Saturday, January 31, 2004

Here's another cool link: Guitar Geek
Its database compiles rig setups for various guitarists and bassists. A good time waster of a website, it actually came in handy awhile ago when I was shopping around for a new distortion pedal and wanted to see what some of my favorite guitarists use.

It's kind of interesting to see setups ranging from the very simple (Dave Davies or Frank Black) to the rather complex (Kevin Shields or Sean Eden). And of course Jonny Greenwood gets extra points for making his own effects pedals.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

My girlfriend had an internship in DC for the past few weeks and rented a car for the duration of her time away. She picked it up about a day or so before leaving New York and I rode around the city with her during that time when I immediately discovered the car's cd player was broken. As we drove to Brooklyn with the radio on and a handful of cds in my lap, I commented how I would demand a new car if this misfortune were to happen to me. A malfunctioning car stereo on a short trip to Brooklyn may be an inconvenience but it might as well be a fate worse than death on a month long trip to DC. My girlfriend was nonchalant, though, and said she'd be okay with just the radio.

This past weekend, I took the bus to visit her. Besides packing clothes for the trip, I packed my discman and about 15 cds for the 4½ hour trip. Although I knew I needed to pack extra batteries, I forgot to do so and remembered the batteries as soon as I took my seat on the bus. Just as I put a cd in my discman, the low battery light came on and the discman held out for four songs before shutting itself off. Braced for a long bus ride of silence, I soon realized my girlfriend's fate with the car was much better than mine on the bus. At least she had a radio. I, on the other had, had a book as well as an Al Pacino movie the bus driver played for us. Fortunately, the good Lord was merciful and we got to DC way ahead of schedule.

Her internship ended and we drove back to New York last night in a car which only had a radio. For those of you who may not have noticed, the radio is really bad. It felt like we spent more time hitting the seek button than we did listening to music. On long trips like that, you start to settle. You start to think that maybe Journey or Linkin Park aren't so bad and you'll give the seek button a rest for those four minutes. Occasionally we'd get lucky and stumble upon the Pixies, Depeche Mode, Nirvana, Guns N Roses, Rolling Stones, or Outkast (we managed to hear "Hey Ya" a bunch of times) and for those few minutes, life was great and we were able to forget about the seek button.
True paydirt was hit exactly twice. The first was a station in Maryland which played nothing but Beatles for a full hour. We caught the show early and congratulated each other on our good fortune but as we entered Delaware (about a half hour into the show), the signal was lost and so were the Beatles. Not long after we crossed into New Jersey, we came across a college radio station where the dj promised us an hour of the Cure, My Bloody Valentine, Ride, U2, etc. Unable to believe my good luck, he went on to deliver a block of the Sundays followed by Bauhaus. Then, typical of any low-watt radio station, the signal went as quickly as it came.
By then, we weren't too far from the reaches of New York's radio waves and the comforting classic rock of Q104. At last, we were home.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

GUNS 'N' ROSES Appetite for Destruction (Geffen)
I was eleven years old in 1987 and, in those days, an avid reader of Circus magazine. Although I watched MTV every day in order to hear new music, I most looked forward to the start of each month when I would have my parents drive me to the local B. Dalton book store so I could buy the new copy of Circus -- my invaluable source of music news. It was an exciting time: I sparked an insatiable desire to buy as many tapes as possible, thought Nikki Sixx was the coolest guy in the world, and developed my first and only celebrity crush on the eternally hot Lita Ford. I not only read each issue of Circus cover to cover, I took them to school to share with my friends and saved each one for future reference.
I'm not really sure what happened to my heavy metal magazine collection. I probably threw them out during a move sometime after I learned to look back on my metalhead days with disdain. I've long since traded in Circus for Magnet and the last time I noticed the former in a bookstore, it had bands like Marilyn Mansion and Limp Bizkit on the cover.

