the face of the earth, leaving the rest of the band to UK super-stardom and, (unfortunately), less vital music…..

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Inside the Process….(Part 2)

After last week's show, it's probably a suitable time for me to finish up on the topic of Booking.
We covered the dive bars last time, so now we're looking at:

2.  Legitimate Venue
     The focus of playing these nicer venues is to have better exposure to new fans and to encourage old fans/friends to come see you in a better (nicer) environment. As far as nights to play at these venues, the old rules apply, (Friday and Saturdays are best), however, you should be happy with any night they offer you - seeing as how these venues generate a different kind of clientele.
     So you want to get a gig at one of these places? Allow me to elaborate.... First, (for your viewing pleasure)...

     The easiest way to get a show is to kindly, (but persistently), pester other bands who frequent that venue. Or, even better, if you know someone who knows someone in said band, perhaps you can get a show via that route. If you're able to score a gig through either of these ways, don't expect much more than an opening slot, and keep in mind that random acquaintances and luck play a huge part in this method.
     The other, (more complicated), way is to directly contact the person who does booking for the venue. This'll mostly happen via e-mail. If the booker is receptive to having  your band play, they may allow you to pick the line-up for that night.
      Now, this is where it gets tricky. The venue wants to make money on whatever night they give you, so they're going to pay attention to how many people you bring in. If you don't pull in enough people, the booker is going to note it, and this can adversely effect the possibility of your band playing said venue again.
     So, if you are organizing that night's line-up, you need to consider getting some bands who can generate a crowd on the bill. Also, you definitely need to promo your ass off in order to get as many people to that show as possible. With these kinds of venues, first impressions are super important, so do your best to pack these shows.
     Now, venues sometimes have a bigger band than yours *possibly* scheduled for a night that the venue has set aside, (perhaps a Friday night, for example.....) The booker may offer you that night and have your band as a "second hold." If you and your band can organize your bill and get confirmations for the show before the bigger band gets their stuff together, then your band'll probably get that night.   ....(My band Hutson  had a similar situation with booking our CD release show at the Someday Lounge)....
     Another thing to consider when playing these venues is the issue of over-exposure.  Since it's easy to get booked in dive bars, you can book your band out to play 2 or more shows a month around your local metropolis. The problem with this, is that you've now spread your fanbase out to too many shows and now your turnout is going to be low for those scheduled shows. So, try to pace yourself with scheduling these shows at the good venues.

      Okay. So that's all I know about the Process - at this point.  Where it all goes from here, who knows? Past this point, we'll just have to see....... So, ask me in a year.......

Album Of The Week:    John Cale's "Fear" is perfect. A weird, beautiful, and strange pop album that verges on being "proto-punk".   Lyrically intense and sometimes plain baffling, this is truly the masterpiece from this former Velvet, and "Fear Is A Man's Best Friend" is as brilliant and strange a lead-off track as any. I could go on and on..... but I won't...  Find it, buy it, steal it, download it... Anyway you can get it, and be amazed that stuff as cool as this was being made in 1974.... 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Inside the Process….(Part 1)

    Let’s talk about booking.  How does this process work?  Well, in a city inundated with unsigned indie bands, the process is two-fold. We’ll discuss this in 2 parts….
1.   Dive Bars
    In order to get a gig playing music in a dive bar, it’s fairly easy. The only things you need are an e-mail address and a Myspace profile.  Most bars that fit in this category range from creepy to moderately nice.  They’re  places that are looking to bring in more people with the promise of “Live Music.”
    When you first start out as a band, these kinds of venues are good to get your feet wet - get used to playing in front of people, get free drink tickets, and expose, (generally), your close friends who make the trip out to see you.
    Most people booking these bars are pretty easy to contact via their e-mail address/web page, etc… If your band has a Myspace profile, (or better, your own website), that has some of your music posted - you just e-mail’em and give’em some links with a small amount of persistence, and they’ll probably give you a Tuesday night.
    Now, night’s you ACTUALLY want to play are Friday and Saturday nights, or maybe a Thursday…. But generally the other nights are harder to get people, (“fans” if you will…), out to see a show.
    So, you start out on a Tuesday night - get your friends out, and then hopefully you get the chance to do a gig there on a Thursday or Sunday night in another month or two. There are plenty of bars that fit in this category, so it’s pretty easy to schedule out at least a show or 2 a month.
            However, the major cons of playing dive bars are this:

    1.  You’re paid with drink tickets, and not much else… You may get a cut of the bar, but don’t expect much. If you get $20, you’ve made a killing.
    2.  Crappy sound systems….  Nothing can make your folk-rock band sound like an atonal Sonic Youth feedback jam, than performing through a junky sound system.
    3.  Friend exhaustion…  No matter how wonderful your friends are, sooner or later they’re going to get tired of seeing your band play at dive bars.
    4.  And finally, dive bars are a vicious cycle that pretty much sucks the dignity from you and slowly wears down your joy of playing in front of people.

    You may ask, “Isn’t it enough to just be out there performing?”
    Well, yeah… To a point.   It’s great at first, but do it for nearly 2 years and you’ll see that you’re really playing for the regulars at these places, (who generally could care less about your music), and for 1 or 2 friends that you guilt-tripped into coming out on a Wednesday night. It gets really discouraging over a period of time.
    As gloomy as that sounds though, it is a process that every DIY band has to go through. At first, you actually NEED to play these places, cause they’re the only places that’ll book you, and they’re also useful to get to know other local bands and to get your name around town.
    But what you have to be careful of, is to not get caught in this cycle permanently.
    The process of breaking out of the dive bar scene and playing better venues gets a bit more complicated…  (To Be Continued…..)

