Monday, August 28, 2006

pretty much 'nuff said right there. but of course i'm gonna go on about it a little more. just so you know though, you needn't read any more, all you need to know is STEELY FUCKIN DAN. and thats saying a damn thing because of how this show happened. wanna hear? come with me children, lets speak with cheeky admiration of walking the fine line of easy-listening and funky jazz rock at its most immaculate. there is nothing pure in this sleazy world of bad influences and rock's indulgent STDs, but there is considerable allure, there is the promise of unrepentant seduction. come with me, i'll show ya, i'll make ya knees shake and ya hair curl, come on come on. turn off your computers and your TV sets, put down your booze and get up out your sensibly furnished living rooms, come shake your shapely bodies, lets just be ok with each other, lets just be ok. enough of the stupid scenes, the shitty 'zines, the shaggy hair and the black-rimmed glasses, the self-imposed understanding of rock classes. what you know is for naught anymore babies, what you don't know is about everything so lets just be ok.

so lemme set tha scene, ok? dave and i drive down in bad traffic and rain and get to our out of door seats and its damn pouring rain. michael mcdonald is in full swing and we have no pot so were pretty much bummin really hard. but what the hell are you gonna do seemed to be some kind of an idea and as mike took it to the streets we just started laughing at the frozen rain.
thankfully the rain abated as the stage was being set for the dan.
the band, minus becker and fagen, warmed up a little. this was pleasant and their technique was undeniable, but what the hell would one expect from the minds that brought us aja? of course this was going to be a most pristine excercise in tasteful renditions of immaculate studio gems. i was pretty psyched.
and then they came on with little fanfare and a couple waves to the crowd. they took their spots and without pause began bodhisattva. it moved and it sounded good but lacked its onetime energy. i wonder if these guys have lost some fervor in the thirty-plus years since they recorded that song? but still, i wanted the smoking of skunk and dias and this rendition was weak by comparison. this could really set the tone for the show but the dan has developed, in all these years, a great deal of sense and sensibility and they moved into territory which was, almost exclusively good vibes.
aja stretched out and the band sounded superb. this stands as a grand steely statement and it shimmered and shone. hey nineteen reveled in its sleazy jive breaking for a pretty cornball horn duel and even cornier introduction to "the cuervo gold, the fine colombian make tonight a wonderful thing." but this is a kind of corny song and through it all it retained its appeal. the crowd was delighted at the mention of "sweet things from boston, so young and weeeeeeelling"
i know that to many the admission that hey nineteen manages to overcome its silliness with sly winks, tongues in cheeks and an undeniable, if somewhat shameful (looking at you synthesizers), groove is hopelessly misguided. to so many hey nineteen is just a most egregious example in an extensive catalogue of slick, soulless shams. i dont want to dwell too long on this because i dont want all my musical taste to be driven by the feeling that i'm some kind of outsider, like i'm a musical smoker sneaking outside with likeminded folks to burn a little black friday before anyone notices we're gone. but black friday aint no soulless jam, thats a right rocking crazy piece. i know i can't make this case to people who do not dig but i'll bet i could make a mixtape that would do the trick.
of course the show focused on later period dan but first run (read aja, katy lied NOT two against nature, everything must go) that is not to say that they did not run through some air-tight rockers. green earrings and kid charlemagne were played close to the vest but guitarist john herrington allowed a few stary flourishes accentuate his able copping of larry carlton's album work.
and so a splendid time was indeed had and michael mcdonald reappeared to sing showbiz kids and do it again and lend his prodigious background noise to peg. i wish fagen sang showbiz kids and i wish it was more gritty like the album version but alas. its just thats a real fav for me and mcdonald is not, yet...
the encore was FM and my old school. fucking sweet. steely fuckin dan! even drenched and cold and sober i had a most excellent time and though i know i can't reccomend this to everyone it made me very content. on the return trip we stopped in portsmouth to see aidan and we also spoke with his friend aaron (better guys name than girls...discuss) who hates Steely Dan. this did not come to blows but instead began a very interesting discussion of musical taste and what occurs in its maturation. while we could argue relative merits we were all friendly and were all very bright and insightful people and opted to identify and interrogate our respective adult-contemporary leanings. and i think that everyone has them.
its a fun/funny/waste of time thing to think about. i feel like maybe when i was 10 or so i began to comprehend a social aspect to music. my friends and i all really liked tom petty and each had a copy of the greatest hits tape. this is nice to reminisce cause i think that collection is still so damn solid. i was fuckin cool as soon as i understood that concept. after that its a really quick and unweildy spiral of amassing useless knowledge of where music fits in cultural schema. for some of us this takes on great levels of importance and i cannot argue with its relevence. its funny to think about the amount of time in my life i have spent on this and have very little to show for it. i mean i do know that jackson browne's only #1 hit was not an album track but the single "somebody's baby" from the fast times at ridgemont high soundtrack but that has, to date, accomplished very little for me, aside from fueling a smug sense of satisfaction which is expanding to unhealthy proportions.
this is not the point though. the idea, as we saw it and as i see it is that eventually one grows weary of the cultural place of music and slowly dials down the influences and the informed opinions. do we end up as we once were, vaguely aware of pleasant noise? this is sort of depressing and yet its also comforting. you thought it was, but it wasn't, now disappear. like everything that appears herein these are just thoughts that occupy the dome-piece and probably just clutter up what could have been a fine machine. alas.
anyway, the young and the hip are loathe to identify and admit their ties to adult-contemporary music. it is frightening to think that one day we will find ourselves wanting only to hear vaguely familiar, inoffensive pablum and still we may. i think that we must accept it, as we must accept our eventual death. it is a necessary part of life and fighting it only turns you into that dude at the record store asking me about nickelback...dude, you're trying too hard, you've lost the touch. dude i'd much rather discuss fleetwood mac, and i don't really like them its just we'll both feel much less phony. but here's the shock, maybe nickelback is highly appealing to the adult contempo crowd. and if thats the case i need to accept, in a manner of speaking, that i hate nickelback but i also love nickelback.

