Wednesday, March 31, 2004

While Curb Your Enthusiasm made a big deal of Larry David's 10th anniversary present, I quietly received an even better 28th birthday present from my lovely girlfriend. I already mentioned the tickets to the Liars/secret YYYs show, but she also gave me some gift certificates to two different record stores. To an unemployed record collector like myself, I couldn't have asked for a better present.
It took me a while to cash them in. In addition to having a busy month, I didn't want to use them up right away so I could spend more time thinking about what I'd get with them. I finally used the first certificate the other day.

Here's what I got (they're all still new to me so I haven't formed full opinions on them yet):
BRITISH SEA POWER The Decline of... (Rough Trade)
I've wanted this one the longest, ever since I saw them over the summer and was really impressed by their live show.
EARLIMART Everyone Down Here (Palm)
I bought their ep at a show and played it so much, I had to get the full length.
I realize I've been slagging them on this site as a result of all the hype they've been getting, but they're actually pretty good.
THE SHINS Chutes Too Narrow (Sub Pop)
Their first album was so catchy, I played it to the point where I can't listen to it anymore. I was going to pass on this one until a couple of people whose opinions I trust gave it their stamp of approval.
THE YEAH YEAH YEAHS Fever to Tell (Interscope)
Seeing them live made me completely reverse my opinion of them, so much that I bought their album.

More record shopping to follow...

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Sadly, here's another obituary. Jan Berry, from Jan & Dean, died on Friday. He was 62.
Jan & Dean were arguably the spark which ignited the 60s surf music craze. In those final moments before the British Invasion, Jan & Dean turned out plenty of hit songs and, along with their good friends the Beach Boys, defined the sound of American rock and roll.

I spent many hours of my childhood listening to my parents' old 45s and one of the records which received more play than the rest was Jan & Dean's "Baby Talk b/w Jeanette Get Your Hair Done." Both are great pop songs which I still like to play even today. He will be missed.

For more info:
You can visit Jan Berry's official site, the Jan & Dean official site, and their pages on the History of Rock and the All Music Guide.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

I think I'm becoming a scenester. It all started innocently enough when I caught an unannounced Yeah Yeah Yeahs set. About a week after that, I had advance knowledge of another surprise show, this time by the Strokes and Moby, but I decided not to go (now, just how hip is that?). Then this week I got an email telling me about a free Raveonettes show with an open bar. I don't know how I got on that list, but I wasn't one to complain and decided I had to go.
Yes, I realize if I were a better music blogger, I would be passing along this sort of information to you in advance. I'll try next time.

Anyway, last night was a release party for the movie Mayor of the Sunset Strip, about DJ Rodney Bingenheimer. They were showing the film in the main room when I got there but I didn't see any of it since the bands were playing in the back. It was my first time ever at Plaid and, to be honest, don't think I'll be back there anytime soon.
*Whenever leaving a club involves me pushing my way through a sweaty crowd of yuppies in matching uniforms (black dresses for the girls, blue buttoned down shirts for the boys) who are dancing to mainstream hip hop while drinking $6 Red Stripes and God knows how much for a cocktail, it's my cue to not return.

I got there too late for the open bar and missed the first band, Essex. The Inmen were playing and the Madison Strays came on next. At some point I had a thought that perhaps the world is ready for a Britpop revival. Coincidentally, I was wearing my old Elastica t-shirt and I realize that's not as cool as wearing a Smiths or Joy Division shirt, but I was too young for those bands. Now that I'm in my late twenties, my small collection of 90s bands' shirts are going to date me. I began to think that once I start going through my mid-life crisis, I'll buy a lot of t-shirts for the it bands of whenever that may be. The 2010s or 2020s versions of Elastica, the Strokes, or Franz Ferdinand, if you will.