The Song of the Week is:   Peter, Bjorn, & John’s “Objects Of My Affection”
Why? Because it sounds beautiful, and who doesn't like whistling?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Soapbox #1

So I heard Broken Bells on the radio and thought of two things:

    “The High Road” sounds like a pretty standard song from Ian Brown’s solo career, (but with better song-writing). And “The Ghost Inside” sounds like an outtake from the Dandy Warhols’ 2004 album “Welcome to the Monkey House.”
    Upon these comparisons, my initial reaction is- “Well,  it’s not bad, but I’ve heard other bands/artists do it better.”
    However, I thought about it a little bit more. Really, James Mercer and Brian Burton have some good music here - (honestly, I think it’s 75% Burton, cause this guy seems to have the Midas Touch nowadays)……{cue production credits of Danger Mouse}……. But I’ll also say that James Mercer’s song-writing is a near equal in this collaboration.
    But why that reaction of “I’ve heard this before from another band that did this”?
    Well, it’s simple…….  There’s nothing new. Everything is a rehashing of influences.
    Now, this isn’t exactly a bad thing.  The thing that frustrates me is that people fail to see/hear the history of the music they’re currently listening to. When people listen to a song they really love and fail to realize that it’s clearly derivative of another band from 10 years ago, it seriously irritates the crap out of me!
     Now, there are casual listeners who wouldn’t understand this, and that’s fine. But I’ve known people who have the same love of music as I do, who don’t even comprehend this concept. Every piece of music we listen to has some form of history behind it.
    Example:  Muse has a distinct Queen fetish and they clearly listened to a lot of early Radiohead, (if you haven’t noticed this, then chances are you’re probably deaf).  Now, Muse sounds derivative  of both of these comparisons, yet they don’t sound the same as them. That’s the beauty of those influences, maybe you haven’t listened to Queen or early Radiohead - then Muse can be your gateway-drug to some other amazing music…
    More Examples:

    I could make a longer list, but the point is this:  Whatever you’re listening to now, there are some really great artists/bands behind them that you should check out. Stop just listening to music and find out why you like it. Do a little research, and you’ll be glad you did.

(And this blog’s Song Of The Week is:     The Killing Moon”   by Echo and the Bunnymen )
For all you Donnie Darko fanatics - like me…

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Guilty Pleasure

We all have them. Those things we enjoy that we wouldn’t tell our hipster Portland friends.
My top 5 Guilty Pleasure songs are:
1. “Mamma Mia”  -  ABBA
2. “Come On Eileen”   -  Dexy’s Midnight Runners
3. “Hot N Cold”  -  Katy Perry
4. “Semi-Charmed Life” Third Eye Blind
5. “Don’t Stop Believing”  -  Journey

And for God’s sake, don’t get me started on movies… That’s a whole other hideous list.
    Now, you have to keep in mind that I’m a bit of a music snob, and that I take great joy in listening to/finding obscure bands, etc…  The “I Found Them First” Syndrome. Yes, one of those people who don’t like it when bands they love become successful and get radio-play.
    So, for those of you that know me, you can see how deeply confessional this list is for me.
    I suppose the question I pose is “Why?” Do I enjoy hearing these songs because I have some referential point in my past that has become completely associated with these songs?  Well, yeah. Maybe. I’m pretty sure that’s the case with “Mamma Mia”, cause I automatically think of “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” when I hear it. - (See? Don’t get me started on movies….)
    Quite possibly, it’s just the catchiness of the song. In fact, I would say that’s probably 75% of the Guilty Pleasure. After all these years of hunting around for atonal, progressive, pretentious, indie-rock - Maybe I all I really want to hear is a good pop song. And I would say that qualifies as every song on this list.
    Now if I’m in a bar with my bandmates or (God forbid), other friends in bands, I’m not going to put a Katy Perry song on the jukebox and then proclaim to everyone that “it’s my jam!”  On the contrary, if one of these songs comes on overhead, I’m much more likely to sit there quietly and secretly enjoy it while finishing my beer.
    So what is the fine line between the Guilty Pleasure and Terrible Music?  Well, that would require another entire blog’s worth of discussion - and I’m not going to go into it here. What I will say on this point, is that you’ll notice nothing on my list, (nor in my entire CD collection), receives any airplay on CMT. And we’ll leave it at that…
    If I’m correct in my ponderings, I’d say that the Guilty Pleasure is an entirely subjective and individualized phenomenon to each person.  It also seems possible that we don’t have a choice in what becomes our Guilty Pleasure, being that it’s a combination of our past experiences and whatever we deem as ‘pleasing’ to our ears.
    So what do we do in this mass populace with crabby music snobs, (like myself), surrounding us? Well, suffice to say that even the most hardened music snob has some awful pop song that they dearly love, even if they won’t openly admit it.  So, I say turn up that atrocious Fergie song on your car radio and sing along at the top of your lungs…. Cause who really cares what the other drivers think?  They can’t hear you anyway. And believe me, I’ll probably be in the next car over, singing along with that irritating Third Eye Blind song….

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sorta Coming Soon...

So, yeah.... I'm gonna start a blog....  I wouldn't really consider this the first post... This is more of a warning shot, than anything, I suppose....
  At some point, this'll become my weekly rant/deep thought regarding.... well.... everything....