also. let us never take Yo La Tengo for granted. they are most excellent and their newest offering only further proves it. they are as energetic and engaging as ever. pick up, or steal from the internet I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass!

i used to hate AC/DC. i downloaded back in black. i do not hate AC/DC. they are cool.

this is really predictable but i hadn't heard Scab Dates (live Mars Volta album) its most excellent. there is some fucking nutsack effects work on that. those

how've you been?


Friday, August 25, 2006

i dont write my stuff anymore, i just kick it from my head
culture is hairy scary
culture is damn hysterical
here's some more fuel for tha FIRE!

my top 5 bands by decade!!!
maybe you can recognize this exercise in which case
we have something in common to talk about...and probably a lot actually
want to get some coffee? caramels?!
want to hear the song i wrote? the lyrics one day the music quite another, sometimes this form is like this...things are not always integrated but they may in fact inform each other really well and hang out
opposites attract in the initial stages but we fall in love with similarities is what a professor told me and since he's old he might know but you gotta wonder
starting with the 1970s

SLY & THE FAMILY STONE (i'm counting 1969s Stand! fuck yourself!)

ELVIS COSTELLO & THE ATTRACTIONS (even though This Year's Model and Armed Forces were in the 70s!)

the PIXIES (i was thinking maybe SLINT...seriously)

CEE-LO (including his work with Gnarls)

honorable mention to Outkast, Bad Brains, DKs, Blackalicious, Brian Eno, Big Star