But the Raveonettes. Only Sune and Sharin, the two visible members, showed up. Sune told us how the drummer and other guitarist were in Denmark so he and Sharin weren't even sure how they would play their set. Admittedly hungover, they didn't show any awkwardness and adapted well to their stripped down sound. I decided I should get their cd because their songs were really good (I wasn't too familiar with them going into the show) and they seemed really pleasant. Sadly, the set was very short and there wasn't any encore.
After hanging around a while to see if there was any chance of an encore -- a prospect ruined by the dj blaring music just as Sune set down his guitar -- it was time to battle yuppies on my way to the street.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

MAN...OR ASTRO-MAN? Project Infinity (Estrus)
Captain's Log: Autumn 1996. Nyabinghi Dance Hall. Morgantown WV, USA, Planet Earth.
Man...Or Astro-Man? came to town and I attended the show out of curiosity. I'd read the interviews and knew their background: a band of spacemen (and one cyborg built by his bandmates), their spaceship landed in Birmingham AL and they embarked upon a mission to spread the music of outer space to us earthlings. The show was a spectacle unlike anything I'd ever seen by that point. The band were dressed like astronauts, spoke like superior space beings, and assaulted the crowd with Little Debbie snack cakes. I bought one of their cds the next day.

Project Infinity is a fun cd I like to play from time to time. Perhaps its surf instrumentals meet sci-fi movie samples isn't the sort of music one would expect from intelligent alien life forms (I usually imagine something completely different -- organs, celestial choirs ... maybe something more minimal, but I digress), but it does make for some fine rock and roll.

For more info:
Astroman.com is their official website and Estrus.com is their label's website. There's also an AMG entry as well as an Epitonic page for them.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

I was sick and feverish all last week and, in the course of updating this site, misspelled John McGeoch's name in Tuesday's post. Perhaps nobody noticed it -- since nobody said anything to me -- but I was quite embarrassed when I realized today that I had an obituary up for almost a week and wasn't even able to spell the guy's name correctly. I went ahead and fixed it now, though.

Commenter Bob Jones lamented the sudden surge of obituaries on this site and perhaps there has been too much death around here lately. So here's a milestone of life, sort of:

If he were still alive, Johann Sebastian Bach would be celebrating his 319th birthday today. He was born March 21, 1685.

Also tonight (and completely unrelated): if I have any Scottish readers, Severin is playing a show at the Venue in Edinburgh. The Delays and the Vectors are also on the bill.
Severin's also playing again on Friday at the Subway, along with Sonar Yen (from Manchester) and Viva Stereo (from Glasgow).
I've never seen them play live, but I've heard a couple of their recordings and will vouch for them.

Regular posting will resume when my health returns...

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

I'm a little late in finding this out, but earlier this month John McGeoch died in his sleep. He was 48. McGeoch was a part of the original British post-punk scene. He was a founding member of Magazine and also contributed to bands such as PiL and Siouxsie and the Banshees, whose Nocturne is actually the only recording I have on which he plays.

About 10 years ago, I read an interview with the Banshees in the Big Takeover and one of them reminisced about a show in which a guy in the crowd was beating up a girl by the front of the stage, near where McGeoch was playing. McGeoch was wearing slippers at the time but walked offstage in the middle of the song, changed into heavy boots, came back out, and started kicking the guy in the head. I thought that was pretty cool and think of that whenever his name was mentioned.

Monday, March 15, 2004

I put up some songs on the Collapsible Kingdoms website. They're in wma format right now; I'll figure out how to turn them into mp3s one of these days.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Dave Blood, bassist for the Dead Milkmen, killed himself on Wednesday.

Just this morning, I had "How It's Gonna Be" stuck in my head and then I turned on the computer and saw a link to this.
I never was a big Dead Milkmen fan, but I certainly went through a phase in high school. I had a friend who was in their fan club and she loaned me her copies of Metaphysical Graffitti and Soul Rotation. She also gave me her DM newsletters when she was finished reading them; I even think I still have one around (it had a cartoon about a naked duck which made me laugh nonstop for about 20 minutes). Their intentionally funny lyrics often made it hard for me to take their music seriously, but their music ended up being a big part of my life -- even for such a short time.

I think I'm going to listen to one of my tapes now. DeadMilkmen.com has a memorial for him.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Oh Magnet, why do you tease me? For six years, I've been a loyal subscriber and each year as I renew my subscription, I study your list of free cds to decide which one I'd like. Usually you offer one cd I really want, one cd I kind of want, and a bunch of cds I greet with indifference.
For the first few years, you never sent my first choice pick; I always ended up with my alternate. Then I decided to outsmart you. I listed my first choice as the alternate and my number two as my number one. You may remember that as the year you finally sent what I marked as my first choice.
And last year, you sent me something completely different!