But it was Circus magazine who introduced me to Guns 'N' Roses. Long before MTV put "Sweet Child O' Mine" on heavy rotation, GNR were bathed in adoring praise and the printed word. Once I saw the video and heard the song, though, I knew I had to get Appetite for Destruction.
Getting the tape was worrying task for a young boy accompanied by his parents at the record store. Worried they would find the cover art objectionable or put off by the explicit lyrics sticker, I feared they wouldn't let me get the tape. You have to remember, in those days, mental midgets like Tipper Gore were forever on the news accusing heavy metal of satanic rituals, suicide, and the overall collapse of Western Civilization. For an eleven year old, those were heady topics and caused me to question my moral worth as a person because I liked rock and roll and listened to my Motley Crue or Metallica tapes every day. Fortunately, my mom remembered the similar hysteria once inspired by the controversial Elvis or Jerry Lee Lewis and decided to ignore the PRMC's dire warnings. The Guns 'N' Roses tape was mine!
My initial reaction at the time was that of undying love. It was loud and guitar heavy. Yet while bands like Motley Crue may have been drawing pentagrams and singing about the devil, there was something truly dangerous sounding about Guns 'N' Roses. They were obnoxious, didn't give a damn, and played very dirty rock music.

I eventually grew bored with metal and decided I'd rather hang myself than listen to one more guitar solo. In an act of grave misjudgement, I got rid of alot of my tapes and Guns 'N' Roses were one of the bands to go.
About a year ago, my girlfriend took her mother and myself to see the new incarnation of GNR when its short-lived world tour stumbled into Madison Square Garden. Not only was I pleasantly surprised with how good the band sounded, it re-awakened me to how good the band used to be. My Appetite cassette is forever gone, but her cd copy is still here and I've been listening to it alot over the past few months. Not only is the songwriting much stronger and complicated than I previously recognized, but the musicianship is better than that for which I gave them credit. It's really a great album.

For more info:
official site, other sites, AMG entry

Friday, January 16, 2004

I updated the links. There's a new section for zines and blogs, complete with four sites. It's a bit heavy on the British side for now, although I'll add more when I come across some new linkworthy pages. As for now, I give you: Do Something Pretty -- which is both comprehensive and named after a Belle & Sebastian song; I Hate Music -- she makes me laugh even when she's insulting people I like; Robots and Electronic Brains -- this one has some interesting features; and the War Against Silence -- I really like his writing.
Additionally, I renamed an existing section and christened it, appropriately enough, "Misc." I also added a link to the Art of the Mix -- a cool little site devoted to mix tapes. I started posting my own mixes on there as well, and you can check out my submissions here.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

There's really no proper place to start when talking about a band as legendary as the Field Mice. This review is probably a good start as I've never seen anyone else perfectly sum up my feelings towards the Field Mice, Sarah Records, or pop music in general.

I find it hard to mention the Field Mice without mentioning Sarah Records -- the beloved label from Bristol, England. As I was indoctrinated into indie pop in the mid 90s, Sarah drove me to points of frustration; everybody talked about how amazing the label was, yet all of its releases were out of print. It was as if there was a world of music so beautiful and confident it didn't need me or anybody else.
Of course, nobody can talk for long about Sarah without mentioning the Field Mice; without mentioning that what My Bloody Valentine was to shoegaze, what REM was to college radio, what the Beatles were to British Invasion, what ... you get the picture -- the Field Mice were to indie pop. The bitter irony, I would later learn, is the Field Mice grew to resent their attachment to Sarah. They hated their association with the C-86 twee pop scene. They were Factory Records men and woman at heart, more interested in Joy Division than Talulah Gosh.