Thursday, August 24, 2006

some notes on geographical difference
as you may already know i spent some time outside of maine in late july and the beginning of august. hence i feel qualified to begin making generalizations about what i have seen and assessing the complex character of this our expansive nation. and its almost the 5th anniversary of 9/11 so it is timely to trot out the assessments of our nations character and maybe hold it accountable to its new style. which is neither new nor stylish...UGH, hit me! my preoccupation with september the 11th is growing and growing weird. it is not some late blooming melodrama of tragedy (not that i'm trying to say it was a good thing...its just, many a high profile hand has been wrung and i really dont feel the need to add to that. in addition, on personal terms [the ones that really matter to an egoist {who never thinks they hurt anybody} which is very much how i feel in matters of policy and national tragedy] it had a very distanced affect on me) its just at a weird observational stage now and very consciously avoiding opinion let alone emotion. i've speculated a lot about conspiracy theories and this depresses me for a number of reasons...i think i'll expound a bit.
firstly let me state for this record that i have trouble believing in a massive government engineered plot to drop tha towers. mostly because i doubt that enough people could be properly organized in this fashion towards this end. but then i wonder if mostly i just dont want to entertain the very depressing notion that theres really no atrocity too reprehensible for the government that governs me. certainly this is an element of my skepticism because assuming this kind of worldview would start to necessitate terrorism and i'm not ready for that. i hope no one's too disappointed.
but there are troubling questions regarding the architecture of collapse which i hardly understand but worry about. now were getting into real conspiracy territory, no? i'm marginally informed but skeptical and opinionated! which is a lie. i'm interested and skeptical but of really everyone involved here. even my mind which i grill about how much it can bear. answer; not much, some reading followed by brief comprehension and speculation but that takes time away from amateur rock theorizing and then i get cranky...i need a cigarette...what's better, a speculative fiction or back to the motor league? who's better AND less appreciated, T.Rex or Creedence? what if Big Star's in that race? its no use.
then i get depressed thinking about how 9/11 conspiracy theories are really gaining a lot of ground in popular discouse. this in and of itself is not depressing because that is a good thing i think. the government could stand more scrutiny i think. stop me if i'm off base. tell me if you work for the NSA. what worries me HERE is that this will become our generation's JFK assassination in which a lot is said and written and speculated and after all of it they just give us the same report and it fades away. at least Oliver Stone probably wont weigh in this time...OH TICK!
well, time's gonna tell and these things probably will get a lot of external stimuli in the coming weeks and so i'm ready for it and eagerly anticipating the renewed fervor this time around. ugh i'm making myself sick. i need some superfluous rock prattle to realign with and set my mind right. but i meant to talk about the midwest
what i have seen in my limited travels is the character of this country is indistinct as so much of it consists of fake towns centered around shopping centers. what percentage of our great land is now parking lot? of course this is generalizing (i TOLD you) and ignoring a lot but is it so unfair to focus discussion of how we live on where we live? so much of the densely populated USA is so very similar as to render kind of silly geographical distinctions and, so i'm gonna say, geography its damn self.
i know this is false but i've got a new idea about policy and dialogue and it comes from the fertile ground of AM call-in radio programs. this also comes from the trip and it has been given more thought than i care to admit cause i'd like you to think that i spontaneously mesh disparate influences all the time. also i feel kind of ashamed of the amount of times in a day that i idly wonder "how would sean hannity handle this?" see where this is going? FUCK GEOGRAPHY! useless waste of time cluttering up the institutions of higher learning.
but what i'm thinking is that while i find the IDEA of calm, rational dialogue appealing, America (a lot of her) seems to not...find as i do. so while i am irked by the prospect of alienating extremism i maybe just gotta buy it so that i illicit stronger responses. as it is i think i register a vague, inchoate apathy in most situations. hence the predictable rock and radio blather is now cut with the awkward solemnity of some of my half-assed musings on 9/11. but if this aint an outlet for irresponsible musing then that means i gotta get into political radio. which could definetly be really fun for awhile.
heres something! a new career in a new town! irk no more vlad wormwood, irk america! ask not what your country can lamely half-provide for you but what you can loud-mouthedly posit about gay marriage and flag-burning. and what these things need is someone on the left who's just as loud and stupid. representatives from the left always make the mistake of trying to engage in dialogue and just stutter dumbfoundedly when hannity or whoever stumps them with something completely unrelated and of no bearing on the issue at hand. what the left needs is someone who in this case just screams back "ATTICA!" or "JOE McCARTHY'S GHOST" or "CHENEY SHOT A MAN IN THE FUCKIN FACE" see i got a lot of these, i'm pretty ready for the AM circuit if i do say so myself.
and it will help because change does not actually come from rational dialogue (you fucking hippy) it comes from idiots shouting at each other and coming to blows and over decades of this shit attitudes magically change and hopefully for the better. of course that all depends on the type of magic and whether its a good witch or a wicked witch involved. the cycles of the moon are also important and punxsutawney phil and a dreamcatcher. and thats the vibrant american political landscape as i understand it. i went to college.
the challenge will come when i assume this role and someone brings up 9/11 conspiracies as this will be the achilles heal of the character i play for the radio. it will unleash the dams of doubt and confusion and half-statements gone back on again and again. uncertain and scared vlad will surface and whoever i'm debating will leap upon this.
"what do you think?" is what he/she'd say "what are you saying? are those words? it sounds like you're whimpering. are you singing 'someone's in the kitchen with dinah'?...see america this is exactly what's wrong with the left and with higher education. no beliefs! no conviction! certainly no strength! no character! go run back to your parents. run back to school and the teacher's that told you you were clever and talented...THEY'RE ALL YOU HAVE! THEY'RE ALL THERE EVER WAS FOR YOU, VLAD WORMWOOD! YOU AND YOUR FANCY KIND!"
and then its time for my Frank Capra comeback, my impassioned plea for understanding and compassion in the public sphere. i imagine i'd say something like "Always, no sometimes, think it's me, but you know I know when it's a dream/ I think I know, I mean, ah yes but it's all wrong, that is I think I disagree."