This year, I felt my luck would change. The laws of probability state that I'll eventually get my first choice cd one of these years. And on top of that, you had three cds I really wanted this time around and any one of them would've made me very happy. Now, I'll admit I may have returned my renewal form a little late but I thought I could make things easy for you by listing all three of those albums (as opposed to the only two you ask for) as acceptable choices.
When I found your package in the mailbox, my heart fluttered with excitement as I spent the elevator ride upstairs wondering which cd lie beneath the manilla padding. Was it the Michael Yonkers Band? Perhaps it's the new Liars? Or maybe the new Air?
Like a small boy on Christmas morning, I tore open the envelope and found my brand new copy of .......... the Capitol Years.

Maybe next year.

Monday, March 08, 2004

World War I has always been my favorite war. Favorite, in this case, being defined as the most interesting in terms of the events leading up to the war, the manner in which it was fought, and its historical ramifications. So you can imagine my amusement when it just dawned on me that the War to End All Wars has become hip within the indie crowd.
I present to you the following evidence: British Sea Power dress in military costumes from that era, the Decemberists have songs about WWI soldiers, and Franz Ferdinand named itself after the Austrian archduke whose assassination is considered the first shot of the war.

I think the next time I have to think of a band name, I'm going to suggest we call ourselves the Schlieffen Plan.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC, conducted by LORIN MAAZEL @ Avery Fisher Hall (New York NY) - Feb 28, 2004
I haven't written anything about classical music on this site and I don't really know much about it in general, but I've been going to a lot of Philharmonic concerts with my mom this season. For someone like myself who comes from a rock and roll background, the classical world seems a bit heady and daunting. The idea of a self-contained band -- where the members are involved in the songwriting, arrangement, and execution of each song -- stands in stark contrast to the structured system of composer, conductor, and musician. Whereas rockers are often praised for looseness and their shambolic live sets become the measure of legends, classical music rewards composure and perfection. Most overwhelming of all is the monstrous size (both physically and sonically) of the orchestra. Orchestras have as many sections as most rock bands have people. As a songwriter, it still makes my head spin whenever I think of one composer writing different parts for so many different people.

Saturday's performance was probably the best symphony concert I've ever attended. In the days preceding the show, I was in a 60s mindset and listening to psychedelic music. I was in the mood for big sounds and big ideas, and the Philharmonic would not let me down.
First up was John Corigliano's Pied Piper Fantasy, featuring solo flutist James Galway. I'd actually seen this piece performed a long time ago (with Galway as the soloist then as well) and really didn't remember much about the music. To be honest, I still don't remember much about the music even today, but the theatrics are going to stay with me for a long time. After the stage lights were dimmed and the orchestra cast into darkness, they began to play a flurry of creepy sounds and a cacophony of melodies to suggest a city overrun with rats. As the tension rose, the lights came back on and Galway walked out on stage dressed in a yellow and red checkered gown. The Pied Piper (Galway) and the rats (the Philharmonic) duelled it out for awhile until the rats were defeated by the Piper. As his flute gained complete dominance of the stage, children flutists and drummers rose from their seats in the audience and began marching towards him, joining the Piper in his song. After they assembled on the stage, Galway led them on a march back through the audience and out of the auditorium, leading the children away from the city forever.

After an intermission, we were treated to Gustav Holst's the Planets, a suite comprised of seven parts (one for each of the other planets in our solar system -- Pluto wasn't discovered yet by the time he composed them). It opened with "Mars, the Bringer of War" which exploded from the stage in a bonecrushingly loud (it rivaled rock show volumes at times) fury. Although Holst originally composed the Planets to be a work for two pianos, he decided to orchestrate it for a symphony and ended up unleashing a power to which I never knew orchestras were capable of achieving. We were washed in violently beautiful noise. From that moment on, I sat stunned through the entire performance and wished the music were as infinite and never ending as space itself. Things slowed down a bit with the serene "Venus, the Bringer of Peace," and each planet began to take on its own personality and tone. "Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity" was an almost danceable number which served its purpose by reminding everyone in attendance just how much fun music can be. The performance closed with the ethereal "Neptune, the Mystic." An airy piece with an almost religious beauty, Holst's composition predated Pink Floyd by about 50 years when a chorus of female voices began to sing offstage, completely hidden from view. As disembodied voices swirled above a winding down orchestra, my mind was still swirling from all it had just taken in.

Monday, March 01, 2004

A couple of housekeeping notes. I reorganized some of the links to the right and added two more: Mundane Sounds is a site I like to check from time to time, and I Love Music is a message board with some entertaining posts.

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