It took the death of Sarah Records and its label ending, retrospective compilation, There and Back Again Lane, to finally allow me eavesdrop on something I was previously never privy to. The highlight of that album was the inclusion of the Field Mice's "Sensitive." A shimmering moment of pop glory, even a year's worth of hype left me unprepared for my falling in love with that song.
Things seemed to move at break speed now. Within a year or so, I was in a record store and they were playing "September's Not So Far Away." Pleasant song, I didn't realize it was the Field Mice until I noticed Where'd You Learn To Kiss That Way? sitting on the shelf. It may have been the only copy in the store, but I clutched on to it to ensure I was the lucky one to take it home.
A two disc set, it contains just about every song released by the Field Mice during their brief lifetime. From the pop perfection of "Sensitive" to the fragile beauty of "Willow" to the backwards guitar of "White" to the lush darkness of "Tilting at Windmills," it shows a band deserving of a legacy much greater than a box full of out of print 45s.

For more info:
There's a biography of the Field Mice, as well as a review of their final show (scroll down a bit).
There are also entries on AMG as well as TweeNet.
Meanwhile, you can start here for Sarah Records around the web.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Unknown Legends of Rock 'n' Roll by Richie Unterberger (Miller Freeman Books)
Elvis Costello may have said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture, but I still think reading about music is incredibly fun. I bought this book about five years ago and still go back to it from time to time. Even better, its companion cd is very well acquainted with my stereo.

Richie Unterberger compiled biographies of more than than 60 artists who put out really good music yet, for some reason or another, never received the attention they deserved. Dividing them into chapters such as, "Lost British Invaders" or "Lo-Fi Mavericks," each artist is treated to a multi-page profile as well as a listing of recommended recordings to point curious record buyers in the right direction. Although the bulk of the book is devoted to acts from the 60s and 70s, he covers quite a bit of range and history in such little space.
Maybe I was just living under a rock, but at the time I bought the book I'd only heard of three artists profiled: Syd Barrett, Nick Drake, and Francoise Hardy. Since then, I've noticed alot of others in this book become hip (Love, the Monks, Lee Hazelwood, Scott Walker, and Can -- just to name a few).

Better than reading about music, though, is listening to it and the book came with a 12 song cd to introduce listeners to the unknown legends. With incredible songs from bands like the Rising Storm, Savage Rose, Aisha Kandisha's Jarring Effects, or the Cleaners from Venus, it's probably my most listened to compilation album.
Required reading. Required Listening.

For more info:

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

SUN RA AND HIS ARKESTRA Greatest Hits: Easy Listening for Intergalactic Travel (Evidence)
The problem with making year end best-of lists is the inevitable omissions. Here we are, not even a week into the new year, and I'm already remembering other albums I picked up 2003 which could've made the list yet are forever absent from it. This is one of them.
Sun Ra was one of the people I knew by name, knew by reputation, but simply did not know any of his songs. Fortunately, one of my friends had this cd and gave me a copy as way of introduction.
I'm usually not a fan of greatest hits collections, but they do provide good starting points for artists with overwhelming catalogs. Between his first release in 1953 and his death in 1993, Sun Ra put out a staggering amount of records -- not to mention all the posthumous releases and compilations, such as this. This cd is a mere overture of his career between 1956 and 1973.

Billed as a greatest hits, the liner notes are quick to point out the lack of "hits" actually attained by Sun Ra. Instead, the collection focuses on his more accessible work while hinting all along at the experimental side for which he gained notoriety.
Sun Ra claimed to have come from Saturn and his music often times resembles the work of a spaceman rather than that of a jazz musician from Alabama. Like a rocket vrooming towards Earth, the compilation veers from straight forward jazz (check out his renditions of "'Round Midnight" or "I Love You, Porgy") to the mindblowing what-the-f*ck-is-that?-ness of songs like "Rocket Number Nine Take Off For The Planet Venus" or "We Travel The Spaceways." It closes with "the Perfect Man" which is the most perfect spy music complete with what sounds like synthesizers.

For more info:
While Sun Ra has no official website I know of, there are plenty of sites devoted to him. You can start by looking here. There's also an AMG entry on him as well.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Perhaps we spoke too soon. Elliott Smith may not have committed suicide, says an LA coroner. His case is officially open as investigators are now unsure whether he or somebody else delivered the fatal stabs to his chest.
You can read the full article here.

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