Sunday, August 20, 2006

oh! the unholy agony that is my tongue
last night i ate some chowder which i heated in the microwave. the chowder resisted my attempts to make it warm and thus more pleasing. after many returns to the microwave the chowder steamed, verily, from its bowl. so i ate some and it burned the dickens out of my mouth. even today my poor tongue is numb and unresponsive from its trauma. i betray my tongue thusly on a regular basis. also i cut my face pretty much every time i shave. and i have a nasty scar on one finger from a wort of the past which i do not allow to heal by way of prying fingernails and gnashing teeth.
in short i am a self-mutilated monster and it is small wonder that sometimes my brain suffers into states of inexplicable anguish and sings itself bad songs with stupid lyrics it composes. yes, my brain sometimes does these things. sometimes my brain becomes so excited or agitated that i articulate sentiments out-loud (!CRAZY! I know! goddamn certifiable nutsack!) for none other than my own smug satisfaction or benefit or in some cases castigation. and yet i am rarely caught at this so i maintain a nice acceptable illusion of normalcy. i saw two people doing this in one day i spent in ft. collins colorado. it was whack and i thought about how crazy they were and before i knew it i was muttering quietly about how whack and also probably singing some silly thing about cameras and politics to a tune i must have stolen from a jellyfish song. or a jellyfish...just that old maleable stinger hisself.
once i sat on a bench and sang an iggy pop song to myself and was called on this. i mean that's OK right? to have a song in one's head and work it out a little while thinking cause lets be honest this coulda been a lot worse if instead of Success to occupy my aural/vox i may have been saying something like "i once stole an olive from a salad bar and nothing else! so back the fuck away from this hardened criminal, or i'm liable to cut you BOY!" or some other such nonsense. it don't matter much, the point is everyone in the parking lot woulda been peepin a brief window into my domepiece and this i DONT need. i mean a lovely blue internet window for sure but i can close that one up and i can put up nice curtains if i feel like it. i just happen to NOT feel like it most of the time alright?!
isn't the fine line into mental illness kind of fascinating? what is just genius for instance? why must we incarcerate the crazy? mightn't they be a little artistic? or autistic cause is that crazy?

i just watched IFC's a Decade under the Influence which is...pretty cool. i mean it deals with some excellent American cinema and the interviews are pretty consistantly intriguing and the anecdotes are amusing and illuminating but i have some reservations.
1] interviewees take a little too much time to rag on american cinema of the 50s and 60s. sure there were a bunch of schlocky bombs produced but there was Hitchcock and Cassavetes was gettin started (they give Cassavetes props but not really enough...i mean can you spend enough time on the greatest American filmmaker...ever) and eventual ex-pat Stanley Kubrick was kinda rockin the shit, Strangelove and Lolita anyway. that is to name a damn few so, check yo selves and facts Julie Christie and Polly Platt and Dennis Hopper and Bruce Dern or whoever else was just talkin mad shit like its all they worth. and also to hear this doc tell it there was nary a bad film made in america from 1968-1977 and i just gotta wonder about that.
2] props to the european cinema of the 40s on, natch. howevs, this doc is very broad about where to give props and what type. it seems a very american approach to just broadly say "i was influenced by european cinema." renoir, antonioni, de sica, kurosawa, and godard are all kind of equated here into this amorphous, artsy behemoth. given thats a hell of a lot of artsy but there are a variety of very distinct styles and approaches here and it seems that drawing more direct comparisons and more meticulously defining the terms might have been hugely rewarding in this sphere. maybe this is just film school snottiness. its quite possible, see i don't make stuff i just read and bitch, so who really needs to check who? this blog should probably just be called "who needs to check who...or WHOM?!"

want me to be a real snot?! course!
when i was off in colorado for a piece i encountered a whole lot of hate for smokers, a group of organisms i'm alternately proud and ashamed to identify with. mostly proud see but i also know i'm just being an idiot...but that is my right, but its pretty indefensible especially when its proven to harm the innocent but fuck the innocent cause the innocent are watchin tv and driving SUVs and buying hair care products so basically they care fuck all about living a healthy life right??! RIGHT? i'm no worse no better i just happen to look cooler and smell worse.
it really is pathetic that i'm even trying to frame this discussion into some sort of rebellion against legislation with everybody's best health in mind. i mean its pretty clear i got my worst interests in mind but there are a lot of bad calls you get to make so at least let me step outside for a bad call every once in a while. right? fair?
i was alternately pleased and disgusted at the lack of cigarette butts all over parks and streets in boulder. this is pleasant and clean but also this is america and should be littered with refuse and carcinogens. so maybe the smokers can just take care and tidy up a little and then we wouldn't have to feel the mellow wrath of paternalistic legislation.
the only time i can actually feel angry to the point of almost rebellious is when i have to hear the smug anti-smoking campaigns reminding me that nicotine and smoke are bad for air quality. of course they are and so's burning refuse or fossil fuels or cooking weenies on the fourth of JULY so get away from me.
ahm, i'd kind of like to have some bars where you can smoke, and not have no smoking zones out of doors. i don't think these things are really that ridiculous. i could deal with smug anti-smoking zealots if only for these small allowances. and just for the record who feels the need to go on anti-smoking campaigns? everybody now if well aware that its a great way to get cancer or heart disease so its only the idiots who are gonna suffer right (assuming we have a bar and some sidewalk space you won't be sucking up too much of our second hand...and for that matter stay away from my second hand smoke, i paid $6 for this pack and i don't want you copping some delayed nic-vibes on the cheap)
um, i guess i don't really care
i should just quit

Monday, August 14, 2006

the confessions of a mars volta apologist
and now i shall tackle what i feel to be my first serious use of this blog. in case it is not clear, i take my rock music pretty serious and the mars volta is a prime example. my relationship to the volta is long and storied. in the melancholy wake of at the drive-in i came across some early demo songs by the sci-fi sinister sounding new project on the internets. one would end up on the tremulant ep as concertina, in essentially the same form. one really blew me away. i downloaded it as eat the sun. it is basically a streamlined, stripped-down version of what appeared as Cicatriz ESP on the debut album. i was hooked and anxiously awaiting full-length output by the crazy elements of atdi. there were unmistakable drive-in elements in cedric's screech and vaguely threatening lyrical content. omar (yeah i call them both by first names only anymore) could still expertly employ the stutter-thrash, bizarre voice chorus rock outs. but they were (excuse the rock cliche) stretching out on these tracks.
let me state for the record (should i be brought before rock authenticity court, the ghost of lester bangs presiding...bailiff - little ghost) that relationship of command is really one of the greatest rock albums of my days and i believe it will only gain in stature. the album is screaming immediacy and gut-punch impact. and its whack as hell. it sounds so much more vital and honest than any rock i have heard since. i even think i believe that. i was talking with my good friend dave frank about intially viewing the one armed scissor video and i think it serves as a good example of how atdi came across. somewhere in deep, not too hip texas some crazy punks formed into a visceral onslought of raw power. the end result (and relationship of command is really where they hit the mark with blistering consistancy) is a brutal and bewildering experience. something like watching the MC5 stomp the shit out of emo in the parking lot of a dingy truck-stop. so for the record i dont think that the mars volta have yet created anything so timeless as relationship of command but to me thats kind of like saying that the plastic ono band wasn't as good as abbey road.
so back to the voltage, i finished my first year of college pretty psyched for the forthcoming De-Loused in the Comatorium. some friends had it and complained of rick rubin's over-production. i picked the cd up at bullmoose and complained of the retarded cover art. either way you put those liner notes in it looks like an unpromising, sci-fi, adventure novel. even in my growing fanaticism i cannot bring myself to forgive them this thoughtless offense.
upon listening to the album the vocal effects and rubin virtual arena were a bit offputting. i mean it was basically hard for us (friends and i) to not hear relationship of command. with time though the rock would not be denied and i warmed to this. certainly more so than to the watery, unremarkable Sparta.
a little uncertainly i purchased a ticket to see the volta at the axis in boston. the ticket was cheap and the album was pretty cool and what i knew of the onstage antics of cedric and omar...well it'd probably be cool. i was in no way prepared for what happened that night in july of 2003.
a band called rye coalition opened and pretty much sucked. as i have said before this really only aides a show though i can think of precious few who could have set the bar too high for what followed. in the darkness the volta began Son et Lumiere. the crowd was packed in, sweating profusely and clenching fists and biting tongues in agonizing anticipation of the noise about to explode from the tinkling keyboard line. if you've never been to the axis it is the tiny neighbor to the kind of stupid avalon. what will always be to me the unassuming alternative that rocks much harder. it will always be the site of what was a near religious experience of rock and roll music.
Inertiatic ESP opened up and electrified the crowd. if this music sounded jarring on record it was damn near about to break apart live. everyone, crowd included, seemed to be doing all they could to keep up with the demon-possesed groove. drum fills skittered in and out of propulsive bass and the slashes and stabs of guitar. then they got to the keyboard break and could we jump and squirm quick enough to provide the reciprocal energy to keep this thing alive? well fuck yes actually we could. ikey owens pressed his keyboard into the stage and the band bashed onward in their place. and then it was relieved. the tightly wound, expertly crafted, anxiety we had all been enmeshed in gave way to languid guitar and an approximate croon from cedric. just enough to lull us unprepared right into the crackling assault of roulette dares. and yes they proceeded to play de-loused from start to finish.
i feel a certain strange kinship to phish fans who say you can't understand the music until you've experienced it in the live setting after seeing this show. i was a fan of the mars volta for sure but seeing the live show transcended popular rock for me and what was an affinity became an obsession. as i stumbled from the axis that night, without the aid of any substances, i was somewhere between giddy and wiped out and if the metaphor isn't yet clear enough let me go the full length of it to say the experience was orgasmic. it was a physical, aesthetic engagment and i wanted it to happen again. where the record indulges in extended ambient sections that all but end songs (well cicatriz ESP specifically) the live volta let omar rodriguez-lopez shred unfettered. long, twisting-whack guitar solos filled this space and gave space-rock and prog-metal a new and large place in my heart. but the volta doesn't like these categories and a fan-boy such as i will give them their full due.
in point of fact no categories seem entirely fair, and really don't for any good rock act. when it is good something inexplicable and complex occurs which will not be neatly summed up. this was the most bashing-abrasive punk rock i'd ever been bludgeoned with and it was the most ethereal psychedelia and just when it made you comfortable to jam on one it would hit ya with the other. thats not even mentioning machine-like precise metal solos and hard-core rumbling drums and soulful organ workouts. it was too quick and bizarre and i loved every minute of it.
and so began a zealotous phase wherein i told everyone i knew who liked to rock that they NEEDED to see the mars volta live. i probably told a lot of people who were totally unreceptive too. (my mother made fun of me the other day for sitting in front of the computer with amputechture crying out in ecstasy, "this is soooooo good, i'm so pumped about this new mars volta album, i'm so glad i found it")
and the summer plodded on in a haze of boring work days, brilliant beach days, and i fear a great deal of marijuana smoke. and lots of other music. rjd2 and air and boom-bip and built to spill. and fall brought the distorted reality 7" and soon after the death of elliott smith and i was distracted by a million other things. there are of course a million other potential essays of equal self-indulgent length and melodramatic rock proselytizing here but...for another day.
so fast forward to the spring of my junior year, 2005 when my good friend neal daniel sends me an electronic copy of the forthcoming Frances the Mute. i had gone many moons without rocking any voltage but my dormant obsession was not entirely depleated. as anyone who, with age, finds more and more to love in short, well-crafted pop music (elliott leads to zombies and to pet sounds...etc) i was wary of tracks that had no regard for the 3 minute rule, or the 10 minute rule for that matter. maybe the guys have gone all jazz record on us i thought and readied my ears and brain.
structurally this may be jazzy but the album opener, Cygnus...Vismond Cygnus, sounds only tangentially jazzy, like maybe the ghost of Ornette Coleman wailing through about a dozen Marshall stacks. (i know ornette's still alive but, c'mon...nothin wails like a ghost) in short i was totally sold. the thrash riff opener acknowledged the hard rocking of de-loused and did it one better. it was like the blazing culmination of tremulant's eunuch provocateur, but setting the tone for the entire album. it was like if ian mckaye gave up on straight-edge and snorted up a shit load of blow, gobbled some mushrooms and while staring into the gaping maw of a giant tarantula (in his mind) began to rock a guit-piece. dare i say it was akin to putting nevermind into my walkman and for the first time being bowled over by the clean intro which gave way to distorted monster guitar and ass-kicking drum counts of smells like teen spirit. yeah, it was a little like that.
but the volta had really amped up on Frances and almost too much in terms of listening through. even more than de-loused this album bled all together and left little time to catch one's breath or recover. the opener starts out heavy and only moves through extended suites of heavy riffing/screeching and stuttering rhythms...crazy rhythms. by the time the widow rolls around one has been treated to more balls-out rocking than some entire albums ever achieve. and when i hear this tune i can't really sit still so i'm pretty exhausted after 13 minutes.
recently in discussion of the mars volta i have come to feel ostracized in the manner of a religious zealot. rather than arguing what i think are salient points people back out, kind of uncomfortable in the face of my fanatical insistence that the band rocks and in fact only gets better. though it is a very tough call i still hold the evidently unpopular belief that Frances the Mute was an improvement on the template of De-Loused in the Comatorium. and mostly i guess i think that because of L'Via L'Viaquez which may very well be the best recorded mars volta to date.
track three begins with a blaring funky strut that cedric shrieks over. upon first listen i was vaguley worried about how good this danceable mars volta would be. but they pull it off expertly with the funky strumming building into nightmare rock only to relapse into a simmering piano-driven shuffle. and back and forth and repeat. and i cannot grow tired of this. it is the same building tension and release of de-loused but more subtle here, instead of false endings or delay-drenched synth blips the jam is itself a dynamic give and take. to me it functions like i want you (she's so heavy) on abbey road. it is the same template of funky verse sections combined with a threatening chorus build. and repeated again and again and only getting more and more...heavy. and yet L'Via has that section reserved for rhythmic pounding while omar wails away above it all. heaviosity to the MAX! no bad vibes here, just tasty-most on the groove-scale.
so to further solidify my volta relationship i had the awesome fortune of seeing them that summer as well. i saw them at bonaroo and they took the stage about an hour late, lost power in the first song, and played for a little over half an hour. and i loved it again. here the apologist thing starts to rear its ugly head. this time around i was mis-treated and it was like they knew they could. because those were the most badass minutes of my summer.
i took some mushrooms before that show and entered the fray this time like a collegiate shaman trying to force a little spirituality the only way he knows how. well guess what, it totally worked and i was writhing and stomping around with a mass of other freaky babies. and they played L'Via and i really threw my frame around for that one i can tell you. many a college student and way-too-drunk middle aged dude had their faces melted in the presence of the mars volta that evening i can tell you. when i found aidan after the set (its funny i lost track of sanborn at the first show...i unconsciously isolate myself to commune more directly with the volta?) we just stumbled around in the rain laughing. maybe that was the drugs but i like to think that the rock played a significant part.
and here my voltage was recharged and i had seen the light, again. i bought a damn t-shirt!
so now there is amputechture and as i listen to it again and again and like it more each time and have trouble sitting still and want to tell everybody that i know i am also now finally aware of the peculiar relationship i have developed to this band. i am finally a full on mars volta apologist.
as i write this i go back through my catalogue of volta and with each piece i think its my favorite. that guitar and organ interplay at the end of eunuch provocateur is like an electric web of a badass spider. a spider that plays guitar with two arms and organ with two and spins electric barbed wire while a tasty, but deadly, venom drips from its stained-glass fangs! the little muted bursts in drunkship of laterns are small, almost unnoticed and yet add another level of sizzle. i mean i could just go on and on and it would get geekier (like doesn't the riff from Cygnus appear in the live rendition of drunkship from the live EP?)
what i'm trying to say is that i make distinctions like with the beatles or with elvis costello; i make a call about what i like the most but basically everything rocks in its way and has a solid place.
amputechture is an improvement on the extended jams of frances the mute. songs are comprised of a number of hard rocking movements. asilos magdalena is volta ballad like televators or the widow or miranda that ghost just isn't holy anymore (a personal favorite in terms of title)
day of the baphomets and tetragrammaton heap shreddy riffs on leading to the belief that omar has these to spare. its reminiscent of the endings of songs on evil empire where tom morello seemed to have an endless supply of funky hard rock at his blessed fingertips. viscera eyes redeploys the sinister funk of L'Via with soaring guitar and horn section. deft, metal runs threaten to shred speakers and then it segues to an extended outro with...more mind-blowing guit-piece and a regrouped cedric. finally the outro builds back up to equal intensity as horns and wah-ed guitar fatten the track.
funky, jammy volta is like rage playing four square with bitches brew, and the saxophone solo at the end of the stooges' 1970, and the horns and guitars of trout mask replica. and also its more. its its own thang and its somethin else.
it is music that after seeing live i am hopelessly devoted to and yet i do not make the distinction that it needs the live setting. the records smoke quite enough on their own. certainly there are elements of technical appreciation/amazement. but cannot anyone develop an appreciation for uncompromising, non-stop rocking? i have to think so, its something that gives me hope.
essentially the more i listen to it the very elements that would alienate my respected peers are what make the music so vibrant and necessary to me. i am an unapologetic apologist and when the new album drops and others hear it i cannot wait for people i know to say again "its cool but i dont know, it just goes on forever and i can't sit down and listen to that" oh, i think you can. i think you should.

its not over til the tremulant sings!


Friday, August 04, 2006

from afar, from a different time, i speak
i have a new "favorite" suck rock band. henceforth i shall not just go for the easy shot at nickelback (or bonjovi...well maybe, i have such an abiding hatred for those d-bags) i shall substitute...3 DOORS DOWN!!! and believe you me they suck. why the change? why abandon those paragons of suck rock? because i grow weary. because even in ridiculing culture we need new exemplars of what is so grotesquely wrong with it to prove that we are not merely whiny jerks but observant whiny jerks. because bands with numbers in their name ALWAYS suck. (sevenmary3, eve6, 311, sum-41, blink-182, sixpence none the richer...a-hahahahahaha) this is an important rule in understanding and skewering suck-rock. of course its probably becoming abundantly clear that i'm developing my definitions a little too enthusiastically to really remain snobbish. the day will no doubt come when i will secretly purchase some suck-rock albums to listen to real low on headphones. i will get into the deep suck-cuts and develop a shameful, closet-lust for inane lyrics sung in post-eddie vedder croon/growl. immaculately recorded guitars that riff vague reminisces of a style they once called rock. wet wet drums. oh its too much to bear, i'll mix up a drano cocktail and blare this into oblivion!
death vessel is probably my new favorite band. i've heard them for a piece and only just heard the full album, stay close. its subtly creeping up on yeah yeah yeahs...sorry guys but i need to move on. i still love you all.
milestones may be my favorite miles davis album. of course kind of blue is the shit and bitches brew is kind of what got me to listen to jazz (along with a love supreme, and monk's dream) but i dont know if there's a more airtight tight record in existence than the rhythm section on milestones. maybe double nickels on the dime. maybe this years model...? i'm a really irresponsible listener. please post the most tightly wound rhythm sections.